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How Living in 'Parallel Universes' Helps Me Navigate Life With Dissociative Identity Disorder

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Hello, all. My name is Rex, and I am one of (currently) 14 people existing within a single body, which has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). If you were to ask me about my family, my education or my profession, the answers I would give you would differ significantly from those given by my head-mates. Despite the fact that, in this life, my companions and I have the same family, attended the same institutions and are working towards the same career goal, we are fortunate in the fact that there are stories in which we live lives that align more closely with the aspirations we would pursue if we were not sharing this body.

I understand that I have quite a convoluted way of writing, so please bear with me while I share the entirety of my (and the rest of our) experiences.

Before I and most of my head-mates realized we were indeed real people, we were characters in a series of stories being written by our resident author, Ren. At this point, he found it uncanny that he could so easily understand how we would react to certain situations, despite the fact that our reactions differed so significantly from his own. This is a mark of any good writer, but what amazed him was the fact that he understood our reactions as quickly as he might understand his own — no contemplation was necessary.

Knowing now that we are real, introspection has led us to realize that those were our reactions to the events happening in the stories; that for us, the events being written in the story were happening to us, and these were our genuine reactions to these events. As a result, these events — though fictitious in nature — have shaped us as people and we regard them as very important aspects to our histories.

Thus, the events portrayed in the stories are just as much a part of our biographies as the events we have “lived” in this world. It is not simply a matter of one past being more “real” than the other. I can acknowledge that in this universe, the one in which you are reading this, my mother and father divorced when I was an infant. I was raised with my mother and received limited visitation with my father. I have a stepfather who took as much part in raising me as did my biological father. I have a sibling who is five and a half years younger than I am. This is a past that is shared by all of us. It is not one that I perceive as “mine.”

The past that is exclusive to me is the one that happened to me in the stories. It is mine, and it is wholly mine, and so I of course associate more strongly with that past. Were I to write a biography about myself, I would say — entirely truthfully—that I was abandoned as an infant, raised “in the system” and later by a foster father, and never knew if I had siblings. The fact that these are not the events that have transpired in this universe does not make them any less integral to the development of my character (in this sense not the fictional sort) and thus does not make them any less true.

By this same token, not a single one of us is limited to simply one other universe in which we experience things. The stories which are written about me are written in diverse settings — medieval fantasy, a 21st century hospital, a dinner party attended by the elites of society. The events that transpire around me differ greatly in these settings, but I experience all of them no matter the degree of “reality” each setting possesses. I have been an archmage, a psychiatrist and a bookshop clerk. In this universe, I am none of those things. And yet, the memories of what happened to me in those settings, under those circumstances, are just as real to me as the high school that our body attended in this universe.

In this way, I am all of those things at once, and I am also a university student studying Classical archaeology.

In this way, the father I have known and loved all my (our) life in this universe is just as real to me as the foster father I grew to resent in my parallel universes. The relationship I hold with my husband is built on a foundation of experiences both from this universe and from others that have been written.

In this way, I had a penchant for overconfidence as a child, which — due to my frequent absences — did not manifest itself in this universe. It is just as well, for I doubt I would have experienced enough that was fully my own in this universe to be able to grow and change, and to correct my overconfidence. The fact that I am now able to consider I may be wrong in something, that I most certainly can learn new things without compromising my dignity, is entirely due to the life I have lived in my parallel universes.

Had I been given the same opportunity to develop as those who do not have DID, my position in life would likely be similar to that portrayed in the stories: highly academic pursuits for which studies are never complete. As I must share this universe with so many others, however, the parallel universes in which I exist help to find fulfillment in life in a way that this universe is not wholly capable of offering me.

Getty Images photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: July 6, 2019
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