Recently I was with friends, one of them my best friend who doesn’t know that I have DID, and we were discussing someone we know who has been displaying some odd behavior that seems to be rooted in mental illness. My best friend said that this person implied that they are talking to people in their head and my friend said it sounded like multiple personalities.
Of course she probably has no idea what that means other than what she’s seen on TV but it got me thinking again about how DID has been sensationalized in books, movies and TV and how it’s affected the average person’s concept of the illness and more importantly of the person who has it.
I think people are very frightened of someone with DID. I know the last friend I took a chance on telling I had it reacted badly. I don’t tell anyone anymore and I honestly worry that even my husband who is very understanding, secretly is a little freaked out by me even though he’s never said so. But that could be me projecting my own fears because even I can be a bit freaked out sometimes because I don’t fully understand myself.
I do however know that I don’t go around dressing like a lumberjack or an old lady or a child randomly and I don’t kidnap people (I just saw a trailer for a movie by M. Night Shyamalan about a man with DID who kidnaps girls for some reason).
So back to my original thought: for the average person like my friend, how would I explain DID in a non-scary, no I’m not going to kill you someday, no you don’t need to be afraid of me being around your children, way?
I was thinking of the root of my DID; where it came from, the events…well the original events, even though other trauma added to it: the sexual abuse from my uncle. I would use that, but not the details, to explain DID.
*I actually came back to this spot after I wrote my explanation because it became more personal than I expected. I don’t go into detail but I say things about trying to tell someone and not being believed etc. that may be triggering so I decided to come back and add a warning*
I would say…imagine that you’re 4 years old and someone much older and much bigger than you does something so scary and so terrible that your little 4 year old brain can’t take it, it’s too much, but you don’t die, you live. What would your little 4 year old brain do to live?
Well there’s so much terror and fear that part of your little brain breaks off and says “Okay, I’ll handle this part.” and it goes away from the others. But there’s also anger because someone hurt you so much but you couldn’t fight back because you were so little. You were only 4 and no one helped you. In fact, one of the grown ups left you alone there. You tried to tell someone who loved you but they didn’t believe you and you’re so angry!!! But you’re only 4, your little brain can’t handle all of that anger, so another piece of your brain breaks off and says “That’s okay, I’ve got this. I’ll hold onto to all the anger.” And it goes away from the others.
But that’s not all. There was sadness…so much sadness…you were all alone in that room…you were all alone in your room because you couldn’t tell anyone…you were all alone your whole life…You were 4 years old. How would your little 4 year old brain handle so much sadness? It can’t so another part of your little brain comes forward and offers to hold the sadness for you. This one is different though because sometimes the sadness is so deep that it spills out and the little girl cries and but she doesn’t understand why.
The bad thing that happened was so bad that lots of pieces of the little girl’s brain had to come forward to take the weight of her feelings because she was only 4 and then she was 5.
Some of the pieces got names like Nikki and James Other pieces just are and they’re okay with that. They did their job. The little girl lived.
-That’s how I would explain DID to someone. I don’t think it’s scary. I think it’s a logical way for a child’s brain to handle a ridiculously horrifying experience. In my case, added trauma later in life added more alters but the core process is the same. It makes sense to me.