Sometimes I get a comment that is bursting with questions that I just HAVE to talk about in more depth than just a comment back. In my last post “coping methods ~ trying to escape myself” I got one of these comments from Susa.
Susa wrote: “Interesting perspective and I really appreciate reading your experiences with dissociation. I suppose I could refer to switching as escaping myself, but the only problem I have, is what part of me is actually me? Who is really “myself”? I have always spontaneously deferred to a part of me who can more easily handle the specific task at hand, and have never had any control of that process. At this late stage of the life game, I am finally starting to almost be co-present with some parts of me… and yet I, Susa, still struggle with the question of who, or which part is the real me, or the original me? I know that I am not the original birth person, and have only been the CEO since 2006. I suppose the real me would be a sum of my parts, but hard to pinpoint any specific part of me.” Susa ( To read the post and the rest of the discussion read “coping methods ~ trying to escape myself“)
As I read this comment from Susa, several things were going through my mind. One of them was that although I am frequently asked to talk about my experience with dissociative identity disorder, (the multiple personality kind) I rarely do talk about it other than to say that I had it and I recovered from it. I tend to stay away from the subject because there are so many different beliefs about what it is, and how it operates. My opinion is that it was one of the ways that I coped; first with the trauma and then with life, and that in the final analysis, it was no more or less important than any of my other coping methods. All of my coping methods were tangled together to form a huge armoured tank around all my issues, protecting me from the outside world, but in the end also shielding me from the freedom and wholeness that I wanted so badly. All of my coping methods served the same purpose; survival.
Switching was an effective escape; it was a necessary coping method that in the past I had come to understand was about escaping the trauma, pain and or emotions that I was experiencing at any given time. As I grew up I learned to switch at any perceived danger. It became automatic. Anything that was even remotely familiar to the feelings surrounding childhood abuse or trauma, caused me to “switch”, becoming the alter I most needed to be in order to handle the situation. This was necessary as a child. It was not so necessary when I became an adult but I had no way of knowing that. Dissociative Identity and switching alters had become the way that I did life. As an adult, the switching personalities seemed to become more about me becoming whoever someone else wanted me to be, but was still a survival method or coping method due to the fears that I carried with me from childhood into adulthood.
When I came face to face with my dissociative identity disorder, I had those same questions. Who is the “real me?; Which one is in charge?; how will I ever know?” Will I ever find out which one of “me” is the original one? And I got really invested in thinking about all of that. So much so that you could say it became yet another escape. The “original me” quest however became very important to me as I began this healing journey.
I found out that all of them were me. Each fragmented self had arrived to protect me or to take the feelings and handle the fears for me. Each one held its own memories and had its own triggers. Each one had the job of protecting me from the memories, pain and trauma so that I could survive. Some alters were male, some were children, one was much older then I was. They took care of me. That was their job. And I had only even had or been glimpses of the original me or the core because the core of me was the sum of all parts.
I had a lot of fears about who I really was and about which alter was going to be the strongest one in the end. I was really afraid of one of them as I had gotten into most of the trouble in my life with her in the front. I tried to shut her down and one time when I was in intensive therapy I dreamed that I tried to kill her. I woke up from that dream with the profound realization that I had tried to kill myself in a dream. Through that dream I realized that I could not ditch one of “them” and that I had projected most of the self hate, blame and shame onto that part of me. My therapist had a less known method of treating dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) and the method he used was instead of concentrating on which alter had which memories and emotions, we concentrated on the trauma events themselves and we began with the earliest ones that I remembered. I had lots of alters popping out in therapy, and my therapist just let it happen without giving too much attention to the individual alter. It was more like he treated me as though I was only “one” and then I came to realize that all of this trauma actually happened to me and not to the alters whom I believed were separate from me.
Dissociative identity disorder allowed me to separate trauma events and view them as though they happened to someone else. Because more than one alter personality would come out at each trauma event, I was able to detach from the event on many levels. I saw each tiny moment as separate from another moment. That was how I was able to deal with them. But I did the same thing with the lies that I learned. With all the memories fragmented, it may have been easier to cope, but at the same time I accepted the lies, shame and self blame because I separated those memories too. I believed that I must have done something to deserve what happened because I didn’t have one whole memory. So if someone indicated that it was my own fault or that I deserved it or that I was the problem, I remembered that as a single event too.
As I looked at the memories, and started to connect the fragmented pieces, I realized how many false beliefs that I had accepted about myself in the course of my childhood. As I uncovered those lies and exposed the truth (to myself) I began to come together. As I realized how many lies that I had accepted about myself and corrected them, I began to calm down. As I calmed down, I became more comfortable. I felt like I was growing up. In the calming down, I felt like I was coming together. I was able to become conscious of when I had switched and soon I was conscious even before I switched and found ways of talking to myself that enabled me to stay one.
The trauma happened to me. The memories were all mine. Each personality was me and I was restored, by connecting, facing and accepting the truth about the past.
Please share your thoughts. We always have a wonderful discussion in the comments section!
Note: It is important to understand that it was not the recall of the events that restored me. I do not have all my memories, and I still remember only fragments of certain events, but I remembered enough to realize how my belief system had formed and why. The key was in realizing how I had come to believe so many lies about myself, and was not about remembering all the events.
**This is an example of my personal journey. All processes are different. Many people need to dig really deeply into the personality of each alter; I am not discounting other ways of recovery. I am only sharing how it worked for me.
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