9 Reasons I Believe My Dissociative Disorder Is Real
One problem with having a dissociative disorder is that I feel like I constantly have to convince people that it’s real. People question if I am just imagining the personalities. They wonder if I created them somehow. They suggest they are hallucinations, or they say it’s a spiritual battle.
It’s confusing for me too. When I was first diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID, formerly called multiple personality disorder), I was shocked. Sure, I’d had many dissociative problems over the years but the idea of multiple personalities made no sense to me. But, my next psychiatrist agreed.
Lately, a series of things have happened that have convinced me I have a dissociative disorder. I have finally met the personalities and have been working to understand them. With my psychologist, I am working to heal from my dissociative disorder. (I often don’t call it DID because I don’t fit the typical DID).
My psychologist warns me, “You know many of us don’t believe in DID.”
I want to share my experience so people can understand why I call this dissociation and not something else. I hope it will help people understand others who experience dissociation like this. Here are nine reasons why I believe I have a dissociative disorder that includes multiple personalities.
1. My experience feels different than hallucinations.
As part of my bipolar disorder, I have had hallucinations while manic. The hallucinations always feel outside of me, like spirits or voices speaking to me. These personalities feel like they are inside me.
2. The personalities constantly surprise me.
If the personalities were my own creation, they wouldn’t surprise me. I have a method of interviewing them to find out what is going on with them. Often, when I ask them questions, I am surprised by the answers. So they are somehow different from my core self.
3. I switch between personalities.
Sometimes I switch on purpose, and sometimes it just happens. Like when I have a flashback I flip to my child personality and then have to gradually pull myself back. I’m co-conscious with them, but if I want to, most times I can switch to them and experience life as one of them until pulling myself back.
4. My voice and behavior change when I switch.
This is how my psychologist helped me discover the personalities. He noticed that, in session, sometimes my voice, my posture and my level of eye contact would abruptly change. My 8-year-old personality can’t comprehend a lot of words and concepts and doesn’t understand metaphors. When I flip to her, I speak in a quiet, high-pitched voice and always look down and to the right, and it is literally impossible for me to make eye contact. My personality T. makes very intense eye contact and tries to be manipulative/seductive. I usually can watch them from my core self.
5. The personalities seem to have been created for a purpose.
It seems like they were created as a way for my brain to survive trauma. In order to survive, my brain created these different parts to hold the memories, emotions and thoughts, until I was able to receive all of them and make sense of them. It was a survival technique. I am trying to figure out what purpose each personality has, but it doesn’t seem accidental. It seems like I have this problem for a reason.
6. The personalities can affect me without my consent.
My 8-year-old personality and sometimes the 20-year-old personality cause me panic attacks, sometimes because they are triggered and sometimes on purpose, to get attention from me. They also cause me flashbacks when triggered. Sometimes, they make me zone out if someone is discussing something they don’t like. All of my personalities can cause me to physically twitch or convulse when they get upset by something. The twitching is their way of trying to communicate.
7. I am able to affect the personalities, but not control them.
I can affect how the personalities act since they are part of me. Unfortunately, I can’t control them. They think independently and often fight against me. Although I am able to be a powerful influence, they are still outside my control.
8. The personalities can show emotional and psychological growth.
I have been helping my 8-year-old personality think in a less rigid manner by having her play a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) app on my phone. It has helped her with her cognitive distortions. I have been helping my 20-year-old personality find her voice. Recently, I’ve come to a new understanding of my personality T., and finally, I see her showing a little compassion. I see how they are changing for the better. It has been incredible to witness.
9. The personalities embody elements of me.
They are each different from me, but they all have some similarities to me. I can see myself in all of them.
I want to raise awareness about dissociative disorders so people can understand what it is like for us. I believe, one day, I will be able to merge my personalities and find wholeness. Understanding them seems to be the first step.
A version of this story was originally posted on PsychCentral.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Getty Images photo via angel_nt