After an absolutely fantastic experience at this year's annual Party in the Park - and even receiving some media coverage - we spent some time reflecting on the many conversations had there and wanted to extend some extra love and thought to those with Dissociative Identity Disorder today. And, in doing so, hopefully we'll guide the general public to a richer understanding of the condition as well!
After talking with the media - who were absolutely wonderful, receptive, and eager to learn - it was still evident through subtle head nods and knowing laughter following our jokes that their only prior introduction to DID had not been a positive one. They were so happy to see and understand it for what it really is, to adopt an entirely new view on whom it affects, why, and what that looks like. We witness versions of this exchange everywhere we go, almost any time we educate the public. But, another thing we find, time and time again, is how many survivors have been given inaccurate information about themselves. Many have been privy to explanations and/or analogies used to simplify or summarize the disorder to the unfamiliar, some of which have led to the internalization of some pretty harsh ideas about themselves. Sometimes these misconceptions are even held by the most loving and helpful therapists, not just the ignorant or uneducated ones. Because of this, we not only want to offer clarity on the subject, but more importantly, fight to help restore your belief in yourself -- to help you realize the strength of your mind, NOT the 'brokenness'.
This will also apply to many with Complex PTSD or even BPD, but will resonate strongest for those with DID. So, with the ill-effects of films like Split still in the rearview, and with far too many in the psychiatric community continuing to hold on to misinformation on DID - we truly hope to silence those messages in your ears and lift you up in a way that maybe no one ever has before.
For far too long, it has been believed, and often even cited in psychiatric works, that DID forms because the mind was just so traumatized, so overwhelmed by insurmountable upset and trauma, that it splits into all kinds of pieces and alters. Visual concepts like the mind being shattered, like a broken vase, or a scattered puzzle needing put back together, were not only all too common, they became the framework for how many clinicians would describe DID to their patients. A puzzle-piece awareness ribbon was even created as the representative for DID before it became the well-known symbol for autism awareness. This idea has, on one hand, given many survivors language to describe their experience to others. But, on the other, it have also left many survivors to interpret that as if they themselves are broken. ...as if it was just all too much and they cracked and broke down - possibly even due to weakness or not being "strong enough". ...as if they're fundamentally destroyed, irreparable or never able to be "put back together" the same again. This is just plainly untrue - both in terms of who these survivors are as people AND what actually happened to their minds in the first place.
A dissociative mind is NOT a whole that breaks. It's one that just never came together into one, fully-communicating mind like it does for everyone else. EVERYONE starts out as scattered pieces when they are infants. Through childhood development, attachments get made, relationships become consistent, needs are met, and slowly, those pieces begin to integrate into larger pieces. Over time, those pieces develop self-awareness, and continue to merge and formulate ONE stable, solid sense of self. "This is me, this is who I am, these are the things I like and don't like. I know who I am separate from my siblings, friends, and parents! Cool!". This usually completes by about age 9, and from then on life experiences continue to shape, mold and build that sense of self into perpetuity; shifting as one gathers more life experience. Our identity reflects that as we change throughout our teens, twenties and so forth. Even so, it is still just one, singular self-concept.
We, of course, all have different aspects and versions of ourselves, but for those with a healthy childhood development, those aspects all communicate automatically and know about one another. Work You knows about and may influence the mood of At-Home You, and With-Friends You may let loose a bit, but is still aware that if you get a little too adventurous you may make things harder for In-A-Relationship You. Many aspects; one sense of self. ...all communicating with and influencing the others.
But when it comes to childhood trauma, all of that can get interrupted. Through extreme dissociation, many pieces stay separate. Walls and barriers get built to keep those smaller ego states from coming together because the mind has deemed that it's safer that way. Communication between and knowledge of what's beyond those walls can be minimal. What happens to During-Trauma You can't be known to At-School You because you wouldn't be able to function effectively if you had unspeakable trauma on your mind while trying to solve multiplication tables in math class. Over time, those compartmentalized collections of memory, emotion, knowledge, etc., will develop self-awareness and eventually their own sense of self, too -- just as they would for any developing child. The main difference is that these pieces of self may look considerably different from one another (and the whole) because they are only able to pull from a select number of life experiences within their little compartment to build an identity around. Ergo: alters. So, you didn't BREAK. You most certainly were not too weak or fragile. The mind knew it could withstand the pressure of a violent storm by supporting your castle with an abundance of walls and columns instead. That's adaptive. That's strong. That's creativity and reinforcement; genius. It's also beautiful.
You did not crumble into rubble; you are not shattered glass. You didn't collapse or give out, nor were you destroyed by what happened. You do not have to fuss with glue or tape to put yourself back together. Your mind repositioned its load-bearing beams and decided to stand strong a different way. It may not be like everyone else's, but I can promise that it's able to endure far more. It has endured far more. And you're still here. Nothing can bring down that castle. You are rock solid. You were built to survive - and that creative, unique design kept you alive, kept you strong, and brought so much extra beauty. You cannot even begin to imagine the richness that will bring to your living as you heal.
We are amazed by how you found a way through. And we want you to know, as well as anyone who's ever misunderstood your condition, that:
You are not broken or weak. You are stronger than most could ever hope to be. You were made to last.
MORE RESOURCE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:
✧ DID Myths and Misconceptions: Dispelling Common Myths about DID
✧ Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
✧ Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201: Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
✧ Imagery 101: Healing Pool and Healing Light
✧ Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
✧ Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
✧ Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays
❖ Article Index ❖