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When I was in high school, my teacher showed the class the movie The Three Faces of Eve, which is about one of the first documented cases of dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder. In this movie, the narrator talked about how three women were sharing one body. At the end of the movie, two of the people “disappeared,” and the woman was left with only one of the women inside. That woman held all of the childhood memories.

I vehemently disagree with this explanation of DID. A person with DID does not have a bunch of “people” living inside of her sharing a body. Every person is born with only one spirit. In reaction to severe and ongoing trauma, young children (typically under age 6) have the gift of being able to “split” or “splinter off” parts of their spirit to separate traumatic memories, emotions, and feelings from conscious awareness. The more a person with DID rejects a part of herself, the more separate that part will feel. The part might feel so separate that it feels like another person, but it is not. All of the parts are still interconnected, however minimally, because they are all parts of one spirit.

In my experience, the parts that felt like completely different people (or animals) felt more separate from the perspective of the host personality. For most of my life, my host personality would be tucked safely inside (causing me to lose time) while my wolf alter part came out at night to protect me. If I was abused, the wolf or another part would take the abuse so that my host personality could remain safe.

As I began to heal, my host personality began stay co-present, which means that I (from the perspective of the host) would observe another part when it came out. It felt like I (the host) was being pushed to the side. I would feel what the other part was feeling (such as sadness or rage), but the emotions did not feel like “mine.”

When I finally integrated the host back into the core, I stopped losing time, which meant that I had healed from the DSM IV definition of DID . However, I still had many separate parts. Each held a memory, emotion, or feeling that I was not yet ready to face. Integrating the parts meant having to accept each part as “me.” I had to accept that **I** was the one who was abused, not another little girl that I watched from the ceiling. It was **my** body that was harmed, not someone else’s.

I have come to realize that every single part is just a part of myself that needs healing. As I accept each part as “me” and choose to love that part of myself, I no longer need to keep that part separate. I need to worry about “controlling” another part because they are all me and always have been.

Related Topic:

Understanding Integration

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Flower (c) Lynda BernhardtOn my post Contrasting My DID Integration Experience with Sybil’s, a reader left the following comment:

Please keep writing the personal experience stuff – it is so much more useful and informative from someone who as been there. – Emily

This week, I will focus on more of the “personal experience stuff” that relates to my history with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Feel free to post comments or to email me with specific question you have or topics that you would like for me to cover.

Many years ago, I read Truddi Chase’s book, When Rabbit Howls. I remember noting that the book mentioned several times that Truddi could not use a watch. Whenever she tried to wear a watch, it did funky things like speed up or slow down, so she had to get by without a watch.

My sister has always had the same problem. She tends to carry a pocket watch or a watch that clips onto her purse because watch batteries die on her very quickly.

I used to not have a similar issue, but that changed when I started focusing on healing from my history of child abuse. I had one watch that I had used for many years. The watchband broke, so I decided to buy myself a new watch. I had the same problems that Truddi Chase reported. Sometimes the watch would run slow. Other times the watch would run fast. However, the one thing that the watch would not do was keep accurate time.

I exchanged the watch for a different one, and the same thing happened. By this point, I figured out that I was the problem and not the watch. One watch salesman verified that some people have stronger magnetism that affects the ability of a watch to work. I wound up buying a new band and going back to my old watch, which continues to work just fine.

My sister has always had freakish-level magnetism. In fact, she used to do bar tricks with it. She would ask for a knife and a pile of paperclips. After holding the knife in her hands for a few moments, it would magnetize enough to pick up not only a paperclip but an entire chain of paperclips. I do not know many people who can do this.

I do not know the scientific explanation for all of this. Perhaps all of the brain energy involved in repressing memories results in a higher state of magnetism than most people experience?? All I know is that I have experienced the phenomenon firsthand and watched my sister do her bar tricks, even with knives that other people gave her, so she could not have done something to the knife in advance.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Plant (c) Lynda BernhardtA reader recently told me that she questioned her diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID) because she does not “hear voices.” Many people have the misconception that people with dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) “hear voices.” They do not. People with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, sometimes “hear voices,” but that is not the case with DID.

The problem with DID is trying to explain what alter parts “sound like” in your head. There are no auditory sounds involved. The best way I can describe it is that I had thoughts that were “not mine.” I describe them as “loud thoughts” or “strong thoughts” that did not originate with “me.”

Perhaps an example would make this clearer…

My healing process began after I and my then-two-year-old son spent the night at my mother/abuser’s house. At this point in my life, I had no awareness of having ever been abused, having DID, or having alter parts. My mother insisted that I go on an errand at midnight. While I was gone, she went into my son’s room. She told me this when I returned.

I completely flipped out. I ran into my son’s room and brought him into the guest room with me. I cried and held him close. I asked him what “that crazy lady” did to him. My heart was racing, and my mind was flooded with fear that my mother had sexually abused my son. The weird part was that none of this was coming from “me.”

I felt like I (my spirit??) had been shoved to one corner of my head. I could see and hear everything that was going on around me, but it was from a distance, and I was not driving my body. I heard my voice talking, but I was not telling my body to say those words. I could feel the intense fear and was baffled as to why I was fearful that my mother might have sexually abused my son. Yes, I knew that she was mentally ill, but I had no memory at that point of her sexually abusing either my sister or me.

After that, being co-present with alter parts became a normal part of my life until I integrated. I never “heard” any voices, but I could “feel” their thoughts, and their thoughts felt separate from mine.

I hope this helps others to understand what internal communication with DID is like.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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