With Christmas fast approaching, like most people I am busy preparing for the holidays, but unlike most people I have to also take account of the rest of me, my alters.
For those who don’t understand alters, let me explain very briefly, as a child to cope with the extreme trauma I was going through I dissociated more frequently than the average person, all this dissociating led to the formation of my alters. Alters can either carry memories or have a specific function or role, each alter has a distinct identity, its own characteristics and mannerisms, likes and dislikes. I may not have awareness of the alters, so others may see me switching and I might be oblivious to this. The alters may assume control at various times, usually brought about by a trigger of some kind or to cope with a specific task or situation.
So my alters are an important part of who I am, and I don’t have full co-consciousness with them either, which in itself isn’t so great for planning how we respond to such an event as Christmas.
Some of my alters are children and they are either over excited at the thought of Christmas or terrified because of a specific memory that they hold, meanwhile the adult parts of me are either stressed and over whelmed or are busy planning and preparing everything. It can be chaotic at the best of times, but at this time of year its even more so.
I have already had to start thinking ahead, putting in place coping strategies to deal with any and every eventuality. I know stress makes me switch more frequently and I also know I perform less well if I am over-whelmed by things. So in the last few weeks I have been busy trying to get ready, though I will still be like many people rushing around with a list of things to do right up until the last minute.
The difference is that as the day approaches I will face that ever increasing risk of a younger alter popping out to watch cartoons, stare at the tree or just think about Santa. So even the best laid plans tend to go array at these times. My poor house currently resembles a fairyland as more and more lights had to be added to the display, more and more baubles to the tree just so everyone felt comfortable and happy.Over the next few days I will be aware that I have lost more time, and my plans will constantly have to change and be re-evaluated to accommodate whoever decides to pop out during this period.
Its not easy, but it can and does have some fun points too. I am now more excited about Christmas than any of my three grown up children, and I can only assume that without DID most adults will be just like them. The magic of Christmas does fade when you loose your childhood innocence, but I haven’t lost mine, well not all of me anyway so for some alters the magic is just as real now as ever and that’s quite good.
Sadly however there are negatives, being a multiple isn’t so simple in a society where everyone assumes singularity as the norm. I can’t share my excitement outside of my immediate family and friends it too difficult to explain. Nor can I ever repay my family for the times each year all through their childhood that I their mum would disappear to bed and sleep. Christmas was no exception to this and so everyone lost out, me included.
It is only in the last few years that I have come to learn and understand how much I need to self care around this time. I already know from previous years that it takes me a huge amount of effort to even stay awake for the whole of Christmas day. In fact I have not been able to manage that for many years. I did get half a day last year before I became too tired and overwhelmed that I had to retreat to bed.
This year I will be utilising all the skills and knowledge I have acquired to cope more productively; as a multiple, with Christmas. I have just bought my younger alters a gift and I can only hope Santa delivers me something from them. I will take the day at a steady pace with no set expectations placed upon us, though I am secretly hoping to achieve at least 2 thirds of the day awake. I have no desire to be any one alter specifically, my family will cope with whoever is around.
I am having a session with my Therapist just before Christmas, so am hoping that will help too. Plus I have been busy preparing all of me for the holidays especially those who I know find it hard and triggering. So lots of self talk and reassurance really.
Yet despite the challenges I am looking forward to the holidays, I know it will be a magical time especially for the younger parts of me. I also know that I will be at home surrounded by my family. Even if I don’t make the whole day, this year will be better than the last, a clear sign we are moving forwards. I am aware that despite the challenges of the holidays as a multiple we have much to be grateful for, in reality we are truly blessed.
I hope everyone has a great time this Christmas and even if things seem tough right now, don’t give up it will in time get better. Multiples can and do have fun even at the holidays, some may say we have the opportunity to have more fun than most people. For if we have younger alters we can enjoy the magic of Christmas through a childs eyes.