Since I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder I have learnt so much about myself, I have come to realise that I am much stronger than I ever dare to imagine. I am no longer a victim but a survivor and I intend to keep it that way, life is after all for living, seizing each and every opportunity to move forwards, have fun and enjoy.
When I was diagnosed I couldn’t deal with all the difficulties of losing time, confusion and switching ,never mind the memories and flashbacks it felt like this was all an impossibility and I really couldn’t see a way forward. But over time I have learnt that there are helpful techniques that I can use to ease the chaos that is more often than not my life, and by using these it isn’t quite so chaotic as it once was.
I tried journalling my thoughts in the hope it would enable communication between the differing alters, but for me that just didn’t work. I am still not sure if I ever will have any form of real co-consciousness, but I have learnt that if I make small manageable changes to each and every day then things can be easier to manage.
I thought it might help people if I shared some of the things I have found along the way that are helpful, now these may not work for everyone but they do for us.
Self care is critical, I have come to understand that I need to take time for me, time to just be who I am. I try to manage my diary so that I make sure it isn’t too pressured and that activities, appointments and meetings etc. are spread out equally across the week. I ensure there are times each day when I can stop and relax, whether that be going for a coffee with a friend or listening to music at home. Its important to ensure that I look after me.
That means sleep and diet are important too and even if they aren’t my best qualities, I need to try and ensure when I am me, that we eat sensibly and try and sleep well. This isn’t always easy, many of my alters find food difficult and sleep is something that for some is just too scary, but we try the best we can.
We have to take a number of medications for both physical and mental health issues too, and one problem we have encountered is that we often forget to take our medication, mainly because of switching. However we have found setting an alarm on our phone sometimes helps to remind us and also using a daily medication box means I can easily tell if and when we have forgotten them.
Giving time to the alters
I now have to ensure that I fit into my day, times specifically for various alters now rather than try and make this individual to each one, I tend to group them together. So we watch cartoons for the little ones, its something I have realised they find useful, and we set aside time a few times a week to do craft activities as the slightly older young alters find this helpful as a means of expression. You have to understand we don’t have control over our switching and we don’t have communication with the alters, but I have started to recognise certain types of painting stroke and colouring techniques. I can start as picture as me and some other part of me takes over and finishes it, some of my pictures can involve 2 or 3 alters, but its a way of them expressing themselves.
I am learning to give the alters the opportunity to express themselves when they are out too, so if I switch there is a means of them expressing themselves at hand, and I can look at the results when I return. That now means art materials are available in the house, these are easily accessible and age appropriate, they can draw or paint without me having to start the picture off.
I am also aware that when I feel one of the two alters I am currently feeling the emotions of, that I need to allow them a chance to be recognised by me, and the option to communicate if they wish. This means I have to learn to be receptive as well and its still very early days, so currently I feel just two alters but I don’t hear them at all, but I am learning to acknowledge them each time I feel them. That isn’t always easy but it makes me stop and recognise that the feelings I am currently experiencing are not mine, but another part of me.
I also have to try every day and do the internal dialogue my Therapist has suggested, so I begin and end each day with a little self talk internally in the hope the alters hear me and understand what the day ahead involves, or at night we review how its been. Its still an odd experience for me but it is one we intend to persevere with.
Learning to set realistic expectations
I have found that we struggle more emotionally as a person if we set ourselves unrealistic goals or have higher expectations than are possible. So it is helpful to have someone who can rein us in if we do this, we have a good relationship with our daughter and she is able to tell me if I am either taking too much on, or have set myself an unrealistic goal. This doesn’t mean we don’t have melt down moments; if fact we still do, but it does mean they are less frequent than they use to be. So setting yourself good targets is important, try not to put too much pressure on yourself, after all you are dealing with life as a multiple and that is a huge challenge of its own, never mind dealing with life in general.
I have come to realise I have grown up carrying a huge amount of baggage from my past, so hold many inaccurate beliefs about myself and negative thought processes etc this mean I am left with a tendency of feeling insecure and to blame. Being aware of this fact is helpful and means we can understand why we think or feel the way we do, so having an awareness is a helpful technique.
Having a good Support Network
Its vital to have a good support network, be that a supportive family, good friends, or a local group who you can relate to and rely on. I am blessed with a family who understand my multiplicity and don’t judge me, but I know many survivors and multiples are not so fortunate. My advice is try and build a support network for yourself wherever that may be, I have found social media has helped to provide a wealth of support, many groups exist that are full of like minded people who get what its like to live with dissociative disorders. But do remember everyone with a dissociative disorder is different so no two multiples will be alike, so its important not to judge yourself against others; sadly this is something I have done and then I have set myself off on the blame trail which isn’t a helpful technique.
Finding good healthcare professionals to work with
If you can find a good supportive and understanding therapist you have a great source of help, or an understanding GP can be invaluable too. It is so important to have people who you can rely on and build up trust with especially in the medical profession, I have come to realise that when people don’t have an understanding of dissociation its not their fault, very few healthcare professionals are taught about dissociation so perhaps we have to educate them ourselves. The First Person Plural DVD can be a useful tool in these case, as it is easy to understand and can be viewed in bite size pieces making it easily accessible to busy GP’s, Community health teams, psychiatrists etc. or there is information available from a number of organisations whose details can be found alongside information for First Person Plural in the resources tab.
I am fortunate that I have managed to find a good therapist with a knowledge base of dissociation and trauma, it hasn’t always been the case, my previous therapist and I parted company because I felt we were unable to move forward any further with her. I now realise that having someone to work with who I feel treats me as an equal is really important, for me personally having a male therapist has been helpful too, but that is because of my past trauma and the fact my main abuser was a female.
Most of all I think it has helped me to know that I can be who I am and know I will not be judged, criticised or condemned, I spent so long trying to fit into society all the while knowing I didn’t. Now I live as a multiple, if I switch I know my family and friends won’t judged me and more than likely other people may not even realise we have switched. If they do I have become far more robust at no longer trying to be something I am not, yes I may make excuses and leave but I am slowly becoming more able to accept who we are, and not hide that fact from the world. I am a We and we cannot help that fact, it is just a much a part of us as any other characteristic. So I post my blog on my facebook wall and if people choose to take offence then that is their issue not mine.
But being ourselves has helped us, is helping us, as our all the other helpful techniques we have found as we progress on this journey of living life as a multiple.
If you have any other helpful techniques that you use I’d be interested to know, I may even write another blog listing some of them so that others may find something that helps them accept who they are and live a positive and enjoyable life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Remember none of us are alike and not all helpful techniques will work or be useful to everyone, we all have a different history and different needs, I am an expert by experience not an expert by medical qualification. So everyone needs to make their own informed decisions when trying to manage their life with dissociation, but I do hope that others might find some of my techniques helpful to them as they progress on their journey.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014