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How My Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters Work Together as One System

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I find myself sad and disappointed as I write this to all of you. I’ve noticed, over the past month, that there is a lack of discussion around dissociative identity disorder (DID). Further to that, there is a strong misunderstanding of what it is and what it means for the person who has it.

I have DID. I was diagnosed a month ago, but I’ve known since I was 16 that I probably had it. I’m 26 now. When I was finally given this diagnosis, I had mixed emotions. I still do. I consider myself lucky in the realm of DID because I have what’s called co-consciousness — more than one part is aware of what’s going on, so I rarely lose time. I will, however, still struggle to recall key information like my birthday or my wedding date. In addition to DID, I also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) with chronic suicidal ideation.

I have six personalities whom I know well — enough to know their names. There’s at least three others I am unfamiliar with but know exist, and I believe there are others who stay hidden out of fear. Jackie is the “host.” She is the part who was born to this body and given the name Jackie by her parents. Brooke, age 16, is one of the main parts. Then there’s Riley, age 15, who is becoming a much more main part now that Jackie is aware of her. There’s also Jackie, age 12, Tommy, age 8, Nicole, age 6, and Danielle, age 4. Host Jackie rarely takes the lead. Brooke is normally in the lead and Riley battles to be the lead at times.

At different points, for different reasons, each part will step forward. They all exist to protect Jackie. Sometimes their protecting is actually harmful. Twelve-year-old Jackie, for example, surfaces to help Jackie not feel pain by self-harming. Brooke helps Jackie feel control by not eating. Riley helps Jackie not feel any emotions by overeating and/or eating poorly. Riley also drives unsafely, drinks in excess and makes other risky decisions like spending a lot of money. At the same time, they are also helpful to Jackie. Brooke steps forward at work. She is a busy bee and likes to take the lead and be in control of situations. She is the one going for the supervisor position at Jackie’s job. Riley is a social butterfly. She has helped Jackie make a lot of friends and is the main one present when Jackie is with friends. Brooke and Riley work together when with friends to ensure she is being social but not over the top as sometimes Riley makes over the top decisions like being really loud and abrasive or demanding.

Jackie also considers all these parts to be her friends. They provided her companionship at a time she had no one. They protected her when her life was really unsafe. They helped me make it to being 26 years old. Many people think DID is only caused by years and years of physical and/or sexual abuse. For Jackie, it was caused by emotional abuse from her parents throughout her entire life, and it still continues to this day. It was also caused by the sexual abuse from her brother. There were times when Jackie was hit by her mother or her father or had things thrown at her.

Adult host Jackie holds down a full-time, salaried position. She has been with her husband for eight years, and married to him for four months. He is aware of the newest diagnosis and continues to stand by Jackie’s — our — side. He tries to understand but struggles. The best statement he made to Jackie after the diagnosis was, “You’re still you. Nothing has changed. I fell in love with all of you.”

Jackie leading this life is proof DID is not the debilitating disease it is presented as. You can live a strong life. You can have a significant other. You can have a real job. You can live as “normal” a life as society considers “normal” to be. Yes, we take medication for our depression and anxiety. Yes, we have been suicidal. Yes, we consider this one body a “we” and not an “I.” But we are a system that was created to survive. And together, we are a system that continues to survive and is finally starting to thrive.

If you have DID, know you are not alone. I often find myself feeling alone, especially when I search the internet for DID and find very little or very misconstrued information. But I write this so that those of you with DID know you are not alone. There are others like you out in the world, living and battling to live every day. I am out there. I am with you. You are not alone. If you have DID or think you do, seek therapy. Seek someone who practices dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and/or one who practices Internal Family Systems. These two types of therapy are why this system is still alive today and why we have been able to live this life together as one system.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. If you or a loved one is affected by emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Getty Images photo via m-gucci

Originally published: December 19, 2017
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