After an absolutely fantastic experience at this year's annual Party in the Park - and even receiving some media coverage - reflecting on the many conversations had there, we really wanted to give more love and more thought to those with Dissociative Identity Disorder today. (And of course, as always, help those on the outside to better understand, too.) In talking with the media - while they were absolutely wonderful, receptive, and eager to learn - it was still clear in even the subtle head nods and knowing laughter following our jokes that their only prior introduction to this illness had not been a positive one. They were so happy to see it for what it really is, to be enlightened, and to take on an entirely different view. We find versions of this experience everywhere we go and almost any time we educate the public. But, another thing we discover time and time again, is how many survivors have been given inaccurate information about themselves or have heard the ways people try to summarize and explain this disorder to the unfamiliar - which in turn can lead to internalizing some pretty harsh ideas about themselves. Sometimes these misbeliefs are even held by the most loving and helpful therapists, not just the ignorant or uneducated. So, we not only want to offer clarity on the subject, but most importantly, fight to help restore your belief in yourself. ...to help you realize the strength of your mind, NOT "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 those in the psychiatric community continuing to hold onto misconceptions about DID - we really hope to silence their 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 and so overwhelmed by insurmountable upset and trauma, that it splits into all kinds of pieces and alters. Visual concepts like the mind being shattered, or a broken vase, or a scattered puzzle needing put back together were not only all too common, but they even became the framework for how clinicians would describe it to their own patients. A puzzle-piece awareness ribbon was even the DID ribbon 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 at the same time can also leave them and others to interpret that concept as if they themselves were broken. ...as if it was all too much and they cracked and broke down - possibly even because they weren't "strong enough". ...as if something is wrong with them now, they're irreparable, destroyed or never to be the same again. That is just plainly untrue - both in terms of who they 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 then merge to formulate ONE stable and solid true sense of self. "This is me, this is who I am, and what 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 there on our life experiences shape, mold and build that sense of self into perpetuity - shifting as we experience more life and our identity reflects that in our teens, twenties and so forth. But it's still just one, singular self-concept. We, of course, all have different aspects and versions of ourselves, but for those with healthy childhood development, those aspects all communicate with each other and know about one another. Work You knows knows and may influence the mood of At Home You, and With-Friends You may let much looser, but still knows that if you get a little too adventurous you might make things harder for In-A-Relationship You. Many aspects; one sense of self. ...all communicating with and influencing each other.
But when it comes to childhood trauma - all of that can get interrupted. Through extreme dissociation, the pieces stay separate. Walls and barriers get built to keep the parts from coming together - and they can't communicate with one another because the mind feels it's safer that way. What happens to During Trauma You can't be known to At-School You, and so on, because you wouldn't even be able to function properly if you had unspeakable trauma on your mind while trying to solve multiplication tables in math class. Over time, those compartmentalized pieces of you are still going to develop their own self-awareness and then sense of self over time too, though - just as they do for everyone else during childhood. But these pieces may look a lot different from one another (and the whole) since they can only 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 definitely weren't too weak or fragile. The mind just knew it could withstand the pressure of a violent storm by supporting your castle with an abundance of columns and walls instead - not using all its given materials to construct one central pillar to do all the work. 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. ..which, will make living so much richer 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.
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
- Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays