I have been diagnosed and aware of my Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) for 28 years now. That is the majority of my adult life. As a child, I knew things were off here and there, but didn’t quite understand what it was.
I was thinking today what is it like for me to have DID today, and my mind stays relatively quiet as I am working extra hard to hold things together during a stressful time.
My mind is often not quiet. I often hear someone or someones commenting on things going on in my life. I hear criticism or a mean remark coming from in my head as if it is my invisible friend talking to me.
I am well-trained to know that no one else can hear the talk in my head, so I do my best to hide it. It is something I learned to do as a child. At that time, I thought everyone experienced an inner dialogue from different voices. In the 1980s, I wrote it off as my inner children voices since that was all the rage back then.
When I was around 10, I got invited to a birthday party of a friend to see the new Star Wars movie (you know, the original one as it was released in the theaters). It was a big deal for all of us as kids didn’t regularly get to go to the movies back then, and this Star Wars movie was the first of its kind back then. To this day, I can remember playing in front of the theater, giddy with excitement to see this amazing movie. The next thing I remember was being outside the movie playing with the other kids as we re-enacted scenes from the movie. Except I had no memory of seeing the movie, but the message I knew in my head was to not tell anyone and pretend as if I did.
I wondered about Star Wars from time-to-time, but I never understood what happened to me that day. I was used to weird days, so I knew it was part of that weirdness that I didn’t understand, but knew to keep to myself.
I can remember one day I was hanging out in my parents’ bathroom when I was 11. I was having a conversation with other people in my head about whether other outside people could hear other people in their heads. I knew the answer was no, but decided to believe they could.
Fast forward to high school, when I experienced dramatically different interests and identities. I knew it was strange that I had such varied interest, social groups, and behaviors. I was all over the place with no consistent identity. Again, I knew something was wrong with the way my mind was working, but I needed to not think about that to survive, so I pushed that thinking away every time it came up in my mind. Occasionally, I would try to rationalize it as normal behavior, but I looked around at the other kids and learned rather quickly they didn’t have these different identities.
In college, the first time away from my biological family, I excelled at school, extracurricular activities, friendships, and even fell in love. Life was nearly perfect, yet I managed to have my first Major Depressive episode with suicidal ideation, and landed in a private psychiatric hospital for 6 months.
Super confusing to both my treatment providers and me, my successful outside identities crumbled into nothiness and could not function or get better. Every time things seemed to be getting better, I would suddenly get intensely suicidal and my providers would scratch their heads trying to understand what was happening with me.
They could not figure it out, but one day sitting quietly in a chair when things had gotten better for me again, I heard the voices in my head talking about killing themselves because our therapist was out of town.
I tried to talk with my doctor and therapist about these voices, but they dismissed it. But from that point on I started realizing more and more that I was not the only one occupying my body. I didn’t have a name for it yet, but I knew there was something going on with me that was my truth, but my mental health providers could not or would not accept.
When I was 22, I was working at a psychiatric hospital and I learned the name for what ailed me—it was called Multiple Personality Disorder (which is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder). I went to a psychologist who specialized in it to confirm my suspicions. She confirmed it, and life became very unruly as DID can be for some people, especially at the beginning of their diagnosis.
This is a secret I keep from almost everyone I have known for 28 years. It can be lonely sometimes, but my upbringing taught me to tough it out so I could survive.
Why do I keep it a secret? Two reasons: Hollywood has made a mess of teaching the general public it is a scary, dangerous disorder that should be feared (just ask my last church minister as she told my spouse to leave me and take the kids when my spouse shared the diagnosis with her). The other reason is because people don’t want to believe that horrific child abuse and neglect happens at such a severe level in this world to create the thousands and thousands of us who have this disorder.
There is no other way to get DID unless you have been exposed to unbearable trauma that was so severe that your mind splits off to try to help you survive. People aren’t just born with it. There is ALWAYS a horrific story that goes with why they have DID.
Those of us with DID are some of the most abused victims in our world. Yet, we are rejected by the majority of our world and even the mental health system that is supposed to help us. I am not scary, but people are still scared of this diagnosis.
In the major city I live in, there are no treatment facilities to help those with DID, and even though it is considered a psychiatric condition in the DSM V, many mental health providers choose to ignore it and pretend as if it doesn’t exist. Yet it is much more common than most people realize.
We were raised to hide this disorder, so we sometimes refer to it as a disorder of secrecy. I am your neighbor, your friend, your professional, and your go-to for advice, and you have no idea that I carry this secret struggle with me everyday. You also have no idea that I fear each day of being “found out” by the wrong people, and then further rejected by a world that has been so cruel to me.
Yes, I live in a body that is shared with many different people or parts, and it is a struggle to live this way. But, I am not to be feared. My people are lovely and hurt and deserve to be treated better by this world.