Parenting with Dissociative Identity Disorder

I am blessed to have two amazing children, ages 6 and 12. My spouse and I adopted both of my children at birth through open adoption (when the birth parents choose who they want to adopt their baby).

Both of my children are happy, healthy, and smart kids. My life wouldn’t be worth living if I didn’t have them in it.

Neither of my children know their mom has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The older child does know that I sometimes gets depressed, and that some bad stuff happened to me when I was a child, which is why I am so protective of her.

If you have seen the television show “United States of Tara,” my life is nothing like that. My parts do not freely and recklessly interact with my children, and there is a reason for that. That show makes me cringe from a parenting perspective, though I know other people with DID disagree with me about it.

Every person with DID has what we would call a system of parts (or some might call them alters or alternate personalities), and every person with DID has a very different system at varying levels of recovery, functioning, and beliefs about the world and how they fit into it. This writing is only about me and my parenting beliefs and choices.

I have been diagnosed with this disorder for 28 years, and I have made incredible progress in creating a system that is less chaotic and more cooperative than when I was first diagnosed.

My system is less chaotic in that I do not switch to another part without any control or knowledge of what is happening. Usually, I switch under extreme stress/triggers, or when in therapy to work on trauma my parts have experienced. I can control which parts of myself are out with my children through the internal cooperation we have with each other in our system.

I also have co-consciousness, which means I am aware of what is happening when another part is out. I may not have control over what the part is saying or doing, but I do know what is happening. Not everyone with DID is lucky enough to have this ability, and I didn’t when I was first diagnosed.

My system is cooperative in that everyone in it knows there are certain rules in place when it comes to the outside children. For starters, we don’t let our outside children see any of the many inside children that live in this body. I knew this would be confusing to my children, so I made this rule early on.

As someone who was terribly abused as a child, it is extremely important to give my children the stable and loving life I never had. And every part inside of me agrees with this goal.

I don’t want to give you the idea that my life is a bed of roses and has no affect on my children. My level of functioning fluctuates, especially more so over the last 3 years. I was out of therapy for many years until a series of traumatic events happened to me, which unfortunately destabilized my DID quite a bit.

I experienced a Major Depressive episode about 1 1/2 years ago, and as a result I spent the better part of 17 months in my bed unless I absolutely had to be at an appointment or one of the functions for my kids. My kids noticed this change, and we talked about it with them giving them limited, and age appropriate detail. We also had the ability to have both of the kids in therapy to deal with any anxiety or other feelings they had about it.

My children have experienced me leaving for weeks at a time when my DID, PTSD, and Depression became too severe and I went to a treatment facility. This caused them a lot of anxiety as they worried whether I was going to go away again because I had to do it several times over the last three years.

My children aren’t aware that I have suicidal thoughts on a very frequent basis. My system of parts who often argue that suicide is the best way out of the pain we experience, will not make a suicide attempt when they are reminded how much this would hurt our outside children.

There was a time over the past 3 years when the intensity of my pain and psychological distress was so great that I did self-harm by cutting into my arm in hidden places. My oldest child accidentally caught a glimpse of a scar on my arm that had the initials of someone who hurt me. I lied about it and told her it was a scar from something else, and she never brought it up again, and my system made the rule that we would never self-harm again in that way. So far, we haven’t.

I go to therapy three times a week to work on the trauma I experienced as a child. Some days I feel the feelings I dissociated as a child, and they are awful, so sometimes the best thing for me to do after therapy is to go to bed to take care of myself.

Some days my PTSD gets triggered so severely I can’t function. This can cause younger parts of myself to be “out” in the body. This is when my spouse and I have to work together closely as a team.

Noises are a major trigger for me when my PTSD is activated. Having two young children doesn’t equal a quiet household. My spouse is really good at trying to shield me from their noise when this happens. Fortunately, my PTSD doesn’t happen to this degree often.

I do have other parts who interact with the children. These are parts of me who are adult, and who most people wouldn’t detect as different, and would just chock it up to me being in a different mood.

Sadly, I have parts of me who don’t claim any relationship or interest in the kids. They stay far away from the kids, and usually don’t pay much attention to what is going on with them. By far away, I mean they don’t come out for anything that has to do with the children.

In some ways, my children are better off because they have me as a parent. They get a super caring parent who understands things from many different perspectives. They also get someone who will fight for them like nobody’s business, and teaches them to fight for other, less fortunate people in this world. They have a strong sense of justice.

I do realize one day I will have to decide whether to tell them my story, and this huge piece of my life as someone with DID. I imagine when they get older I will tell them my story, but it will be super hard for them because they will learn some horrible things about people they love, and would never dream are capable of such horrendous things. That is a challenge for another day.

Parenting is by far the hardest job in the world. I didn’t get to pick my parents, and they caused me great harm. My children didn’t get to choose us as parents, and I hope they will always feel grateful for the love and kindness we have given them as parents.

I believe loving your children unconditionally, and all the time, is the best recipe for happy, healthy kids despite what other issues are part of the picture.

Not everyone deserves forgiveness

I was just speaking philosophically about the concept of forgiveness with a therapist, and I agreed with his perspective that forgiveness generally is to the benefit of the victim. But, I disagree that everyone should be forgiven no matter their crime, or that forgiving someone will always benefit you.

As a survivor of extreme abuse from my mother and many others, I told him I wouldn’t even consider the concept of forgiveness of my mother. It would serve no purpose for her or me. After all, when your mother is a sadistic narcissist, she does not see any reason for a need to be forgiven.

She doesn’t need it, and I don’t need or want it.

As commonly found in survivors of child abuse, I struggle with blaming myself for the abuse that happened to me. “If only I wasn’t so bad, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.” It is really hard to get off that train ride of blaming yourself, if ever.

I have forgiven other people for betrayals because I knew by me doing so, I was setting myself free and letting myself move on. But, there is a big difference in hurting someone, and intentionally perpetrating evil on someone.

In the case of the evil my mother perpetrated on me, I will feel no better by forgiving her, especially since I don’t believe it is my job, or within my capacity to even consider it.

Where I stand today, I am not sure everyone deserves to be forgiven. I know there are many people who would disagree with me, which is totally ok.

Some things are bigger than the capacity to understand. For those, I leave it to God or a higher being to make that call as to whether they are to be forgiven or not.

In the case of my mother, she perpetrated such evil and intentional abuse that has robbed me of so much I should have had in life. There are long moments of feeling like she has ruined my life, and brief moments of taking that power back and trying my best to live a life that is still broken in so many ways on the good days.

I survived the woman who was supposed to be my mother. I wish I had a mother, but sadly I don’t, and never will. Even with my mother still alive, I would never want HER as my mother.

I have no desire to try to make amends or to fix anything. I have found when evil is nearby, it is best to step aside and let it keep going by instead of trying to tame it.

My mother will one day meet her maker, and will have to answer for her extreme sins. It hurts me to think of her possibly going to Hell, as I feel pity for her.

I was an innocent child who deserved a “good enough” mother. Sadly, she was far from it, and has no remorse for it.

I can’t imagine what went wrong in her life to make her into the person she became, but I still can’t excuse her, and I won’t give her forgiveness.

It was never ok what she did to me. And somehow I think if I contemplate forgiveness of what she did to me it says “it wasn’t so bad, or I am over it so I am going to let it go,” but that is never really going to happen. It will always be a part of my damaged soul.

Today, for me, courage is to stand up and say “I will not forgive you for what you have done to me. You have controlled and hurt so much of me. It is my right to never forgive you.”

And I know this is right today, because just saying that sends terror through me that you will find out I said it. A child should never be terrified of their own mother.

All I can say that seems appropriate is may God have mercy on your soul.

Giving up?

Lately, I have been struggling more than usual with suicidal thinking, time loss, confusion, severe amnesia, thinking people want me to kill myself, and generally trying to keep my mind in shut-down mode so I don’t become totally hopeless. 

If I do become totally hopeless, I am worried I will do something I don’t want to do to my kids, which would be to kill myself. 

It is such a hard place to be in. On the one hand, I really want to give up and put an end to my life. On the other hand, I want to be there for my children and make sure they are ok.

I know killing myself will mess up my kids, but when your mind gets sicker and sicker, it is hard to stay strongly rational so you can ignore those impulses.

And even though my wife says she supports me and loves me if I go to a psych hospital, the truth is there is only so much a person can take in a relationship, and what am I doing to my kids by being gone and missing so much of their childhood (even when I am here.)

Psych hospitals suck, even the best of them, and there is never any guarantee that they will help at all. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. 

Giving up is so much easier and pleasant sounding at the moment, but then if I can hold on to thinking about my kids it is not an option. Unless I get too sick to hold onto that thought.

I am just whining today. Mental illness sucks. At least I have a comfortable bed and two puppies to keep me company at home. I don’t much need food any more.

Ambivalence. Confusion. Hopelessness.

Life sucks today.

This is what PTSD can look like 


Mommy has her PTSD this morning. Ever since a surgical procedure involving anesthesia last month, mommy has been getting PTSD symptoms a lot.

My PTSD has changed over the years for the worse, or maybe I am just more aware of what it does to my body when it comes around.

Noises tend to be my biggest everyday trigger to get it going. I don’t know why this is, but it is. This is not the best combination lately with my 5 year old son.

My son is loud. A lot. Just as you would expect him to be, meaning nothing out of the ordinary.

Today I was really tired and wanted to sleep in, but my son gets up early everyday. His older sister was hanging out with him in our play room. Of course today he chose to get on a video game.

I feel guilty, but my son’s sounds of acting out the game and loudly announcing his wins had me terrified. I know it is just my son playing a video game, and I am home safe in my bed, but some part of me processes it differently.

I feel terrified, like someone is about to kill me. My stomach and entire body begins to feel sickly as hormones are being released to deal with the “danger” of the noise. Except, there is no work or response for the body to use the hormones, so they just build in my body.

I wish I could stop this reaction. I think of taking a pill, but quickly realize there is no pill that is going to make me numb to the noise– short of taking a pill that will knock me out for the day. That’s not an option.

My spouse comes home from her walk with a friend. I tell her the truth that our son is triggering my PTSD. She knows I seem scared and wants to do something. She finally decides to take him out to play.

I feel better now, but I know my spouse is tiring of my various symptoms of mental illness. I worry she will come back from one of her walks and tell me she just can’t do it any more. 

I understand. I can only imagine the burden I have become. Sometimes love is not enough. And sometimes I imagine I have become too much.

Uncovering the truth about myself sucks


My life with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has made it so I don’t really know who the hell I am. I say that with anger, because I am bloody mad about it at the moment.

Others may not like who they are, but at least they know. Don’t take that for granted because there are others of us who get taken by surprise when we learn who we are.

My life is filled with amnesia. I can’t remember huge periods of time and important events in my childhood, and on an almost daily basis, I can’t remember if I have eaten lunch or what I even did for most of the day. I have to actually work to remember if I had lunch and what it was. Most of the time I can’t remember what I said 3 sentences back.

Yeah, I guess I sound a bit whiney tonight.

This week started with me suddenly experiencing a new memory about my childhood 30 minutes before my therapy session. I have no idea where it came from. It just entered my consciousness while I was getting dressed.

For those of you who aren’t versed in DID Land, a new memory is up there with an atomic bomb going off in your head. Other parts of ourselves typically hold these memories from our consciousness to protect us.

These memories stay hidden from consciousness because they are awful. They are unimaginable. They bring tears to your f-ing therapist’s face. They bring anger and suicidality and sadness to me.

People don’t just get DID. They go through bloody hell to get this “fascinating disorder.” I always knew I would find out things about myself that I didn’t know and didn’t want to know, but Jesus, some things are just too horrific to accept. And I can’t even say “well maybe this isn’t true” on this one because there is no way I could know what is in the memory without seeing it. They don’t even have this on tv or wherever one goes to see horrific things.

I am mad, really f-ing mad. This memory is not me, but it is. I don’t want it in my history, but it is. I can’t tell my children, but what if they find out.

This memory makes me a monster. It makes me one of them. And the BS that people shovel at you to say “but you were just a kid” is NOT what I want to hear. 

Some things are just unacceptable, which is why I have been teetering on the suicidal edge this week. I mean, how can I live with myself. My own children would disown me if they knew who I really am. 

My whole adult life I have tried to live a life that I wouldn’t be ashamed or horrified by my actions. Don’t do what you can’t publicly own. Ha! How ironic for me.

This week has been shitty and a good reminder that this world can be an awful place sometimes. The only thing that has kept me alive is the beauty and innocence I see in my children.

I fear my future. I fear this is the beginning of an avalanche. The choice is mine. I can try to stuff it down and live a clueless, empty life, or I can continue figuring out just who the hell I am and hope I can live with it and be authentic.

Don’t take it for granted if you know who you are. There are those of us who are existing just one step above robots. It is a terrible way to go threw life, even if you have what looks like a normal, successful life.

Pray that the truth sets me free one day. I don’t think there is anything else that can be done.

Failing my children


I don’t care that I am failing myself, but I am so utterly disappointed in myself that I am failing my children as much as I am.

I have mostly been living in bed for the past 16 months (another, longer story on how that happened). This is my safe place. The place I never want to leave. 

Even when I want to get up and be “normal” and do something in life, the others inside me hold me in place so we don’t leave the bed so we can stay safe.

My children are young, and they see me in bed everyday. Even when I am having a good day and get out, it is exhausting but I use every ounce of energy I have to try to be normal for my kids.

I hate myself when I miss their events because I know I won’t get these moments back to do over. Yet, I stay in bed as if chains hold me here.

“Singletons” the name given to those without Dissociative Identity Disorder, don’t have any concept of why I can’t get out of bed. They don’t understand how the fears or hurts of other parts inside me can greatly influence my behavior and thinking, and sometimes leave me paralyzed. 

Tonight my kids said goodbye to me, their mother who doesn’t get out of bed for unknown reasons, as they joyfully headed off for swim team practice. Another moment missed.

Sadness prevails.

Leaning toward love

 

I am the child of a sadistic, narcissistic, evil woman, so this is a day of painful emotions.

I am sad that I still play the pretend game and will call her later today to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. I will try to keep the conversation short as is always hard because she runs right over me with her words about herself, never listening to me.

But, I’ll get through this day.

My beautiful children will help. Their loving, smiling faces make life worth living. We are so lucky to have children who are the most beautiful angels it takes my breath away.

It amazes me that it didn’t take any special effort to not continue the cycle of abuse so many people talk about. It is natural to love and take care of your babies, which makes it harder to understand the actions of my parents.

I love my children more than anything else in this world. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them.

I wish all moms could feel that way.

I am sorry for those of you who had moms like mine.

I am happy for those of you who are amazing moms, and also for those who were lucky enough to have a great mom.

A day of ambivalence. I will lean toward love. I hope you can, too.