How Netflix's 'Sense8' Describes Life With Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. I get this. It can be tough to envision what it’s like to live as many people in one body — to have a brain with multiple world views, independent histories and senses of self.

This is why I tell all those who ask me “what is it like to live with DID?” to watch the Netflix show “Sense8.”

The show itself is a sci-fi series about a group of people who all share a sort of collective consciousness. They are individuals with their own bodies, but the experience of jumping into each other’s lives and helping each other through trauma relates extremely well to the experience of living with DID.

Also, the second episode’s title is “I Am Also a We.” Could it get any more reminiscent of the disorder?

Even for a show not technically about DID, it perfectly explains the experience of having “alters.” First, they cover the confusion of suddenly experiencing other people in your mind. The main characters are bewildered, stressed and can’t wrap their heads around how they are riding in the backseat and someone else is “driving” their body.

They suddenly realize that they are experiencing what it is like to be many people sharing a body, and simultaneously unique individuals as well. The show portrays this experience perfectly.

Then they experience the awkwardness of no thought or emotion every being truly private. Sense8 captures the hilariousness of others commenting on one’s thoughts at the most inopportune times. There’s moments where one will laugh out loud when another character says something in their head. And, let me tell you, this happens all the time with my DID system!

Each character in the “cluster” experiences a relationship with the other members in a deeply unique way. There is a love and devotion they feel that extends into the most intimate and empathetic space. My alters and I experience this. We know we cannot live or survive without each other, just as each individual in the Sense8 cluster cannot live without the others.

The most beautiful part of the show is how they save each other’s lives. This is why DID forms. Sometimes, when a child experiences more trauma than they can handle alone, their brain can create a family of identities to help them survive it. While one alter may be able to fight and protect the system, another may be compassionate and nurturing. The way the primary characters work together in Sense8 is a perfect representation of this. They save each other’s lives, rely on each other’s strengths and make up for each other’s weaknesses.

While watching this show, I (and all my fellow alters) were mesmerized at how much it captured the subjective experience of DID. Even though this show was not literally about DID, it can lessen the stigma about the disorder. Instead of the world seeing us as violent, harmful or possessed, this show can normalize our experiences. It demonstrates the beauty, the adaptivity and the expansiveness of multiplicity. It shows how it is possible to live a rich and wonderful life with more than one identity.

When talking about Sense8, I encourage you to bring up that the show is reminiscent of the lives of those of us living with dissociative identity disorder. This simple action can help erase the stigma millions of us face across the world.

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to live with DID, you’re also welcome to join or watch the #DIDchat on Twitter, which takes place every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!

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