Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2
“I want everyone that has been abused by someone in their childhood to know that you can get past it. Having DID is not the end of the world; it’s the beginning of your new life. DID allows the victim of exceptional abuse the ability to “forget” the abuse and continue living. Without it, I may have gone crazy as a teen and spent my life in a psychiatric hospital.”
― Dauna Cole, A Shattered Mind: One Woman’s Story of Survival and Healing
One of the major issues with this disorder are what most people refer to as ‘alters’ or other personalities. What I’m going to try to do is to paint the picture for you in a way that I’ve been learning how to understand this. So, imagine you have an apartment complex and each person has their own room. Except in these rooms, there are horrible memories that are behind doors and no one can get in without a key. The only people that have these keys are my therapists and my alters which help keep anything else from hurting me. This is what has protected me throughout the years. However, some of the coping strategies that worked then DO NOT work now.
Alters can also range in age depending on at what age the abuse occurred. As dysfunctional as things can get at times the alters as a whole are referred to as a ‘system.’ Until consciousness together can be shared, there might always be memory loss. The amnesic episodes are, at the very least, scary as hell. The memories that I often have include only flashes of pictures of the day or days. The information date, time and situation is usually not available.
Alters and systems are as individual as a finger print. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ way of treating DID. The most important thing to me hands down is the relationship with my therapists. Without that relationship, recovery is futile for any issue or disorder. I trust my therapists enough to take me into the depths of the most terrifying events that have ever happened to me. This relationship that has been allowed to happen, as close to trusting, as possible has taken 2 years now with one therapist. However, both the ups and downs of these relationships has lead to the progress now being made by leaps and bounds. Painful as this process is, I can only hope that things actually get better.
The tenets in these rooms represent parts of the person you know as Dana. I will not get into discussing how many or their names. I can tell you that while growing up with some of those reading this blog alters were already formed or forming. Not only do these alters hold memories, but they also function in different ways. However, sometimes the problem with the alters is that they function completely independent from the individual known as the ‘host.’ This is usually the mood swings that you might see. Alters develop out of traumatic events and sometimes more than one during a single traumatic event. Just to put to rest for those that don’t know my parents, no they were not any part of the abuse.
Alters actually develop when the brain compartmentalizes the traumatic event, memories, etc. The trauma is so overwhelming and the mind and body both have to survive, that the only way the individual knows instinctively to survive is by developing a new alter even though they may be unaware at the time. Often times, it is many years down the road that survivors even realize that they have alters. Therefore, many survivors are trapped in the cycle of the mental health system being misdiagnosed for years and much money spent on treatment for the wrong diagnoses.
Often times, many people say, “I’ve been through worse things and I don’t have alters.” The only answer I have found is that what’s traumatic for one person may not necessarily be traumatic for another person. There is also a genetic predisposition to being able to dissociate. And dissociation is key to the formation of alters. What is known is that trauma of any kind effects the brain permanently. Severity depends on how long and what type of trauma was occurred.
You can most definitely have PTSD without meeting criteria for DID. DID cannot exist without a diagnosis of PTSD since that is a large part of how the disorder forms. DID also usually always entails some form of early childhood sexual abuse although ‘splitting’ in adulthood is uncommon.
“Another of the difficulties of having DID is the denial. DID is a disorder of denial. It has to be because if the original person knew about the alters and felt their pain, they would either go crazy and be hospitalized permanently, or would die.”
― Eve N. Adams, A Shattered Soul