Some of this may be a repeat from other posts, but I’m compiling what I want to say when I speak to a group of college students tomorrow. I’ll try to post more about how it goes!!!!
To help you understand what Dissociative Identity Disorder is and why it exists, I’ll share some of my “newsprint” history which I’ll explain what that means more as we go.
I grew up on a farm, so fairly isolated. My dad was an alcoholic and worked the night shift and the farm. If he was home, he was drinking or hung over. My mom grew up being sexually abused by her father. So was her sister. Despite her own history with her father, I spent a lot of time with him. He was married, but my grandmother wouldn’t be present. He groomed me from a very young age. I don’t know exactly, other than I never knew any different. It didn’t start all at once, it’s a process. He needed me to trust him. In the situation I was in, my mother was emotionally checked out, so was my father. My grandpa was the only one that would hug me, tell me he loved me, etc. It’s biologically necessary for humans, especially children to need that attachment. The abuse would grow over time. It’d start as feeling and touching and went all the way to intercourse probably by the age of 8. He had friends too.
At that age, when it’s all you know, you really don’t question. You accept it as reality. When you are sick you are given medicine and you hate how it tastes, but you know you have to take it anyway. The concept is the same. I wanted to be loved, so I kept going back. Why didn’t I tell? At this age I really don’t think I thought there was anything to tell.
However, this is also where DID comes in. We’re going to go back through the story but look at it from the perspective of DID.
Psychologically speaking, children love their parents, even when they are alcoholics and checked out mentally. They have to. They are dependent. Plus, can a child really process how it would feel if their own parents didn’t love them? Most likely, my mother is DID. If you were abused by your father, would you psychologically be able to handle giving your child over to the abuser? But all of this was too much for me to process. So from a very early age (again, I don’t know exact times but by the age of 3-4) I found a way to cope with all the inconsistencies. I wanted to believe my parents loved me, so the abuse and neglect from them got stored away. But, if you experience something, you remember it. So instead of the “core person” experiencing the abuse, if there was a hint of an unhappy home, another “person” took her place. This way when the one that experienced the abuse stepped back, the memories were gone. In some cases, and mine seems to be one, the abuse started so early, that the “core” or the original person was locked safely away. As situations arose, whether it was the father’s alcoholic rages or the mother’s emotional rants or the grandfather’s sexual activities, the mind would create a “person” who was equipped to handle the situation. This way the memories went away with them and the “host” was unaware of abuse. When a situation changed and was something that couldn’t be handled, then the mind would create a bigger and stronger version that could handle the additional trauma. When the abuse was over, the person would be locked back away, the host would return and act as if nothing happened, because nothing happened to them. They have no memory. Remember I called it newsprint history? There are many things I know that have happened in my life, someone inside experienced it and holds the feelings and the memories, but it’s not me. It’s like reading a newspaper to me, about something that happened to someone else.
So who are these people? The term multiple personality became very confusing and has left a huge stigma. When Hollywood wants to create a special kind of dramatic flair to a crime, they’ll have the criminal be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and show how the crime could be committed without knowing the crime was committed. Then you have the criminals who claim “insanity” and that they have multiple personality therefore they shouldn’t be held accountable. It all makes for great movies and TV shows, but the stigma and the “tossing around the term” makes it hard to have a real conversation about it.
First of all, most all cases of DID are people who survived chronic childhood abuse almost always with a sexual abuse component. I say most and almost always because there is a rare case here and there that arises. Second, a child’s mind is flexible enough to do this and do it well. I won’t get too off topic but even the military understands the concept of DID and has used tactics to its advantage. However, you’ll see differences because the adult mind just isn’t as flexible as a child’s who is still developing. Third, a primary key to child sexual abuse is keeping the secret. This is why DID and sexual abuse go together so well, if the “secrets” as well hidden, there’s less risk.
Remember I said the word “groom”? The secrets are a big part of grooming. The abuser, especially when you are looking at generational abuse, knows what they are doing. They help the child lock those secrets away and get the parts to respond to them. The reason people with DID don’t shout it from the rooftops is because it is created for the primary reason of keeping the secret. Often the abuser will teach a part to “tell on” any parts that might conspire to tell the secret. They often help create a “self-destruct” part. A person with DID is way more likely to harm themselves than another person. This is why it’s so important to be respectful of a person with DID. Not that you should treat them differently, but certainly don’t treat them as a circus act drawing attention to them. Also, be respectful of their boundaries to stay safe because it could trigger internal problems for them.
So back to my history. My grandfather died when I was 10. It was not until I was 12 that I realized I’d been sexually abused. I know, it sounds strange, but they taught it in school and that’s how I found out what had happened was wrong. Remember, I told you, the “core” was locked away? My original job back at the age of 12, was to tell and get help. Remember all the self-destruct instructions? Obviously I wasn’t able to tell. I did try, but remember I grew up on a farm? Not only was I in a socially isolated situation, but my grandfather had some well connected friends. He was well known in the small town, a leader in the county and even known state-wide. No one would have believed me. My mother found out I was trying to “tell” and that’s when I found out she’d been abused as well then came the stern warning of not harming the “family name”. Finally we’ll call them the “board of directors” inside, decided to bring me back in. I have no direct memory again until the body was 21. So I was born when the body was 12 then was hidden away until age 21.
Which brings me to the question, how do you find out you have DID? I’ll admit, my story is probably different than most. At the time I was married to an abusive husband and the one married to him refused to leave him, but it was getting to the point if the body didn’t get away, the body would die. So in self-preservation mode, “the board of directors” toss me back out. The only way I can help you understand how this truly feels is the first few episodes of the show Orphan Black. They are clones, but she is mistaken for another clone and is thrust into a relationship with a guy she doesn’t know, a job she doesn’t know, etc. She can’t tell anyone she isn’t the clone and she can’t show she doesn’t know what she’s doing. While the internal system had some direction for me, the newspaper history misses a lot of critical information. I was dealing with an abusive husband and I had to figure out how to get out of it. However, I was also working and had to figure out the job without raising eyebrows and get to know people without them knowing I wasn’t the same person. However, because the one who’s life I replaced wasn’t going willingly, she’d fight me for control of the body. I blacked out a couple times behind the wheel of a car, those are fun to explain to a police officer! This isn’t a “normal” experience, but was happening because of the fight for control. As things calmed down, the blackouts didn’t happen as dramatically. I went to a doctor appointment, it was on the schedule. The therapist instantly realizes the diagnosis he’d made a couple years prior was spot on. Apparently she’d have no part of it. I, on the other hand, knew something was up. However, my experience had been internal. So when I started having people on the inside yelling at me while I was on the outside, that freaked me out for a while. However, you have to understand, I don’t know any different. I don’t know what it’s like to not be DID.