My Experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder (Lily)

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm, Abuse, Rape, Human Trafficking

I’ve been half-aware that I’m multiple since about the age of fourteen, when I started to realise that it really wasn’t usual for people to experience severe blackouts and time loss and memory issues (lasting hours, days, weeks, months and even years); that it wasn’t usual for people to so routinely and constantly be addressed by a completely different name by strangers who will insist that you have met them and that your name is something else; that it wasn’t usual for moods and personalities and tastes to change so drastically and so constantly.  I had no word for what I was experiencing; I had no knowledge and no understanding and after about a year of being so, so aware of this I finally told my (then) therapist about those experiences.  The result?  A long lecture about self-diagnosis and “making up more lies to make my supposed PTSD more believable” followed by being asked about where I had researched Dissociative Identity Disorder and that I did know that it was made up and not real and that nobody would ever believe me.  So, for almost ten years I hid it except from a very close friend online and one of my partners (he lived with me so it was very difficult to hide).

At that point I had researched DID and I realised just how much of it seemed to fit with my life, but I also read the negatives.  I learnt that many professionals believed that DID was caused by therapists, that it wasn’t real at all.  I learnt that people with DID are more likely to commit crimes and be dangerous.  I started to hate myself and to become more and more scared about people finding out.  I spent years pretending.  Nodding along to conversations about things I had no recollection of.  Coming up with excuses for why I was late or why I hadn’t done something that I said I would do.  How could I explain to anyone that I had lost my keys and that somebody had hidden them in my shoes?  How could I explain to anyone that technically, I hadn’t been to college for two months and I genuinely don’t remember you setting that Philosophy essay?  So I just rolled with it, I nodded and I agreed and I lied and I pretended; I took the punishments and the anger when I’d messed something up (even if I didn’t remember doing it).  I watched my friendships fall apart when I had apparently said something or caused an argument or been brutally honest with them.  But I was scared.  I was so scared that if I asked for help or told a professional that I would be disbelieved, called a liar or an attention seeker or locked up for being a dangerous criminal.  I was already struggling so much with seeking help for my PTSD, again, being told that I was a liar and attention seeking; how on Earth was I supposed to tell them about the possible DID as well?

May this year, I was able to escape from the multiple abusive situations that I was in.  I cut off my entire family, moved many miles away and legally changed my name.  I also found myself in therapy once again.  All of the additional stress and the massive increase in severity of my PTSD meant that I was dissociating much more than usual; I was losing so much time and struggling so much.  One day, the wonderful Ruby (she’s one of my parts, my ‘protector’) decided to go to therapy for me because there was just no way that I could handle it.  I’d maybe only once mentioned to my therapist before that that I sometimes lose time and can’t remember the past few hours, so I guess she got a bit of a shock when the usually shy, quiet, reserved, unconfident and anxious me turned up wearing clothes that I oh so don’t have the confidence to wear, maintaining eye contact and body language that screams confidence.  Since then I’ve received a crash course in DID.  I’ve learnt so much more about my system and just who’s there and what they’re like.  I’ve even had a few brief moments of co-consciousness.  It’s strange and it’s weird and it’s scary, but I’m learning and I’m adapting.

I used to hate being multiple and I sometimes still do, but I had a good reason; many of them in fact.  Katie, one of my teenage parts, self-harms on a regular basis; although I self-harm myself it is still utterly terrifying to come back and find self-harm that I don’t remember doing, at all.  Ruby is well, promiscuous and pansexual; although I have been in relationships with men myself (in the past and before I came out) I identify as a lesbian and suddenly finding myself in bed with a man or in a taxi with a man or even having sex with a man is both terrifying (for obvious reasons) but goes so strongly against who I am that it felt so un-natural and wrong and I hated it.  I hated it so, so much.  Then there’s the little things; like certain small children thinking it’s hilarious to hide my keys (in some progressively odd places – the last one was inside a lamp shade) or finding myself in a shop when I know I was at home hiding because I was way too anxious to leave or finding myself camping (that was an interesting one, I couldn’t even remember agreeing to go!) or any other numerous little things that eventually build up to being a big pain in my butt.

But it’s not all negative, believe me, it isn’t and that’s mostly why I want to write this piece.  DID is amazing and wonderful and exciting and it can be fun.  It took me a long, long time to accept and embrace being multiple but now that I have (yes, there’s odd days where I still hate it) things seem so much better and seem so much more hopeful.  How can I hate something that’s kept me alive?  How can I hate something that’s ensured I’ve survived?  I was a victim of human trafficking and severe sexual abuse and I know now, really and truly know now, that without my parts I wouldn’t have survived; they’ve kept me alive despite all of the odds and I thank them so, so much for that.  For many, the long-term goal for DID is integration; effectively sticking everything back together so there’s just one personality, but that is not the goal for me, at all, not anymore.  For a long time, I just wanted them to all go away, to be “normal”, to be like everyone else, but now that I know more about being multiple I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Being multiple means that I’m never alone; it means that I always have somebody with me looking out for me; it means that I have so many skills and passions that I can never, ever be bored; it means that I have an excuse for having my bed covered in stuffed toys and owning Disney DVDs and for having supplies for about ten different hobbies and most importantly, it means I survived; it means that I’m still alive and I’m still going and that I’m going to keep on going.  It gives me hope for the future.  It gives me hope that no matter how rubbish things are now that I have an entire team of people who are devoted to make my life better and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  No, integration isn’t my goal at all.  I just want to get to a point where I can fully communicate and share consciousness with all of the wonderful people that share my life and my body so that we can function as fully as possible in the real world.  We’re starting to get there; the process is hard, by no means would I ever say it is easy, but we’re getting there a step at a time.  I’ve really been helped by finding such a wonderful therapist who truly seems to believe us and by having such wonderful friends who accept each of us as individuals and treat us as we all need and want to be treated.  Without them I don’t know where I’d be, now.  Maybe I’d still be stuck in the cycle of hiding and pretending and coming up with excuses; but I know now that I never want to go back there; I know now who I am and how bloody amazing that is and I know now that I love being multiple and I honestly can’t wait until we can all communicate more and be a fully functioning system!

For anybody else that has DID, I just want to say, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it doesn’t have to be something that needs a cure or needs to be fixed; it can be wonderful.  It can be like having your own personal team, each with their own specialities and skills who can make life that little bit easier for you.  It doesn’t mean you’re lying or attention seeking, it doesn’t mean you’re moody, it doesn’t mean you’re about to become a serial killer; it means you survived; it means that whatever trauma it was that you faced that you got through it, you all got through it and damn it that’s amazing!

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