Losing the vulnerable parts of me during the pandemic

During the COVID pandemic, I have been operating in “fight mode” these past 14 months. My extreme survival instincts kicked in without having to give it much, if any, thought. I remember telling my therapist “I” (meaning my DID system) was built for times like this.

Those early weeks of the pandemic, I remember sitting for hours watching the news and the circus of people who were supposed to lead us out of this mess I had never seen before in my lifetime. At some point it clicked. Things were really bad, and if I wanted to live, and keep my family alive, I had to hunker down into survival mode and follow the rules even as they changed and didn’t make sense on a daily basis.

I had to shed lots and lots of parts of me. I couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, soft, rebellious or childlike. I needed the strongest, toughest, smartest parts of myself to be here. The others would have to go.

I did not consciously choose to rid myself of the vulnerable parts of me, the parts of me that might get in the way of our survival. I experienced what I typically experience, as if a higher being inside me had made some choice to reorganize the system without my input. I just rolled with it as usual.

I had moments where my hidden parts were quietly active as the pandemic wore on. Still, their expression within me was very limited because I could not risk dying, and in “fight mode,” I needed only the best fighters.

Typically with dissociative identity disorder (DID), there is a lot of noise in your head. For me, that noise is different parts commenting on things going on in our life. Opinions, name calling, crying, planning, negotiating and more goes on all the time. So, I have learned to live with “noise.”

With all that noise, the benefit is I know what is going on with the parts of my system. I know when someone is upset, happy, or creating a problem within the system. This is critical information to have if I want to have some semblance of a life in the world.

So, with all the silence over the past 14 months, I don’t know the answers to questions about other parts of me. I have no idea how or what they are doing.

Probably more importantly, I have become phobic again to interact with the other parts. It’s a real thing, not wanting to talk to other parts, not wanting to know the answers to important questions, not wanting to experience them and their pain and other unpleasant feelings/memories they bring to the table.

Without acknowledging your parts, you can pretend like you don’t have a trauma background. You can try to pass as “normal,” but truthfully, if anyone looked closely, they would see you have an extremely limited range of emotions and history (hello DID amnesia). Fortunately, most people are so self-absorbed, they don’t even notice.

The parts hold the deepest shame possible for someone like me who has experienced horrendous abuse. Unimaginable things, things you wouldn’t even believe, they hold for me so I can function.

Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of what has happened to me in my past. But my parts allow me to stay detached from it. I have gotten close to them and felt their pain, and it is awful, and no one in their right mind would want to absorb that. I fear absorbing it and it truly becoming part of me, which keeps me stuck in recovery.

I started having something happen to me during the pandemic, and I really wasn’t sure what it was. It started with me waking up at the same time every early morning, making the loudest, panicked, god-awful sound that was kind of like gasping for breath while drowning. As I would get my bearings, my mind would immediately turn to self-harm and suicide because my body and mind feels so bad, and for whatever reason, those thoughts take it away. Except it started happening earlier and earlier during the night, and I can never go back to sleep after that cortisol surge.

I have been living these past few weeks on 3 hours of sleep. I didn’t tell anyone because I can still function fine with that much sleep. But what I didn’t count on was the toll it was taking on my system. It enabled a little part of me to come forward.

On que, a young part of me came out and had a lot to say about what was happening to us at night. I don’t know where she came from with so much to say. I never do.

I have been struggling a lot this past week. Lots of dissociation, memory loss (switching), suicidality, thoughts of self-harm, detached from everyone in my life, feeling depressed, and generally disconnected from the world.

Today, I was quite shocked to hear my little one reveal new memories in my head. She did not really speak of them, but I could see and feel them. I was horrified as I thought I was done with new memories. I don’t want anymore bad feelings. I don’t want new knowledge of trauma that I will have to come to accept whether I want to or not.

But, there she was. Seemingly out of nowhere. Telling the story of what is happening to us at night. She had so many answers, and I didn’t ask her for them, but she gave them to me anyway.

I worry because we are living in a different world. A world where therapists aren’t as accessible to me as they were before the pandemic. I had safe people and places to get the support I needed. I clearly don’t have that kind of help now as therapists seem to be the last to crawl out of the pandemic “hole of fear” despite getting their first responder vaccinations.

I worry for the little girl and others who share this memory. I worry for myself and what this new memory is going to mean to me. Will it change my history once again? I have a fear this new memory involves someone specific, and I don’t want it to, but it is pushing up against my consciousness.

I worry about the level of dissociation I am experiencing. I worry that I am doing things and not understanding what I am doing. I seem to be returning to an old, familiar, but troublesome way of living with my DID.

Yet, there is not much to do with that worry except to get lost in the dissociation that will make me forget I am worried. What choice do I have?

Hiding from my truth

I was getting too close to acknowledging the intense pain of my childhood abuse. It was coming for me. I got really scared.

As someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I managed to dissociate it from my awareness, and eventually switch to an Identity that doesn’t experience abuse and lives in the here and now.

My system is mad that this Identity went to therapy this week and basically “wasted” the session by talking about mostly nothing.

Our experience seems normal on the outside. We are taking care of the kids and participating in life to some degree.

Our memory is still severely impaired. My son asked me my neighbor’s name, who I know well, and I couldn’t remember it. So, so frustrating.

I don’t know how long we can hold out in this safer position. I feel sadness and suicide creeping around nearby tonight.

I read an article about Designer Kate Spade’s suicide at age 55, and found myself jealous. She left a note to her 13 year old daughter telling the daughter it wasn’t her fault. My children have always kept me from doing it.

I have a mostly good life, yet I selfishly want to end it. What is wrong with me besides the obvious?

Switching between identities

Normally, I switch a lot during therapy because we are dealing with triggering material. Outside of therapy, it is usually more controlled and subtle. Sometimes, because I have co-consciousness with my other identities, I don’t even realize I have switched at first.

There are times when it is like the box of crayons (my identities) have been thrown up in the air and my identities don’t know which way is up. During these times, different parts pop up to “front” the body in no particular logical order.

In a system of other identities like mine (Dissociative Identity Disorder), there needs to be rhyme or reason to what parts are out when. For instance, certain parts need to be out for our children, as these parts know how to function as a parent. Other parts need to be out with my spouse, as these parts are in relationship with her, and are appropriate to have a sexual relationship with her.

This past week, my system feels like the internal house is burning down, and we don’t have the order and reason we normally do for who is out at any given moment.

My spouse, who knows I have DID, but doesn’t usually notice my switches, has definitely noticed this week. Little parts and angry parts and parts who like to drink alcohol have been out a lot. None of these ways is my normal way of being with her. Even though we have multiple parts who can be out with her, they are similar enough in a range of expressions that she knows what to expect.

The chaos and anxiety is high in our inner world. We are trying each day to tame it and get back to our normal. It sometimes seems like it is happening slowly, and other times feels like it is not happening at all.

I had a neurofeedback session a couple of days ago that was supposed to help with the depression and anxiety. It did help, but still the underlying chaos in my brain is still hanging around.

My memory is horrible right now. In fact, I can’t even remember what set us down this path we are on.

My spouse is being helpful and taking over more of the parenting jobs right now.

A couple of days ago I had my kids in the car and they had been arguing with each other and then both asking for something that I would have to say “no” to, and then listen to them both respectively melt down. Instead of saying no, I found myself not being able to breathe or talk. I was paralyzed. I said nothing. I fantasized about getting out of the car and leaving them there.

After that experience with my children, I knew I needed a break. I am usually rock solid with my kids. Instead, I was becoming paralyzed with anxiety, which is not helpful to my children, even though they didn’t even notice.

My switching is more like a Rolodex this past week. Rolodex switching is no fun. It is scary to go from identity to identity with no rhyme or reason.

To function at the level my life is set up for, I need to have more controlled switching. Otherwise, I will end up in the hospital and on the streets and lose everything I have fought to achieve in my small life.

It is funny, my private insurance company has denied my outpatient treatment, and even made it so my antidepressant is unaffordable. That’s fine, because I don’t like to take medicine anyway. On one level, I really believe they would like me to kill myself so they don’t have to pay for my claims anymore. But, if I don’t kill myself, it means my life goes backwards and they have to pay for inpatient treatment again, which is more than what it would cost for the entire year of getting me the outpatient treatment I need to avoid the hospital. Makes no sense, and don’t have the mental energy to keep fighting them.

I will do my best to hang on today. To try to move back toward our normal. It is unusual for me to be in this state of chaos for this long. I am worried, but I will probably forget that I am worried shortly.

Having DID is no picnic. It is not scary the way it is portrayed in the movies. Mostly just scary to the person who has it.