A somewhat common problem for people living with dissociative identity disorder is switching headaches. While they do not occur in everyone who lives with DID, they are a painful reminder to many that they are burdened with the disorder.
I am going to write this piece about my own experiences with these often-debilitating apparitions.
Even though I have been in therapy for thirty years now, if I come under enough stress I will switch alters. I am co-conscious with my others, so I am aware of what is being said and done, but just barely. To be clear, it takes an enormous amount of internal or external stress to cause me fall back on the default behavior of switching.
Believe it or not, these switching headaches have an official name. Transitional Interpersonality Thunderclap Headaches (TITH). There is no known understanding of how or why these painful migraines occur. The research I read stated that after a thorough neurological examination during the time a TITH was happening showed no irregularities whatsoever leaving the researchers scratching their heads.
When I was growing up, I was sent to several neurologists because of the blinding headaches I experienced every day, often several times a day. I would be fine one moment, then have the sudden onset of a terrible migraine that could last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. They did several batteries of tests, including a particularly nasty one called a pneumoencephalogram, sure they would find a lesion or tumor, but they found nothing.
At one point they even decided I was faking the headaches to gain attention, but that was soon laid to rest. They placed me in the hospital and observed me closely, careful not to let me know they were doing so. When one of these horrifically painful events occurred, I was alone and did not look for someone to help me. They saw me change moods suddenly, then grab my head and rock, apparently in agony.
Looking back, I know what was happening. I was switching a lot back then. The trauma was ongoing that caused DID to develop in my mind, and the switching was very intense. The doctors in the 1960s were unaware of the trauma I was living in and had little to no knowledge of dissociative identity disorder. Even less than many doctors know today.
Recently, I was having a crisis of significant proportions. I immediately began to experience severe headaches that nothing would help. They were worse than migraines, (if that is possible), and I was more miserable than I had been with just the crisis.
The only way I could resolve both problems was by seeing my therapist and pouring out to her all I was feeling. While speaking to her my head was throbbing, and I felt myself switching moods rapidly, but I kept on talking and cursing.
After raving for forty-five minutes, I felt much, much better.
I took a deep breath and looked at my therapist who was sitting quietly nearby clearly stunned by what she had just witnessed. I smiled sheepishly and said,
“Well, now I think you’ve met just about the whole gang.”
Her response was priceless. She sat back, smiled and said, “So I have.”
Now, I realize that pouring out one’s guts to a therapist may not be the answer for every circumstance nor is it for everyone. I only know that venting that day released an enormous amount of pressure off my mind, and I am again able to function.
The main point of this post is to say that migraines caused by switching, especially rapid switching, is not abnormal and should not cause you to fear. Yes, please, have yourself thoroughly examined by your doctor, but don’t be surprised if they find nothing physically wrong.
Switching headaches, I could sure live without them.
“I wear my personality on my sleeve, for sure, and my look is constantly changing because so am I.” Halsey