Posts Tagged ‘Do I have DID?’

This blog entry completes a series of three on the topic of my experience of becoming aware that I had dissociative identity disorder (DID). You can read the other blog entries here and here.

One issue I wrestled with in the early years of healing from child abuse was how I could have had DID for my entire life without having any symptoms or signs. Once I took a retrospective view of my life, the DID was the missing link to many questions I had always had about my life.

I had the symptom of people knowing me who I did not know. I apparently bonded with a high school sophomore while I was a junior at band camp. I have no memory (other than what I recovered through flashbacks ) of attending band camp at all, although I was always aware that I had attended band camp. I have always remembered this sophomore going out of her way to say hello to me by name and being baffled by who this person was and why she thought she knew me when I did not know her.

I had the symptom of people having strong feelings toward me with no explanation as to why. In my freshman year of college, one student in my dorm HATED me and would harass me by leaving ugly messages on my door. My friends asked me repeatedly why this young woman hated me because – believe me – she was NOT subtle about her intense dislike for me. I had absolutely no idea why she disliked me so badly. I even asked her one time and tried apologizing for however I had offended her, and she was not receptive in the least. She said I knew darn well why she hated me – I truly did not.

In my sophomore year of college, my ex-boyfriend spread rumors that I was pregnant with his baby. Since we had never had intercourse (I believed I was a virgin), I was baffled as to why he would say such a thing and assumed he was just trying to ruin my reputation.

I would visit with my mother and have no recollection of what we had talked about immediately afterward. I would try to remember the annoying things she said to tell my husband, but I simply could not remember. I also thought I had blood sugar issues because I would feel very lightheaded whenever I was around my mother.

My husband would tell me about conversations – sometimes long conversations – that we had that I did not remember. I believed I was talking in my sleep, but he said I seemed awake during these conversations. I had no recollection of those conversations even after his prompting.

Yes, the signs were all there – I just wasn’t ready to deal with them. I was so determined to believe that I was a “normal” person who had not been abused that I found a way to lie to myself and hide an awareness of having DID.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Yesterday, I began answering a reader’s question about whether I always knew I had dissociative identity disorder (DID) or alter parts. You can read the first part of the story here.

I did not question that Irate was real or that she was an alter part. I knew about multiple personality disorder (had never heard the term DID) and that it was linked to severe child abuse. I couldn’t understand why I would have an alter part because, as far as I remembered, I had not been abused as a child other than comparatively minor emotional abuse.

I researched what was going on with Irate “stepping into my face” and that floaty feeling I would get around my mother. I realized the term for the floaty feeling was called “dissociation.” I went looking for a book to explain why I would dissociate. I read Martha Stout’s The Myth of Sanity and was perplexed because I related so much to her DID patients but “knew” that I had not suffered from child abuse.

I finally asked Irate to explain why I had an alter part, and that’s what kicked off my healing journey. I thought Irate was the only alter part, but then I “met” more and more parts. My multiple system consisted of hundreds of parts, many of which were personality fragments (smaller parts holding only one piece of a memory or only one emotion).

What I had read about DID was different in many important ways from what I was experiencing. Martha Stout’s book was one of the most helpful resources I found because it explained that DID is on the extreme end of a continuum of dissociation. I had trouble accepting this label for a long time because I was convinced that my experiences had not been “bad enough” to cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was not as far along the continuum as DID.

Before reading Martha Stout’s book, I thought DID was several separate people sharing a body, which was not what my experience felt like. For me, it felt like one big piece of my spirit had been shattered into many smaller pieces. Also, as I stated, many of these pieces were not “whole people” but, instead, just fragments of different feelings or experiences.

Once I started having flashbacks and knew for certain that I did not have a conscious memory of the abuse, I faced that I had no idea what had actually happened to me as a child. My focus shifted from struggling with labels to struggling with how to manage and heal the many memories that had been “uncorked.”

Final thoughts on the topic tomorrow…

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A reader wants to know what my experience was in consciously recognizing that I had dissociative identity disorder (DID). For me, recognizing that I had alter parts was a gradual process. Looking back, the signs were there all along, but I truly had no idea about having DID or a child abuse history.

I always knew that I was fundamentally f@$%ed in the head because I struggled with so many seemingly unrelated issues – eating disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), suicidal urges, etc. I didn’t know this was a profile. I just thought I was “crazy.”

A couple of years before I recognized the DID, I started to notice a feeling of someone “stepping into my face” when I was lying down in my bed at night. I had read enough books and watched enough movies about DID to recognize that this could be an alter part. I would run to the mirror to see if my face looked different, but I never could tell. I once even asked myself if I had been abused and, if so, by whom. (I knew about a link between alter parts and child abuse). I recovered a body memory of my mother abusing me. I wasn’t ready to deal with it and woke up the next morning with that experience dissociated away.

In 2003, when my son was two, my mother had surgery. My son and I stayed with her for a few days. I was very triggered (but didn’t know what that “floaty feeling” was). My mother sent me out to run an errand in the middle of the night and went into my son’s room while I was out. When I returned and found this out, an alter part took over. I stayed co-conscious as someone else was in the driver’s seat apologizing to my son for leaving him alone with “that crazy woman” and asking him over and over if he was OK. My mind and body was flooded with intense fear that my mother had sexually abused my son, and I was viewing all of this from a corner of my head, absolutely perplexed.

After that experience, an alter part named Irate came out repeatedly while I stayed co-conscious, and we had multiple “dialogues” in my head. I did not “hear voices.” Instead, it was like I would experience thoughts that did not originate from me, and I would “think” responses back. I recognized that Irate was an alter part, which began my journey toward questioning why I had one.

More tomorrow…

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Microscopic ViewOn my blog entry entitled What is Polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)?, a reader posted the following comment:

I was diagnosed with DID but have a really hard time believing it and not thinking of myself as a huge liar and fake. I don’t ‘lose time’ like I hear that some people do. Also. I do have memories of bad things that happened when I was a kid, just not a lot, you know, only a few memories from when I was a kid. But it is not like it is all just a big nothing. I think I have fragments, but maybe not polyfragemnted cause I dont think there are that many of them. But then, who knows really…Anyway. how much time do you have to lose, and/or how much memory do you have to lose to have DID? I am trying to get out of the Dx really, I don’t want to believe that it is true. And sometimes when I look at it and the DSM I think, well myabe I don’t have it. But then I think some of the stuff I remember now, is only after I remembered it after working with the therapist who fired me for a long time. But then that brings up another problem, and that is of false memories. Ugh. What if I am just making this stuff up? ugh. I hate being DID. I sometimes wonder about fragments though because I feel fragmented but don’t have ‘names’ for a lot of parts, and it seems like everyones got names for parts, but I guess they could just be fragments without names. I dunno. Anywya, sorry to ramble on. ~Pax

Pax’s comment shows the conflict that many people with DID experience. In fact, the whole point of DID is to enable a child to live in conflict – to be “innocent” at school and a compliant abuse victim while being abused without ever acting on the emotions that result from living this way.

I had a difficult time believing that I had DID as well. I had no memory whatsoever of the sexual abuse. I had always remembered comparatively minor abuses and assumed I was as “f#$%ed up in the head” as I was due to them. The problem was that, if the only abuses I suffered were what I had always remembered, then it wasn’t enough to explain the severity of my aftereffects.

You might find it helpful to read through the Incest Survivors’ Aftereffects Checklist. While I was completely unaware of having DID, I would have related to a majority of the symptoms appearing on this checklist. I thought they were unrelated issues, not a profile of someone who had been severely abused.

I had always prided myself on having very clear memories from childhood, but the truth was that I only had a few crisp memories. When I actually explored my memory bank, it was mostly wiped away, including the memories of every single Christmas from birth through age 22.

At first, I thought I only had one alter part. (I actually became aware of the alter part before I became aware of the abuse. From what I have heard, that’s different from how many child abuse survivors heal.) Then there were more and more and more. Most of mine did not have names, nor did they need to. Most were fragments, holding one emotion or one memory or even only one part of a memory. I didn’t need to name them – I needed to love and accept them back into being “me.”

Re: false memory syndrome – I am not saying that it NEVER happens, but I suspect that wave of media blitz in the 1990’s was to discredit people like you and me. Some of my abusers were powerful people in the community – powerful people have the resources to sway the community. Who is the community going to believe? The VP of a Fortune 100 company or a f@#$ed up little girl who didn’t remember the abuse until she became an adult?

I periodically have readers try to discredit me, either on my blog or through email. The one question none of them have an answer to is this: “If I made this all up, am psychotic, or someone else put all of this stuff in my head, why I am getting better? Why is therapy and talking about what happened resulting in me growing into a healthier version of myself?” If I am a liar, psychotic, or someone duped by a shrink, then my emotional state should be deteriorating, not getting better. Therapy should not be working if any of those explanations are true.

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Does this fit?” For me, my life was like a jigsaw puzzle that made no sense. I had suicidal urges, OCD, an eating disorder, insomnia, nightmares & night terrors, low self-esteem, panic attacks, etc. I thought they were all separate issues. The missing piece was the child abuse. Once I had that piece of the puzzle, the rest fell into place.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled How to Move Past Betrayal by a Mother Figure, a reader posted the following comment:

I have read and read and read… about this whole “alter” thing and it still confuses me. I read the book Sybil, and I have watched videos of people with MPD changing into someone else. I was mostly wanting to know if I had it as well. My T says no I do not. I never lose time in the way they describe, but time is weird to me in that a day ago can seem like weeks ago to me. I know I am nothing like Sybil.

I do not have names for different personalities or anything like that. However, I do see different aspects of myself that can seem like whole different entities. When I am doing good, and confident, the person I feel inside cannot even hardly imagine the person I was a few days ago when I felt broken and insecure. It seems like a whole different person to me. When I am insecure, I do not feel like I can do anything. The road to an education seems so ludicrous to me I cannot even believe what I am doing. And then I shift inside and feel confident that I can get 4.0 grade average and I will conquer anything I set my mind too. That is just one example. However, I am fully cognitive of all of these major shifts going on inside of me.

Sometimes within the same few hours, I will feel happy and full of live and the future looks bright. Then in just a matter of a few hours or even minutes at times, life is not even hardly worth living. I am struggling inside.

What is all this craziness anyway? Is it the mid-life crisis? Is it hormones? My physician has assured me that my hormones are pretty stable. ~ Heavenly Places

My therapist is not a big fan of labeling patients. He did apply the label of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) only because he needed it to push through my denial. I kept arguing with them that what I had been through “wasn’t that bad,” “others had it worse,” etc. and simply refused to acknowledge that my abuse had been “that bad.” Seeing the label PTSD on the top of a white board with a list of painfully familiar symptoms was a powerful way to help me break through the denial and give myself permission to grieve the devastation of my childhood abuse.

My therapist is fully aware of my having alter parts and my work in integrating them outside of his office, but he never once attached a label for this. I was so fearful that he would think I was “crazy,” but he didn’t. Instead, he said that he doesn’t want to use labels because healing from trauma happens in the same way no matter what your label is – You need to talk about what happened until you no longer feel the need to talk about it anymore. Upon this foundation, I have added that you need to find a way to love and accept each part of yourself, whether that part is a memory, emotion, feeling, alter part, or any other internal “separation.”

I, too, saw the movie Sybil and did not relate because she was so out of control, and I never have been. My switching has always been seamless, which is the whole point of DID in the first place. I apply the DID label to myself because it helps me understand my healing process, but I see limitations in the label because it has been designed by mental health professionals from the outside rather than multiples who experience it from the inside. For example, I have talked to a couple of people with a Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS) label whose experience is very similar to mine, only they split into colors instead of “personalities.” This is an important distinction to the DSM, but it really much is not of a distinction to me. Regardless of the label, I think that DID, DD-NOS, Dissociative Fugue, etc. are just ways that we try to explain to others how we dealt with the trauma in our own heads.

So, my advice is not to get too caught up in the label. If it is useful to you, use it to help you find additional resources for healing. For example, Chrystine Oksana’s Safe Passage to Healing provides some wonderful healing suggestions for people who have alter parts. Other than that, the label itself is not the part that matters. What matters is that you find a way to love and accept each part of yourself – each memory, feeling, experience, emotion, etc. There are many ways you can do this, and you don’t need a label to learn how to love and accept yourself.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Somebody found my blog by Googling the question, “How do you know you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)”? I think this is a great topic to cover, although it is not so easy to answer.

From a clinical standpoint, you have to meet the criteria outlined here. However, that is for diagnosing DID from an outward perspective, not an inward one, so I, personally, find this definition to be limited.

For me, the first red flag was feeling my face change. For a couple of years before coming to terms with having DID, I would feel my face change as I was lying in my bed at night trying to fall asleep. It felt like somebody was “stepping into my face.” My facial features felt more angular and simply did not “fit.”

Also, whenever I felt someone “step into my face,” I felt as if “I” was being pushed back from my face. It is hard to explain the feeling. It is like a thin layer of cold fog was separating me from my face. I could still see out of my own eyes, but I felt very disconnected from my face.

My second red flag was experiencing “loud thoughts” that did not originate from “me.” This is not the same thing as “hearing voices.” For example, I would be having sex with my husband, and I would suddenly have the thought, “If you keep your eyes closed, they all feel the same.” However, “I” was not thinking this at all.

My third red flag was when I stayed co-present while another alter part took over. This happened when my mother/abuser told me that she had gone into my then-two-year-old son’s bedroom during the night. This is not something that would have bothered “me,” but it triggered an alter part, who took over. I was along for the ride as my body picked up my child, slammed the door, and asked him repeatedly if “that crazy woman” had hurt him. My mind became flooded with deep pain and terror, and my body wept. However, “I” was simply observing all of this from a corner of my head, thinking WTF??

My fourth red flag was the realization that I had numerous holes in my memory. I had always prided myself in having a good memory because I had a few very vivid memories from a young age. However, when I actually sat down and tried to recall basic events, such as Christmas morning, I found no memories at all. In fact, I could not even recall any Christmas memories with either parent through age 23. That is clearly not normal.

My final red flag was acknowledging that my moods could change rapidly when I became upset. I used to joke that I had the world’s longest fuse. I would let other people walk all over me most of the time. However, occasionally, out of nowhere, I would become very assertive, but I had no idea where this strength came from. Once I recognized that I had DID, I realized that this was an alter part taking over.

It is not easy to recognize DID in yourself. However, when you are ready to begin healing, the amnestic barrier will begin to melt, and you will start to notice red flags.

If you suspect that you have DID, don’t panic. People with DID are intelligent, extremely strong and resourceful, and caring. You are going to be okay. You can heal from DID, just as I have.

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Photo Credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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