Living with dissociative identity disorder is very hard a majority of the time. The intrusive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can make our lives hell.
To make matters worse, singletons (people who do not have the diagnosis of DID) don’t understand our plight. It’s not that people don’t care, they just find our disorder intriguing at best and terrifying at worst.
However, one of the most difficult and most complicated symptoms to deal with in dissociative identity disorder is the amnesiac barriers (walls) that divide up our personalities. At first, diagnosis, when people like myself discover why their life has been so unusual, these walls keep us from understanding ourselves.
Multiples Are People With Only One Personality Like Everyone Else
Our personality (contrary to popular belief, there is only one person in here) is so splintered that we find it very hard to at first to even accept the diagnosis. This is true even knowing the things that have happened to us all our lives, such as finding clothes we didn’t buy in our closets. Believing that the alters exist is tough.
The amnesiac walls were put in place in childhood to protect us. The traumatic events that unfolded that put us in the position of feeling hopeless and trapped were extreme. By forming alters and putting up amnesiac barriers, we were able to avoid becoming insane or dying in our own hand as children.
While it is easy to see that these walls were important in childhood, in adulthood, they become a huge problem.
The Uncertainty of Daily Life with DID
It is hard to describe to anyone who does not live with dissociative identity disorder how hard it is to go through the day uncertain who will be in control.
Will a child-alter emerge in a very inappropriate place such as during an intimate moment with a partner?
Will a teenage alter decide he/she deserves to spend money on a game when money is tight?
Will someone in our system decide to hurt someone’s feelings leaving us to face the aftermath?
These are only the tip of the iceberg in the daily challenges brought on by amnesiac walls.
At the beginning of treatment, many of us are aware, and always have been, of the separated parts of our minds. We may have sensed or heard them talking to us and each other in our heads.
However, the barriers that were put up to keep us safe are what is preventing us from knowing the different parts of ourselves and controlling what we do 100% of the time.
That doesn’t mean we are not wholly responsible for what we do as an alter, it says that we face unique challenges that others do not.
Getting to know the other parts of our psyche system takes a lot of patience, practice, and determination on the part of the host. It’s frightening, and hazardous work as some of these parts don’t want to become known either because they are afraid or they want to be in charge.
Some Steps to Help
The first step in breaking down those barriers is to stop being afraid of the alters. They are you, and you are them. To be frightened or even hate them means you feel those feelings toward yourself.
If you do feel hatred and fear about yourself, then I strongly suggest you work on your self-esteem first before tackling getting to know the alters in your system.
Next, I would suggest that you create a safe space in your mind.
It can be a lovely beach, a lush forest, a forest glade, anywhere that makes you feel safe. You can furnish it with simple things like a hammock, a roaring beach fire, or you can have grand chairs and couches.
My safe place is a warm and sandy beach. It is always sunset, and there is always a warm and salty breeze blowing from the ocean. Soft piano music plays Mozart or whatever suits my mood, and there is a beach house nearby with no windows or doors.
There are safety measures in place on my beach, to make sure my littles are okay. For instance, you can’t drown in the water, and the fire will not burn you.
Hey, it’s an imaginary place, so enjoy making it whatever you want it to be.
Then, invite your alters to meet you there.
They will be very skeptical at first, and you may sit in your safe place for a long time before the first approaches you. Or your others may be anxious to show themselves.
The point is that you have a place where ALL of you feel safe.
Have an Open and Honest Discussion
Opening a dialogue with your alters is the next step.
This can be tricky as they may overwhelm you with the memories they hold. Gently explain to them that you want to hear their stories, but that they need to wait until you are in the office of your therapist.
Be honest. Tell the other alters why you feel that way and prefer not to be alone when they inform you of the things that happened so long ago.
Now you and I both know that we are having conversations and sitting around with ourselves, but that is beside the point. It’s okay to relax and enjoy the silliness of the littles and the moody hilarity of your teens.
Just remember, and this is very important, that those parts are all you stuck in trauma-time. They are for all intents and purposes 5, 6, 10, and 16 years old. Treat them with the love, dignity, and respect that all children deserve. They, in time, will, in turn, respond with trust and become your best friends.
The amnesiac barriers that have kept our personalities fractured need to be disassembled if moving forward is to happen. Only after these walls are down can cooperation, co-awareness and integration take place.
I hope this has helped some of my friends in the DID Community understand a little more about themselves. Perhaps shortly I’ll write a post outlining the newest research as to what alters are and when they developed.
Until then, keep your chins up. Believe me, I understand all too well your struggles as I live them too. Shirley
My Warm and Sandy Beach
—Shirley J. Davis
There is a warm place in my virtual mind
A place safe and homelike of a different kind
A beach where there is never any rain
And there are no other people who can cause any pain
There are always warm breezes and happy days
Where my children flourish and abide
Not really understanding the real world exists
To them, there is nothing on the outside
There is always a setting sun its rays of the day spent
A warm beach fire is always burning in a fire pit
Soft piano music plays in the background
Around the flames, all of my selves may come and sit
It’s here that I have had many chats
With those who live within my heart
It’s here that healing finally began
Yes, it was here that we made a new start
At one time I had to lock the door
To keep the world out of this place
It couldn’t understand nor did it care to
It just didn’t with my understanding keep pace
So the beach became a kind of prison
Wherein my children were caught
They didn’t have anyone to lead them out
Life’s lessons need to children be taught
One day I realized that they needed someone
To become their mother and love and cherish
Every one of them so they could leave the beach
Or forever more there live and perish
I would sit by the fire listening to their thoughts
Not judging them by their lack of understanding
Slowly, very slowly at first
Their thinking and mine began blending
Now I visit the beach whenever
I feel I need a place to rest my soul
Not to hide away from the world at large
Relaxation and peace my goal
I can hear the waves lapping up on the sand
And hear the children laughing with glee
That’s something they never knew in the reality of my past
I enjoy their little faces, I enjoy their company
I know in my intellect that these children are really me
Caught in a mental time warp of an unusual kind
But they seem so real to each other and me
To the world’s lack of empathy, they remain blind
I have on occasion thought of bringing them
Completely out of that place so serene
Into my present-day reality
But I hesitate because on the beach they are so free
There are no adult worries to bog them down
There are no real problems to solve there
A world of fun and play is all they know
A world without tears or care
But I am beginning to understand that as they are myself
I must grow up someday and begin
To all of myself live within the nuances of real life
A new trust of the world to win
For now, I’m content to keep them safe
Tucked away and out of harms reach
Secure in their own little world
On my warm and sandy beach