Learning to work collaboratively with my alters
Success comes in many forms and for someone like me it comes in ways others might just take for granted or feel are insignificant.
Yet I am slowly beginning to realise with the help of my psychologist that I can attempt these small steps of progress which seem alien and unfamiliar. Now not everyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is the same, but for me I lack many skills which are crucial to everyday life. I switch alters in the kitchen and find cooking a bit of a disaster and I have spent so many years in this fog of dissociation that many developmental stages of life have passed us by.
I can at times be terrified of the phone ringing, overwhelmed beyond belief by paperwork and it’s not uncommon for me to pay a bill twice due to forgetting it’s been dealt with. Many things trigger me, well various alters are impacted by different triggers, sounds, sights, smells and events, the biggest issues being the bathroom which impacts a younger part of me and food which causes huge issues for us too; so having support has enabled me to function a little better.
However with support and guidance I am trying to help build relationships with the differing parts of me, my alters in the hope we can deal with some of these issues and learn the skills we have lacked for so long. A big part of this is about developing trust internally, building self confidence and utilising techniques we are only just learning about.
My psychologist is encouraging me to keep working at internal communication and to use this to try and encourage me and my parts to work collectively. Now of course I don’t have ordinary verbal dialogue with the alters, it is very much a one sided conversation inside my head currently yet that gives us hope.
Yesterday I set myself a challenge which I could only hope would work, my PA was off sick and the family were busy but we needed to eat. I’m terrified of food at times, we certainly feel guilty and bad for eating it’s as if somehow my default position is that we are not worthy of food and it’s bad, dangerous somehow. Eating disorders plagued us in previous years but I have now come to accept that we have to eat even if I don’t want to; otherwise the family and others will force us too anyway. This has led to one alter having a sweet tooth and eating children’s sweeties, but the rest of me eat out of duty with a sense of eating because we have to. Hence today food isn’t fun and the kitchen is frightening and triggering, so we often switch during meals and our skills in the kitchen are poor.
Yet with a sense of we need to eat in my mind I knew we needed to make tea, my worst fears were cooking two things at once as we burn things and switching mid way through leads to disaster. Following advice from my psychologist I broke down tasks and gave the other parts of me the task of telling me when the toast was ready, whilst I would focus on cooking baked beans. The tension was palpable in my kitchen but I kept telling myself and the alters we could do this, we’d be safe and I believed in them. Now I wasn’t alone in the house my son was around but due to his own disability needs he requires care so I gave him the task of if you smell burning tell me and if mum switches turn things off.
We had no idea if this would work I had visions of burnt toast and burnt beans, really I am normally that bad on my own but I knew we had to try. It was I guess taking a calculated risk but it was a risk worth taking if we want to move forward. I couldn’t of course be certain any other part of me would listen, take notice of what I’d asked I had to trust them and yes that felt scary.
As I felt myself being pulled to look at the toast I began to believe this might work, the outcome was edible beans on toast. Yes we had managed to work together for a few brief moments, not to switch but to collaborate at achieving tea. I felt like I was having the longest internal dialogue with the alters as I ate, praising and thanking them for their help as I had been advised to do. I was in truth giving positive reinforcement to the other parts of me and in some ways to myself Carol, yes I felt pleased and in many ways proud of myself and the alters. I know I was exhausted afterwards it was extremely tiring and I hadn’t expected that strangely.
This simple tea was a huge success for us it was a step forward and it needed recognition, some of my alters had listened to me and acted as I had requested. I am so proud of those parts of me.
Whilst I cannot be certain we will achieve this type of success in the future we will certainly be trying again in the hope that me and my alters can learn to work together as a team.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014