Dissociated Identity as a Coping Method for Mental Health


Dissociated Identity Disorder ~ on the other side

When we find ourselves facing our mental health struggles, we usually realize that avoiding feelings is one of the biggest reasons that we develop coping methods. Sometimes avoiding feelings is the only way to survive the trauma. I realized when I was in my healing process that my dissociated identity disorder was one of the ways that I coped with everything. I had fragmented or broken into alter personalities so that I didn’t really have to feel because “they” (the alters) did it for me.

The way that I understand how this fragmenting takes place is that when a child experiences a traumatic event that is way too much to cope with, a new personality is born to take the memories and feelings and is in a way, separate from the core personality.  In my case these other personalities began to deal with certain situations for me. For instance I did a lot of traveling in my twenties, and there was one alter that took over for all of my airport adventures. I didn’t realize that I had this other personality, but I did realize that I was completely different when I traveled. I had all this amazing confidence and wondered where the heck it came from. To this day since I have become whole, I feel very weird and uncomfortable in airports.

Different personalities took care of different situations. That was how dissociated identity disorder worked for me. When I got scared or even just uncomfortable, I disconnected from myself and the situation, and an alter personality took over for me. The purpose of “the alters” was to take care of me, my fears and my feelings.  I was no longer able to deal with life, so they got me through. They took on the feelings and the memories as though they were separate from the real me.

There is an upside to it; these alter personalities got me through, they were how I survived. “They” dealt with everything for me, and as I got older, I even recognized a few of them and appreciated what I thought were just radically different sides of me. They got me places that I was afraid to go, they helped me do things that I was afraid to do.

There was also a downside to it; my life was a mess, I was not happy and the bottom line was that really, even with the alters, I still couldn’t cope. In becoming aware of some of my personalities, I was afraid of a few of them and the things that I-they would do often scared me. I was confused a lot of the time and had a lot of noise and chatter going on in my head. I never felt like me and I had these imposter issues. Sometimes I did things that “I” would never do, which was really confusing.

When I look back on my life with multiple personalities, it all looks very hazy as though I was on drugs or something. It was crazy and exhausting and when I got married and started having babies, I was so afraid of my strange behaviour that I completely shut down and eventually I never wanting to do anything or go anywhere and the depressions that I had on and off for most of my life got worse.

When I went into therapy, finally willing to face my dissociative behaviour I was terrified to learn how to live without dissociating but I was also sick of being sick and confused all the time. I had lost hope of ever living without depression and I hadn’t considered depression or dissociation as being types of coping methods. In a way I felt defeated, and in that defeat I think I surrendered the armour that I had built around myself, the ways that I coped and the walls that I had built around me, to protect my real self from the world. I gave up and I think it went a long way towards healing.

It turns out that coping methods are a lot of work! In the end it is far easier to just be one whole person. By facing the past and feeling those feelings I was able to heal.  The reason that I used so many coping methods was really about the scared child inside me. I was still viewing the world as a powerless child because due to the circumstances of my upbringing, I was not able to grow up properly.  By talking a look at the belief systems that I had adopted, I was able to go back and re-parent myself so that I could grow up and begin to view the world as an adult. When some of the wreckage of the past was exposed and seen for what it really was and the building of a new foundation was underway, eventually I didn’t need all those coping methods and my real life began.

Keep striving to go forward ~ You are worth it!

Darlene Ouimet

If you would like to contribute to this post, as always I invite you to leave your comments.

26 response to "Dissociated Identity as a Coping Method for Mental Health"

  1. By: Mike Posted: 8th December


    I’ve only skimmed some posts on this blog but I’m already impressed. There are things that sound familiar as I’m in the middle of my own very difficult process of healing from childhood emotional abuse. What you write here about dissociation sounds somehow familiar, too. I’m very happy to have found your blog and will try to read more of your writings if I can in order to gain inspiration and insight into my own self.

    Thank you so much for being this open and honest. It is remarkable.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th December

      Hi Mike
      Welcome to emerging from broken! Great to have you here.
      There is tons of info about ‘how’ I overcame child abuse and truama here. My earlier work (if you use the archive button on the right side bar) has lots of fog busting info about dissociative issues and how they started in the first place.
      Please feel free to share often
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th January

    Hi Simone,
    Welcome and glad to have you here!
    I am so happy that this blog and my work resonates deeply with you! I look forward to hearing more from you as we journey together.
    This blog is becoming a wonderful healing community and I write with a deep desire to make a difference in the hurting world.
    Thank you for your lovely encouragement.
    Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Simone Posted: 29th January

    Hi Darlene,

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post – really for what you have devoted your career to doing. I stumbled upon your blog today, by googling a random number of words and symptoms that led to a lot of DID information through which I decided to wade.

    First thing. Um, I understand right now what it’s like to have someone nail you on the head, so to speak – to get you in a way that is purely feeling – and inexplicable in words. (I rarely say this as a writer and lover of words.) But, you have done it. In your about section, as well as Carla’s, I saw a lot of myself. My life has become centered around, “how to be happy.” And, I realize that i dissociate and can actually recognize how my alternate personality steps in to cope. And so, again, I just want to say thank you so much. I don’t know if you can understand, but it’s like finding hope again, after resigning to do with lackluster because you can’t figure out what exactly the problem is, or how to do better, yet guessing this must be better than nothing at all.

    Second thing. It really is now to experience this kind of relation through a blog. So many people think that you can’t change the world through a blog, or a book, through art, but you can. You can really truly touch, and help people, and change lives.

    I am at a loss for succinct words. So, thank you for helping me to better identify my issues, in order to deal with them in a healthier manner.

    Keep doing what you do! I’ll be reading.



  4. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 20th July

    The ways that children learn to cope with abuse are truly amazing. I too wonder why some of us split into different personalities and some of us don’t. It is truly amazing that more of us don’t split in order to handle the pain and the memories of sexual abuse.

    I didn’t split into other personalities. I went deep inside of my head to get away from the pain. I closed my eyes so that I don’t have many visual memories of the incest. My ears became super sensitive to sounds, maybe because my eyes were closed. I was always terrified that someone would come along and find us and my shame would become known to everyone. It couldn’t be over with fast enough.

    I have great respect and admiration for you Darlene and for you Carla in how far you have come in your recovery and your strength of character that carries you along. You are both an inspiration to me.

    More survivors are beginning to speak out about their abuse. By sharing we help others to realize that they can heal too. As our numbers grow, we will stop our children from being abused. Love to you both.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st July

      Thanks Patricia,
      I have so much hope for the healing of survivors of abuse and maltreatment. I believe that when we expose the roots of our belief system, we can re-wire those beliefs and therefore heal. We can thrive and not just survive!
      Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. By: Shen Posted: 16th July

    This is an excellent explanation of DID. I am currently doing my work, reparenting myself through a process called DNMS and with the help – of course – of a wonderful therapist.

    I linked to this site, on my post today. I do have readers with DID and I think it is always helpful to hear other’s talk about it – especially others who have come through to the other side. For me, DID was a lonely place to be for most of my life. I felt like a freak, and I had no idea why I would lose time or find that I had done something that I had no memory of. It felt scary and shameful and I was very good at hiding my secret.

    Now, my husband knows, and I have been integrating for over three years, and it has really changed my life.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th July

      Hi Shen,
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken!
      Thanks for linking to my site, and for your comments. I agree, there is so much healing power in talking to each other. For so long I lived with this deep down fear that I didn’t fit in, that I was from another planet, that I was a freak, and that I was alone.. My life is totally changed now too!
      Thanks for being here!

  6. By: carol Posted: 15th July

    hi all
    the last time i have a memorable blank spot is the hour n half i was in the pushing stage of labor, i snapped back to hear baby in distress n she needed help. i have other lapses n conversations about wot happened to me when i was a child but i have never been able to recover the memories of those times, n that annoys the hell out me becos i thought i was higher up the recovery ladder than i actually are. im getting there but it slow n hard slog. not giving up tho i will get my life back

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th July

      Hi Carol,
      Welcome and I’m so happy to hear that you are not giving up till you get your life back! It doesn’t matter where we are or how far along we are in the journey to recovery, as long as we are on the path!
      I have memory blanks too, but I don’t worry about them anymore. I didn’t need to have all the memories in order to heal. Thanks for commenting today!
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Dawn E. Worswick Posted: 15th July

    There a person in my family who has MPD from severe sexaul abuse from another family member from an extremely young age. I was actually put into foster care because both of my parents were unable to cope with their lives. My grandfather abused me first and then, a twelve year old boy and then for four horrbile years I endured child sex trafficking in foster care. I don’t know how I didn’t end up splitting like my mom but she suffered so greatly, she did. My grandmother, her mother, to this day insists It didn’t happen when in fact she gave my mother an abotion on the kitchen table when my mother was twelve. I hate her and I just wish she would accept responsibilty for her part in my mothers abuse! Now I am an author, an abolitionist, and I have a great life ~ but it took a long time to get here and as for my mom, she still lives life as a multiple.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th July

      Hi Dawn and welcome,
      Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. We all have different coping methods; sometimes I wonder why some split and some don’t too. Good for you going on to become an abolitionist, author and advocate! Great to meet you on the journey!
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Kris Posted: 15th July

    I wonder if people are predisposed because of some kind of weakness to not be able to cope? My daughter would freak out in situations that my son took in stride. I wasn’t actually saying that she was born with DID, just developed early on in response to not being able to handle what were, for some kids, not traumatic experiences but events when she felt threatened.
    We had one dinner I remember in Florida the night before she was going to enter a treatment center. We were talking about trauma and she had always insisted that nothing had ever happened. Since she was five, I had been told that she behaved like a child who had been abused. Of course being a single mom, I scoured my brain for anomalies in her behavior after being every sitter I could remember. I had never been able to come up with something. Anyway, that night in Florida she said maybe it was the neighbor – the eight year old boy from Guatemala when we lived in Miami. A year later, she denied having said this. She has done EMDR to try to get to the initial trauma. She keeps getting stuck on recent traumatic events involving alcohol and promiscuity. So, I don’t know. Where was the trauma and abuse that triggered the DID for such a young person?
    This is, of course, work that she has to do- when or if she wants. I guess I am trying very hard to see the whole picture. Like any mom who wants the best for their kids, I want my daughter to find peace. If I can help her do that, I will.
    Thank you for your blog,
    xx kris

  9. By: Debbie Posted: 14th July

    Thanks for all of the sharing going on here. I give you all Big Hugs and lots of honor and immense respect. I can not imagine going though all that you have and are going though right now. Gives me hope. I don’t have DID….don’t know HOW I managed to not develop it, what I did was become an alcoholic/addict. Did plenty I don’t remember and have plenty to work on….at the same time have been blessed with the gift of recovery for a little over 8 years.

    Many of us are coming through to the other side….it’s so awesome to be a part of this here….what an awesome connectedness..lol…is that a word?? Anway it’s a true honor to stand in the Sunlight with all of you…so glad you are either here or on your way…hold our hands…it gets better 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th July

      Debbie V.
      I love the word connectedness, and YES it is a word! I love the image of all of us holding hands on the journey, supporting and encouraging each other along the way! Thank you so much for being here and for sharing your life with us.
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Cassie Posted: 14th July

    I have been aware that I have disassociated since I was a small child. As my father (my abuser) would begin to draw me in with some lovely conversation, I would begin to withdraw. I became a voyeur, and then it went to total black, as I lost huge chunks of my childhood to sexual abuse. Of course, I didn’t realize that this was what I was doing until I was 25.

    A couple of years ago, I began to fill in some of the blanks. I realized that I had been sexually abused for the entire 18 years of my childhood…along with emotional and verbal abuse, of course. Now, I still “go away” at times if something triggers, but I am learning to be myself all the time…Or at least taking baby steps to do so.

    I won’t lie, somedays the pain is so much that I just go hide in a book. Fortunately, I am blessed with beautiful children with whom I am able to be present for…They push me and always have pushed me to be a better me and a better Mommy.

    Thanks fo your blog.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th July

      It is hard, I know it. I have hidden in many ways, books being one of the least distructive of them. (yay books!) Learning to stay present (that was how I thought of it in my mind) and not going away, was a very tough thing to learn. When I was able to stop “leaving myself and situations” I was so amazed, so filled with wonder that I made a decision that I would talk about it and share my journey as much as I can in order to give others hope to be able to do the same. And it isn’t just the DID it is overcoming depression, and so many other coping methods, and even just learning to accpet myself and the freedom that comes with that are all part of my passion ~ to share this hope for healing. Your comment has touched me tonight. Thank you so much.
      Love Darlene

  11. By: Kris Posted: 14th July

    Thank you, Darlene,
    Your answers are what I expected and I would guess hard for you to tap into. So, I appreciate that you went there for me.
    I have called it compartmentalizing when I have watched my daughter shift to alter personalities. It is both scary and, I admit, I have been amazed at her coping skills when she has taken a harrowing situation and stuffed it into her back pocket and moved on like it never happened.
    I do not have the capability to shift gears like that and those situations have left lasting trauma on me. She, on the other hand, doesn’t remember all of the events. That was why I asked about your level of awareness.
    She often complains of losing time. She also describes the feeling of watching herself.
    My daughter was raised by me, a loving, dedicated mom. Her dad was out of the picture early on and, although he was a jerk, I protected both the kids from him as best I could. She was not in danger or abused growing up. No tv, lots of books, consistent bedtimes, good food and lots of play. But, she was who she is from birth on. She was a vulnerable little girl, prone to emotional rages and grew up to be diagnosed with too many “mental illnesses”. Yet, there wasn’t the bad childhood that you would normally associate with DID – such a dramatic coping skill.
    I am looking for answers and your blog is full of them.
    Thank you,
    xx kris

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th July


      I am glad you are enjoying this blog. I have not heard of someone having DID who had not expierenced a trauma; I did not know dissociative identity could be something one is born with so this is new information to me. I am glad that you are finding some answers, please visit often.

      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Kris Posted: 14th July

    This is the first time that I have really understood the concept of DID. I see now how the personalities that crop up to deal with circumstances are not like different people, but fractured parts of yourself. I think my daughter has employed this for years. In fact, I just spoke with her (middle of the night phone call from Australia) and her voice was small and tight, like she was holding on for dear life. She is coping with HUGE stress but there was a marked lacked of emotion. She was a little weepy at one point, but she quickly got herself under control. She has two more days. I hope that she makes it. Do these “alters” as you call them, descend without warning or do they come when needed, like a relief team? Can you tell me what it is like when they do not arrive when you “need” them? Did you forget what you said while say your airport alter was taking over?
    I am only beginning to understand DID. Though, clearly, I have been witnessing it via my daughter for a long time. So, I apologize for my rudimentary questions.
    I have been reading your blog for some time now. You are a beautiful writer. I admire your compassionate, intelligent voice.
    xx kris

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th July

      Welcome Kris, it is great to have you here,

      Wow, you ask tough questions! I am going to attempt to answer them ~ I would say that I was not conscious of the “alters” stepping in although I think that what happened is that which ever one was needed showed up when needed but it wasn’t like I was aware of the whole thing or that I could just summon them. I don’t know if there was a time when one didn’t “show up” but I suspect that didn’t happen. I don’t see them as people anymore; today I see them as coping personalities I guess. An alternate personality showed up to deal with whatever *I* couldn’t deal with at the time.

      About forgetting ~ Sometimes it was like I was somewhere in the background watching myself do things and say things and wondering why I was saying those things and acting that way. Other times I think I did black out because I would be told later by other people that I had said and done things that I had no recall of doing or saying and I had a lot of blank spots in my memory. I would “lose time” is the only way that I can explain it.

      I hope this answers your questions and thank you for being here and for your lovely compliments.

      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Carla Logan Posted: 14th July

    Darlene, you know from our private conversations that I am now in that very intense process you have already been through, working my way toward integration. Discovering that I had Dissociative Identity Disorder was the most frightening thing I have consciously experienced, and at the same time, oddly, a relief. I kind of went back and forth between denial and embracing this new understanding of myself.

    What ultimately made the difference was that for the first time I had an explanation about why my life played out the way it did, and why I had virtually no memories of the details. Like you, I have come to understand that the coping skills used in childhood and adolescence in order to emotionally and psychologically survive our experiences were not helpful in our adult life and became an added burden, a distructive way of life for us. Children cannot live well as adults, and that is what D.I.D. leaves us with, lots of internal children trying to make decisions on how to deal with every day events in an adult world. Chaos is what we are left with. And despair.

    I’m so blessed to have been able to meet you and a few others who have made it to the other side of integration and have given me hope and courage to stay the course. You know how hard this phase is and it’s been so valuable to me to have been able to share some of my struggles with those who have already been here.

    I’m proud of your accomplishments and your continued perseverence in the mental health arena, you have made a huge difference in my life and in the lives of so many others out here! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th July

      Thank you so much. One of the greatest pleasures in my life is getting to watch someone emerge into their own true life and escape the shackles of DID, depression, and the other coping methods that are so prevalent in our world. It is amazing to stand by and watch someone as they drop coping methods and embrace a real life. This also inspires hope to so many others. I think this hope is a huge factor in healing. When we see/read/hear that others are DOING it, we believe that it is possible; we believe recovery is possible and we are inspired to go forward. I am so proud of you. You continue to strive for wholeness, and you have made such great progress and I am so blessed that you are a part of my life.
      Hugs, Darlene

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