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!
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