Hello Cherished Otherbeasts. Today I'd like to write about the effect of having Dissociative Identity Disorder on loved ones. It's a bit of a touchy subject and every person is different, but I thought I'd share what I went through before realizing I had DiD.
Back in 2006 I got out of an extremely traumatizing relationship with a man who had NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), which if you've read anything about or done any research on, someone with NPD must have absolute control over most every aspect of their lives. The bottom line of NPD is this: They do not and can not love themselves (though they may claim to). Mind you, it is much different from just plain old narcissism, don't let the semantics trip you up.
Anyhow, during my three year relationship with this man (we'll call him Tay) I was subjected to every kind of abuse that exists: emotional, psychological, physical, mental, etc. Because I had to endure so many types of abuse, my core self could not cope with the trauma and instead created a "fissure" in my personality. This fissure turned out to become the coping mechanism. For a full background on the events that happened see my blog I Survived A Cult: Memoirs of a Werewolf.
But I digress, this entry is not about what caused my Dissociative nature, but rather about the aftermath and discovering more about it. After leaving Tay and moving back in with my parents I was pretty wounded - my parents of course took me back with open arms and nothing but love and compassion - but the worst part was that they couldn't understand my behavior, not because they were intolerant or cold, but because I didn't even understand it and I couldn't explain to them what was wrong; so if I didn't know, how could they?
I thank the Lord every single day for my parents and I ask Him to forgive me for the 2 to 3 years of hell I put them through due to Dissociative Identity Disorder. I digress again, it always seemed odd to me that I felt no emotions, none, zip, zilch, nada... save one. Anger. I used to cry at Hallmark commercials (pathetic, I know) but then it was like my emotions were just... gone; they had vacated the premises. Back then, I blamed it on emotional exhaustion from 3 years of bullshit from Tay, and figured the rest of the emotions would slowly creep back in. I was wrong.
It was like there was no setting in between "off" and "high." No emotions between "normal" and "angry." Now when I say normal, I don't actually mean "normal," that word implies that I walked around like everyone else. My "normal" was kind of like a flat-line, no ups, no downs, just existing, and just surviving. The angry part, now that was something scary, if I became angry it wasn't just anger... it was pure unadulterated rage, but a very cruel, quiet, and hollow rage. A very strange rage... it was as if it were a boiling pot, simmering at first, then rising to a rolling boil, and just as the water was about to crest over the top and spill on to the burners, the water would still back to stasis - no movement, like it had never been boiling at all - but it would still violently burn if touched.
My anger even scared me at times because somewhere inside I knew it wasn't normal but I just couldn't understand, again I blamed it on the 3 years of pent-up anger against Tay. But, like I said before, it wasn't a normal anger... it was a monster. Once that boiling water would almost crest it would go still and all the compassion and love I had inside of myself for others vanished. Looking back on some drawing I did during that time, it was clearly evident that I knew I was split somehow: most of the drawing contained two or more entities along with myself. I began to call my split "Shade" because she always lurked in the shadows, ready at a moment's notice to take control if I couldn't handle something.
But Shade was cruel. She had no love for others, no compassion, no sensitivity chip... what she had an abundance of was brutal honesty, spite, viciousness, and cruelty. Her biggest fun was in causing others pain and spreading misery; it didn't matter whether is was my mother, father, friend, or a stranger - to her, they were all just potential victims on which to unleash her fury. Fury for what had been done to me. In a sense, she became my guardian; the one to bear what was too much for me to handle, endure, or tolerate.
It was like being in a vehicle with Shade as the passenger - most of the time I was the one in control, the one driving - but say if in this metaphorical car situation someone were to cut me off and flip me the bird, Shade would immediately shove me out of the driver's seat, take the wheel, and proceed to rear-end the offender until satisfied. All I could do was buckle up, grab what I could, and just brace for the storm - an outsider looking in at someone else taking control.
My entire life I have loved psychology, studying body language, and I had an innate gift for sizing people up in a matter of minutes. With those capabilities I possessed, it was easy for me to know people's "hot buttons." You know, the ones you press to really piss someone off. Well, with DiD in the picture, I began to use my powers for evil - when Shade was triggered she would harness all the psychoanalytic techniques and tricks and start assailing the offender with a barrage of cruel words, very often deliberately pressing those hot buttons in the most callous of fashions - with no thought or concern about the person's feelings.
That's when Dissociative Identity Disorder can become very destructive and very hard to overcome. It became a viscous cycle because very often I was left to handle the aftermath of what Shade had just inflicted, which were more than likely often tears and pleading, which would cause a very deep sadness in my heart... well, guess who would come back to handle that sadness for me? Shade. It was three years that I was saddled with unchecked DiD, fully out of control, full swing, no checks or balances, and no end in sight.
Luckily I was very fortunate at the time to know a very gentle man with a proclivity for psychology and psychological motivators. Through his encouragement I was able to recognize that I had Dissociative Identity Disorder, although pride would never allow me to see a licensed psychologist, and the more research I did, the more I read personal testimonies, the more I explored it... the more it made sense. I began to be able to recognize the "triggers" that would cause Shade to emerge. The more I was able to recognize these triggers, the more I was able to ask for space when triggered, and because of that I was able to confine myself, compose myself, and approach things as myself.
It look a long time to heal and overcome the triggers; there were more of them than I had expected and very often I would be caught off guard. That three years was torture and a blessing; torture because I caused my parents and so many loved ones pain and sadness, a blessing because I was able to start "healing" and maintain better control over switching in and out of an alter. The bad news is that my DiD has never fully gone away, nor do I expect it to. It's like scar tissue; the original wound has healed but there is an ever-present mark and reminder that I used to be broken.
To the friends, family, and loved ones that may be affected by someone with DiD: please realize that most - if not all - cases should be treated by a licensed professional. I was lucky that I was blessed with the next best thing - the closest to licensed you could get - and I'll be forever grateful to that man for helping me and for understanding me through it all. But I digress - as I often do - that if you suspect you or a loved one had Dissociative Identity Disorder, please do seek counsel. In the meantime, try to understand that the person in question has no control over these "switches" that take place, even though they may desperately want it more than anything. Above all, as hard as it may seem, try not to take it personally. The DiD does not care who it hurts... all it cares about is protecting that soft inner core of a person. Try seeing someone as a wounded child hiding behind a big tough monster - realize that the wounded child desperately wants to not have to hide behind that barrier - if at all possible, try your best to encourage someone to recognize what's happening and to take a step back. Objectivity is everyone's best friend. When you can realize your triggers - or help someone else recognize theirs - some perspective begins to take place in the DiD world. That's the starting point.
Not everything can be repaired back to mint condition, but many things can be gently and kindly sutured back together to allow the healing to begin. There may always be a minute fissure left from the original damage, but it is never so far gone that it can't beloved and understood.
Until Next Time,