Alyssa Rossi

@lyss_j | contributor
Alyssa Rossi

My Experience With 'Polyfragmented' Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental illness that is primarily seen in victims of childhood trauma and/or repetitive abuse . It’s a complex disorder that makes life challenging, but once you learn about it and learn how to manage it and live with it, it can aid your life in many ways instead of it being the debilitating disorder that’s frowned upon in the media. I’ve been diagnosed since I was 21, but DID has an onset during childhood so a large number of people with DID live with it their entire lives, going undiagnosed or receiving incorrect diagnoses because it’s still known as rare and many professionals aren’t quite sure what to look out for. It’s a disorder that’s characterized by having two or more distinct identities, also known as alters, part or personality states, each with their own way of thinking and relating. Time loss. Identity disturbances. Switching. Dissociation. Amnesia. Each day I wake up, and I have no sense of self. I have no idea who I am or what I plan on doing for the day. I make plans and they change just as quickly as I switch and a different part of me takes over. I switch rapidly throughout the day, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. If I want to do something nice for myself or for my parts, it can quickly get changed in an instant if a child part comes out, a depressed part who doesn’t want to leave the house, or a teen part who just wants to party with their friends. I have polyfragmented DID, so I share my body with 50+ parts of myself. Making decisions is a nightmare, but we’ve all learned to agree to certain things, to make choices based on what’s best for all of us as a whole, and to not sabotage the system or put the body or mind at risk any longer than what we have over the years when we weren’t communicating. Internal communication is massive with DID. We’ve always had it there, but it’s been touch and go over the years depending on circumstances, life events, parts taking more control than others, etc. It’s exhausting, communicating all the time in different ways both internally and externally, but it’s how we best make decisions, go on about our days, choose what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, how to save money, and basically how to all live together in one body. I encourage you that if you have DID and you’re reading this, then start the process of communicating now. It’s a 24/7 job but you need to do it. The times when it’s gone quiet have been absurd and terrifying and I wouldn’t wish it upon any system. It can be loud, confusing and scary at first and it can make it hard to concentrate on doing other tasks because your head is so loud, but it’s worth a try! Time loss is a biggie. We used to experience this one the most out of all the symptoms, and when we were diagnosed, we were lucky to already have some sort of co-consciousness going on and we’ve been building and working on that so parts can be out together or can switch without losing time — there’s still gaps depending on which part is out, but it’s not nearly as extreme than when we were younger. Time loss is huge in those with dissociative disorders but keeping diaries of where you’ve been and what you’ve done over the day help a lot with short-term memory. Our long-term memory is gone and we have a lot of memories that we can’t recall, that feel vague and distant when looking at pictures and videos and it doesn’t feel like us in them — and it’s a sad process. We do personal vlogs to keep track of our steps and that’s aided a lot in our recovery and healing. Time loss can be debilitating and terrifying as it can make everything around you feel even less real, yourself the most, and can leave you feeling scared and vulnerable but just remind yourself that there are ways to help it and it’s not going to last forever. (See our other article on time loss with dissociative identity disorder for more on that!) We all have different interests, hobbies, friends, likes and dislikes. This can make things interesting but also hard. If we plan on going out with a friend and we switch, we can be out with that friend and just go home from there because that part no longer feels comfortable with them — it’s not their friend. We have different interests and likes and hobbies, which can make things fun and interesting, but also draining at the same time because we only have one body and can’t do all that we wish we could in one day. Parts fight over what to do with our day, which can be loud and exhausting. We have different likes and dislikes with food and that makes it hard to eat. Picking meals can be quite hard work, but it can be exciting to try new foods that I’ve never had before! Living with DID is hard, but it does get easier. You have the power to take your life back and gain control over all that you’ve missed out on during your childhood. You can fight and get your sense of self back, and work on living a wholesome life with you and your system. For those without DID, thank you for reading this. I hope this is able to spread even the smallest bit of awareness about dissociative identity disorder to the community.

Alyssa Rossi

My Experience With 'Polyfragmented' Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental illness that is primarily seen in victims of childhood trauma and/or repetitive abuse . It’s a complex disorder that makes life challenging, but once you learn about it and learn how to manage it and live with it, it can aid your life in many ways instead of it being the debilitating disorder that’s frowned upon in the media. I’ve been diagnosed since I was 21, but DID has an onset during childhood so a large number of people with DID live with it their entire lives, going undiagnosed or receiving incorrect diagnoses because it’s still known as rare and many professionals aren’t quite sure what to look out for. It’s a disorder that’s characterized by having two or more distinct identities, also known as alters, part or personality states, each with their own way of thinking and relating. Time loss. Identity disturbances. Switching. Dissociation. Amnesia. Each day I wake up, and I have no sense of self. I have no idea who I am or what I plan on doing for the day. I make plans and they change just as quickly as I switch and a different part of me takes over. I switch rapidly throughout the day, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. If I want to do something nice for myself or for my parts, it can quickly get changed in an instant if a child part comes out, a depressed part who doesn’t want to leave the house, or a teen part who just wants to party with their friends. I have polyfragmented DID, so I share my body with 50+ parts of myself. Making decisions is a nightmare, but we’ve all learned to agree to certain things, to make choices based on what’s best for all of us as a whole, and to not sabotage the system or put the body or mind at risk any longer than what we have over the years when we weren’t communicating. Internal communication is massive with DID. We’ve always had it there, but it’s been touch and go over the years depending on circumstances, life events, parts taking more control than others, etc. It’s exhausting, communicating all the time in different ways both internally and externally, but it’s how we best make decisions, go on about our days, choose what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, how to save money, and basically how to all live together in one body. I encourage you that if you have DID and you’re reading this, then start the process of communicating now. It’s a 24/7 job but you need to do it. The times when it’s gone quiet have been absurd and terrifying and I wouldn’t wish it upon any system. It can be loud, confusing and scary at first and it can make it hard to concentrate on doing other tasks because your head is so loud, but it’s worth a try! Time loss is a biggie. We used to experience this one the most out of all the symptoms, and when we were diagnosed, we were lucky to already have some sort of co-consciousness going on and we’ve been building and working on that so parts can be out together or can switch without losing time — there’s still gaps depending on which part is out, but it’s not nearly as extreme than when we were younger. Time loss is huge in those with dissociative disorders but keeping diaries of where you’ve been and what you’ve done over the day help a lot with short-term memory. Our long-term memory is gone and we have a lot of memories that we can’t recall, that feel vague and distant when looking at pictures and videos and it doesn’t feel like us in them — and it’s a sad process. We do personal vlogs to keep track of our steps and that’s aided a lot in our recovery and healing. Time loss can be debilitating and terrifying as it can make everything around you feel even less real, yourself the most, and can leave you feeling scared and vulnerable but just remind yourself that there are ways to help it and it’s not going to last forever. (See our other article on time loss with dissociative identity disorder for more on that!) We all have different interests, hobbies, friends, likes and dislikes. This can make things interesting but also hard. If we plan on going out with a friend and we switch, we can be out with that friend and just go home from there because that part no longer feels comfortable with them — it’s not their friend. We have different interests and likes and hobbies, which can make things fun and interesting, but also draining at the same time because we only have one body and can’t do all that we wish we could in one day. Parts fight over what to do with our day, which can be loud and exhausting. We have different likes and dislikes with food and that makes it hard to eat. Picking meals can be quite hard work, but it can be exciting to try new foods that I’ve never had before! Living with DID is hard, but it does get easier. You have the power to take your life back and gain control over all that you’ve missed out on during your childhood. You can fight and get your sense of self back, and work on living a wholesome life with you and your system. For those without DID, thank you for reading this. I hope this is able to spread even the smallest bit of awareness about dissociative identity disorder to the community.

Alyssa Rossi

My Experience With 'Polyfragmented' Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a mental illness that is primarily seen in victims of childhood trauma and/or repetitive abuse . It’s a complex disorder that makes life challenging, but once you learn about it and learn how to manage it and live with it, it can aid your life in many ways instead of it being the debilitating disorder that’s frowned upon in the media. I’ve been diagnosed since I was 21, but DID has an onset during childhood so a large number of people with DID live with it their entire lives, going undiagnosed or receiving incorrect diagnoses because it’s still known as rare and many professionals aren’t quite sure what to look out for. It’s a disorder that’s characterized by having two or more distinct identities, also known as alters, part or personality states, each with their own way of thinking and relating. Time loss. Identity disturbances. Switching. Dissociation. Amnesia. Each day I wake up, and I have no sense of self. I have no idea who I am or what I plan on doing for the day. I make plans and they change just as quickly as I switch and a different part of me takes over. I switch rapidly throughout the day, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. If I want to do something nice for myself or for my parts, it can quickly get changed in an instant if a child part comes out, a depressed part who doesn’t want to leave the house, or a teen part who just wants to party with their friends. I have polyfragmented DID, so I share my body with 50+ parts of myself. Making decisions is a nightmare, but we’ve all learned to agree to certain things, to make choices based on what’s best for all of us as a whole, and to not sabotage the system or put the body or mind at risk any longer than what we have over the years when we weren’t communicating. Internal communication is massive with DID. We’ve always had it there, but it’s been touch and go over the years depending on circumstances, life events, parts taking more control than others, etc. It’s exhausting, communicating all the time in different ways both internally and externally, but it’s how we best make decisions, go on about our days, choose what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, how to save money, and basically how to all live together in one body. I encourage you that if you have DID and you’re reading this, then start the process of communicating now. It’s a 24/7 job but you need to do it. The times when it’s gone quiet have been absurd and terrifying and I wouldn’t wish it upon any system. It can be loud, confusing and scary at first and it can make it hard to concentrate on doing other tasks because your head is so loud, but it’s worth a try! Time loss is a biggie. We used to experience this one the most out of all the symptoms, and when we were diagnosed, we were lucky to already have some sort of co-consciousness going on and we’ve been building and working on that so parts can be out together or can switch without losing time — there’s still gaps depending on which part is out, but it’s not nearly as extreme than when we were younger. Time loss is huge in those with dissociative disorders but keeping diaries of where you’ve been and what you’ve done over the day help a lot with short-term memory. Our long-term memory is gone and we have a lot of memories that we can’t recall, that feel vague and distant when looking at pictures and videos and it doesn’t feel like us in them — and it’s a sad process. We do personal vlogs to keep track of our steps and that’s aided a lot in our recovery and healing. Time loss can be debilitating and terrifying as it can make everything around you feel even less real, yourself the most, and can leave you feeling scared and vulnerable but just remind yourself that there are ways to help it and it’s not going to last forever. (See our other article on time loss with dissociative identity disorder for more on that!) We all have different interests, hobbies, friends, likes and dislikes. This can make things interesting but also hard. If we plan on going out with a friend and we switch, we can be out with that friend and just go home from there because that part no longer feels comfortable with them — it’s not their friend. We have different interests and likes and hobbies, which can make things fun and interesting, but also draining at the same time because we only have one body and can’t do all that we wish we could in one day. Parts fight over what to do with our day, which can be loud and exhausting. We have different likes and dislikes with food and that makes it hard to eat. Picking meals can be quite hard work, but it can be exciting to try new foods that I’ve never had before! Living with DID is hard, but it does get easier. You have the power to take your life back and gain control over all that you’ve missed out on during your childhood. You can fight and get your sense of self back, and work on living a wholesome life with you and your system. For those without DID, thank you for reading this. I hope this is able to spread even the smallest bit of awareness about dissociative identity disorder to the community.

Alyssa Rossi

When Repressed Memories of Trauma Resurface

The impact of recovering memories that have been repressed for years can be a debilitating process in your trauma healing. They have been repressed for a reason; that reason being that when a person goes through significant trauma, the brain shuts down, dissociation takes over and as a survival technique, the trauma(s) get unconsciously blocked and tucked away from you and stored into disorganized files in your brain due to a high level of stress, or you were in a situation where you felt threatened and it was a matter of life or death – so your mind did what it had to in order to keep you safe, and therefore you could go on and have the ability to live your life and function in society. Repressed memories can come back to you in various ways, including having a trigger, nightmares, flashbacks, body memories and somatic/conversion symptoms. This can lead to feelings of denial, shame, guilt, anger, hurt, sadness, numbness and so forth. Having new memories come up can affect your current state of reality, your relationships, your perception of the world and of those around you, which can take you back to the past and keep you stuck there, making you feel as though you are re-living the trauma all over again. It can destabilize you and your life, and may be followed by dissociation, depersonalization/derealization and dissociative amnesia. It can make you see “safe” people as “unsafe,” and while you’re stuck in those memories, nothing and no one may feel safe – not even yourself. This can then lead to isolation, avoidance, low self-care and a war within your mind and your body. Your body can react in ways that it did back then which can be both new for you, and extremely frightening. You may find yourself going into the fight, flight, freeze, flop or fawn responses at what you think are minuscule things. Your memories may come through in re-enactment behaviors. You may find yourself repeating behaviors that relate to your traumas. However your memories come back to you is valid. However you and your body respond to your memories coming up are valid. Your feelings towards your memories are valid – and all of this is OK. You are OK, and you are safe now. When repressed memories come up, it is important to try and understand the biology behind it – why they’re coming up at this point in time, how you can work with them, learn to trust yourself and what your mind and body are trying to tell you, and how you can manage your safety and wellbeing as you’re working through them. Try to acknowledge what is happening for you and validate your past experiences, learn and identify your triggers, and allow yourself to sit with the feelings that are coming up. Ground yourself in your current reality, “It is 2019, I am in xx years old, I live with __ now, I am safe.” Differentiate between your reality and your memories and work on staying present and grounded, and give yourself permission to be kind to yourself during this process. Communicate your experiences with a trusted therapist. Allow space for vulnerability. Be gentle and compassionate towards yourself. Trauma recovery isn’t linear – you might have all of your memories of your trauma, and you might have none. You might not have memories, but it may still be affecting you subconsciously. You might have scattered jigsaw pieces of different traumas and not the full puzzle, and that’s OK too. Your repressed memories come to you when you are finally ready to deal with them. They are not there to hurt you or ruin the life you have created for yourself – they are there to tell you what happened to you, to help you make sense of why things are the way that they are, that it’s time to work with them and that you are safe enough to do so.

Alyssa Rossi

The Reality of Memory Loss With Dissociative Identity Disorder

“Isn’t that ‘multiple personalities?’” “Isn’t that schizophrenia?” “Are you dangerous?” “So. do you hear voices and stuff?” “I can’t even tell you have it.” Or, “I haven’t seen you switch.” “You must never get lonely having a bunch of personalities in your head with you.” No, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is no longer called “multiple personality disorder.” No, it isn’t the same thing as schizophrenia. Yes, there are voices, but they’re all internal and they’re all part of me. And just because you haven’t noticed us switch, it doesn’t mean we haven’t in front of you. It’s subtle and a disorder that’s designed to stay hidden, so no, you most likely won’t notice. And the reality is that, for the most part, DID is a very lonely, debilitating disorder — for us, anyway. Dissociative identity disorder is generally caused by ongoing, repetitive childhood trauma and as a defense mechanism, the child doesn’t properly integrate with a full sense of self. It can come with comorbid disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, chronic pain, substance abuse, somatic body experiences, bipolar disorder and so forth. The memory loss associated with DID isn’t recognized a lot by those around us, and is something to which neurotypical people try to compare — but they can’t. It’s waking up and seeing you’ve spent $500 with no recollection of it, and nothing to show for it. It’s sitting with your childhood best friend as she talks of memories from school and memories from the previous week and no matter how hard you fight to remember them, you can’t. It’s not remembering your sister’s wedding, your previous love or what you did five minutes ago. It’s reading your journal about what you did yesterday and not being able to believe it. It’s not remembering your childhood, your adolescence and everything up until this current moment in time and living in the unknown of whether you’ll remember this tomorrow or not. It’s a fight to remain present, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to keep up. It’s not knowing which part of you will be “out” at any given time. Having different likes and dislikes when it comes to food, clothing, people, places and things. It’s having brain zaps, headaches and body pain when a different part of you fronts. It’s loving one thing one minute and hating it the next. It’s going from talking to going mute, from walking in the shopping center to fainting from an intrusive memory that a part isn’t aware of yet. It’s changing conversations rapidly with somebody and not being able to notice until later. It’s a back and forth battle of not knowing whether or not you trust an external person, because some parts of you do, and some parts of you don’t. It’s not knowing where you fit into this world and always feeling disconnected and detached from yourself, the world and from those around you. It’s not knowing who you are, what your purpose is or having a sense of self. It’s sitting in your therapist’s office as he says to you, “they’re all you,” and struggling to accept it because each part is entirely different to the next; they each hold their own separate memories, their own worlds, their own friends, voices, hobbies, interests and ways they carry themselves and deal with things. It’s denying you have DID because if you accept the diagnosis, it means accepting that the trauma you faced as a child really did happen to you and not somebody else. But with acceptance comes gratitude and recognition, for all of us being here, for all of them protecting us our entire lives. It’s acknowledgment for each part, for all they continue to do and for all of us slowly working together, day by day, despite the stigma, despite the shame and despite the underlying truth that hides underneath the cause of our DID.