I have Dissociative Identity Disorder. I’m not crazy. I’m not dangerous. Let me repeat that: I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and I am not crazy or dangerous. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a mental illness that carries a huge stigma and comes with a great deal of misinformation. DID develops when you have experienced severe, prolonged trauma as a child. A child’s brain is still malleable and they are still developing their personality. As a result, their brain is able to create alternate personalities (called alters or parts) to separate and hold the trauma. Together they form a DID system. My system has over 100 alters but some systems only have 1 or 2. And others have thousands. It’s different for every system. My alters decided to reveal themselves to me when I was 28. Before that, I had no idea they existed. I was a hot mess and had all the symptoms of abuse, but I masked those symptoms with self harm, an eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts. When my alters revealed themselves to me, it was difficult and chaotic and I was so confused. I had no idea that I had been abused and it was really difficult realizing I had been. I am now three years into knowing my alters and knowing that I have dissociative identity disorder, and things are going a lot more smoothly. Instead of having my alters fighting to be out and in control, we are learning to work together as a team. I have over 100 alters so it can be quite chaotic, especially when they get triggered into flashbacks or trauma reactions. Each of my alters holds something different and having so many means LOTS of chances to get triggered. Some of my alters are protectors and they do everything they can to keep the rest of the system safe. If they sense we are in danger or sense an injustice or someone being mean to us they come out immediately to take care of the situation. Some of my alters are really young, traumatized kids. Others are helpers whose sole purpose is to help the traumatized kids and to help me. Most of my alters are under the age of 16, so imagine being in a room with 90 kids who have experienced severe trauma, and that’s what it feels like in my brain all the time. The media portrays people with DID as dangerous, but none of my alters would hurt a fly. Literally. If we are walking on a sidewalk and see ants, we walk around them because we don’t want to hurt any of them. We know what it feels like to be in deep pain and we would never want to cause anyone an ounce of it. When a different alter is out instead of me, I’m not ‘out of control,’ and I don’t suddenly become dangerous. Each one of us can be fully trusted and are safe. And that’s how it is with DID systems. They are filled with traumatized kids and protectors and helpers and are more focused on just trying to survive than anything else. I like to talk about DID because I like to spread awareness about what it’s really like. I know it’s really interesting to think of someone living with multiple personalities in their brain and body, but to me it's completely normal. We can talk to each other inside and we feel like a family. DID isn’t scary. It’s really an amazing way the brain helps children going through severe, prolonged trauma survive.
If you’re struggling or needing support with your mental health, whether it's DID or something else, the WhiteFlag app is here to help. Peer support is pretty amazing; connecting with people who understand what you’re going through or have been through the same thing definitely makes you feel less alone.
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