Frequently asked questions about dissociative identity disorder and multiplicity in regards to us

I bet you have a million questions! Well luckily, I have a million answers. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, leave it in a comment on this page and I’ll happily respond. Here goes!

1.What does DID stand for?

Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was formerly known as MPD, Multiple Personality Disorder.

2. Is it the same as schizophrenia?

Nope. Two different conditions. DID is (usually) derived from childhood trauma and related to PTSD. Schizophrenia is a condition caused by a genetic predisposition and sometimes environmental factors such as drug use. The symptoms are different. There is some overlap, *sometimes*, but it’s on an individual basis.

3. How many alters do you have?

I personally have around 200. I’m being vague because I don’t discount the idea that there may be more.

4.Are any of them “evil”?

No…some of them are very psychologically damaged and have vastly skewed ideas about reality, but no, none of them are evil. Most of them are pretty normal.

5. Have you always been crazy?

Yes, but that’s not the DID’s fault. Ha.

Well, I’m not crazy. I’m a survivor of abuse, and since I was abused as a young child, I learned to dissociate from the painful situations. It’s a way of staying sane, it’s not insanity. I don’t recommend it, but it’s a child’s defense mechanism.

6. How often do you switch?

It depends on how stressed I am. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without switching. There have been times when I’ve switched quickly through five different alters within the space of a couple of minutes. I’ve also gone for up to a week with one or more of the alters running the body entirely without my input.

7. Is it obvious when you switch? Is there menacing music or any flashing lights?

Nothing so dramatic, I’m afraid. If it’s a fast switch, it’s not obvious. Sometimes I shiver. Sometimes I switch more slowly (this happens more often in therapy when alters are trying to communicate who usually don’t front, so it’s harder for them to inhabit the body) and my head will drop or my eyes will close.

8. Are you faking it?

Yes.

Just kidding. I’m a really bad actress. I don’t know how I’d fake this convincingly.

9. Do you have male alters and female alters?

I do indeed. Predominantly female alters, but a few guys.

10. Are some alters straight, some gay, etc?

Yes they are

11. Are any of your alters not human? How does that even work?

Yes. Um, it works by them rarely fronting. That I know of, they cannot speak vocally, though they can communicate through writing.

12. Are you medicated?

Yes we are. But not for the did.  There is no medication for DID, only medications to treat comorbid conditions such as depression and anxiety. We take an anti-anxiety pill every now and again when we are deeply triggered and need to counteract the body’s terror response.

13. Do you live in a psych ward? If not…shouldn’t you?!

Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

No, in all seriousness, those places are awful. I don’t belong in one, and I’m not sure any human being really does.

14. Is it fun?

Having DID isn’t what I would call fun. Sometimes it’s funny, but you have to really have a good sense of humor to be able to laugh at your own PTSD symptoms. At its worst, it is incapacitating, and at best it is a functional way of living.

15. Is there a cure?

Well pills don’t fix it, if that’s what you’re thinking (uh-huh, United States of Tara lied to you). Talk therapy, trauma reduction techniques, EMDR, hypnotherapy (this is contested by some as being harmful), processing memories…it’s hard work. And the cure isn’t necessarily to become one person — that is a result that is not common. The cure is to treat the post-traumatic stress and relieve the person of their symptoms so that they can function in society.

16. Have you had relationships with your condition?

No we havent but some day we hope too?

17. Do you change accents?

Yes a few of our insiders have an accent, british or american, most do not though.  There are other differences such as timbre, cadence, and word choice that distinguish some of us apart.

18. Do you change fashion styles?

Not anymore. Before I knew I had DID I had a closet full of vastly different styles of clothing and would struggle to find an outfit my brain would allow (this, I now know, was the result of different alters warring influences). Nowadays we try to keep it simple and comfortable, and androgynous, to placate everyone.

19. Can you control it?

Can I control switching? Yes and no. Sometimes I absolutely can’t. Sometimes I can sense that an alter is trying to push to the surface and I can stop it from happening, but it is an uncomfortable pressure. The alters know not to divulge our weirdness in public, so unless we are triggered we really don’t switch in public.

20. Does your family know and are they embarrassed?

My biological family knows to some extent. I am not totally sure what they know. I have told my next oldest sister and her response was “I already knew that”  Our sister knows the insiders well some of them. Our foster mom knows all of us and talks to anyone she isnt fussy.

21. Can you talk to the alters?

Yes, but I couldn’t always. At first I was completely separate from them and couldn’t even sense them. Through lots of therapy and reflective writing (and a very important shift in our inner landscape thanks to an immensely clever and helpful alter), I can usually sense everyone if I focus hard enough. If I can’t get a message to someone, I can usually communicate with an alter who can.

There is a longer answer to this question, that involves the fact that you may be stunned at how alters can interact inside the brain, even while someone is interacting with the world. It’s kind of immensely complicated.

22. Do you get along with your alters?

Some of the alters are friends. Others never interact with each other. And some of us interact only when we have to.

There are disagreements. There are fights. There are even big disturbances that go on, but they’re infrequent.

23. I’ve seen you use the pronoun “we”, what’s up with that?

You caught me. It’s a matter of fluidity of self. The fact of the matter is that I am me, Emily, but I’m also part of a more complex self, the collective, which is a “we”. So sometimes I talk from my own point of view and other times I’m speaking from a collective point of view…and the two are distinct in my mind, but overlap in communication because that’s just how these things work. If you are married, you may say “I” at the beginning of a sentence and “we” later on, because that’s what makes sense to you. For example: “I drove us to the restaurant and we ate dinner.” Well it’s the same, but inside my (our) brain. “I” and “we” can exist concurrently.

Long story short — yes, I do use that pronoun when it is appropriate, and so do the alters.

24. Do they mind being called alters, isn’t that rude?

I actually prefer the term “insiders”, but for the sake of simplicity on this FAQ page I tried to stay consistent. Lots of people who know very little about DID know the term “alters” so that’s the word I’m using here. It’s not a term to imply inferiority, it’s just a noun that is helpful. Some DID systems hate the term “alter” and do not use it because it is offensive to them, but that’s a matter of choice. Other terms used might be “family members” or “headmates” or “parts.” My own insiders don’t take offense to the term “alters”…they either don’t care because it doesn’t interest them, don’t care because they know it’s not meant as a slur, or are amused at the word.

25. What the heck are you talking about when you say “system”?

Well it’s logical, you just have to consider for a moment. Can you say someone is a DID “person”? I guess you could, but it’s not quite right because “person” is singular, but the DID makes them plural. So what do you call someone with DID? A DID persons? That sounds stupid. So the online community (and literature on the subject) has adopted the term “system” to refer to a being who has DID so that it acknowledges that they’re plural but doesn’t sound completely ridiculous. The system refers to the fully inclusive group of people sharing the body. Therefore I am part of a DID system; we are a DID system.

26. Do the alters want to hurt people?

Depends, have you done something to piss them off?

As a rule, no, they’re not interested in wreaking havoc. Their main interest is keeping the body safe. Having said that, most DID systems have at least one aggressive protector figure, who will stand up for themselves. Treat them with the same dignity you would treat anyone else, that’s all.

The sad part of this answer is that, overwhelmingly, DID systems have at least one alter who believes they deserved the abuse they got, and may engage in self-harm or other self-sabotaging behaviors. This is a common result of child abuse, for the person to turn to unhealthy measures for relief from their emotional pain.

27. Is it scary?

Not anymore. At first it was very frightening to lose time and memory, and learn that there were other people in my head. But this is my reality. It has been a journey with many mental health struggles, and it’s painful sometimes. But what scares me might not scare someone else — I don’t want to get on a stage in front of people, that scares me. And probably for another person who isn’t afraid to skydive, they might be terrified of depression, dissociation, seeing a psychiatrist and being mentally ill. So honestly, the answer is that it’s all relative.

28. Can you switch on demand?

Only if the alter you’re *demanding* actually wants to talk to you. If not, you are unlikely to hear from them, even if they get called out for a moment after hearing their name — they’ll just go back inside. But yes, it is possible, to some extent. It’s not something we make a habit of practicing. There is one alter, though, who is used to being called out. She’s a protector, she usually answers her name.

Can I choose to let someone else take over? I would say I have about 50% success with it, when I try. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I can’t and I’m stuck fronting until someone else pushes forward. I don’t usually try to switch, it just happens.

29. Are you stable?

I am more stable than I’ve been. Triggers happen, and bad weeks happen, and sometimes getting out of bed is a lot to ask of us. But we are actively recovering.   We aren’t dangerous. 30. Do you try to hide your condition from people you meet?

Yes. There is very little sympathy and a great deal of alarm that people feel when they hear someone they know has multiple personalities. Instead it is more prudent to keep it a secret entirely or to mention PTSD if needed. People are very kind and understanding when they hear you suffer from PTSD symptoms. It’s still accurate, it’s just a matter of presentation.

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