5 Things to Keep in Mind if Christmas Is Hard for Your Loved One With Dissociative Identity Disorder

After over 27 years with my husband, who has dissociative identity disorder (DID), I still struggle with his ups and downs during the holiday season. Each person with DID has triggers particular to their abuse/neglect story. If you love someone with
dissociative identity disorder, there are five important things to remember during the holiday season.

1. Don’t have expectations.

For many families the Christmas season is filled with activities and traditions. Whether it is putting up the Christmas tree, visiting the local light display, or simply watching holiday classics together, accept that your loved one may or may not participate. The visual and auditory stimulation may simply be too much for them.

2. Have your own plans – and do them!

As a support person to someone with DID, your own self-care is paramount, regardless of the time of year. Part of staying emotionally and psychologically healthy is identifying things that are important to you and following through on your own plans, even if your loved one is unable to be present.

3. Friends and family might not understand.

For many others, the holiday season involves spending time together, traveling, visiting at each other’s homes, sharing meals together.  Your friends and family will ask questions about your loved one – why they aren’t there with you, are they feeling OK? Is there something wrong? Those questions are generally asked out of love (though some people are just nosey, even at Christmas!), so try not to feel defensive.

4. There’s a lot going on for your loved one.

Your loved one might desperately want to be present for the holidays, but if a protective alter comes out, the host can miss the entire season. The resulting disappointment and sadness is its own trigger, and if this has happened before, the mere anticipation of it happening again can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And of course we can’t forget the littles – your loved one’s youngest alters may anticipate Christmas with the same excitement as any child. Creating special moments for the littles to experience privately (like their own advent calendar beside the bed, in the safety of their own quiet space) could not only allow the littles to be part of the holidays, it can have the added bonus of building trust with the littles’ protectors.

5. The season does come to an end…

My husband and I have a large family, and the entire month of December is filled with busyness, excitement, noise and mess. Sometimes my husband sleeps through it all. Sometimes his protective alters rage against it all. Sometimes he’s present, and we can cuddle with smiles on both our faces, watching our family play, listening to them giggle, creating precious memories together. I never know what to expect (and so I am careful to not have expectations), and when it all becomes a bit overwhelming, I remind myself to just take it one day at a time.  January is right around the corner.

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