Melissa: I have alternate personalities.
Skittle: It’s really funny!
Melissa: But what if none of this is real?
Unknown: She doesn’t even like me!
Melissa: Where was I when that happened?
Melissa: SNAP back to it, man. Snap back to it.
SpitFire: Can she just get out of my face?!
Skittle: I want to watch a cartoon!
Melissa: What if I’m not real?
End Intro Reel
My name is Melissa. I am one of many identities living in one mind. Collectively, we are The Bag System. We have Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is what used to be known as multiple personalities, but I didn’t always know this was our case.
Before our diagnosis, I assumed that I was simply as we say in French, “Une ratée.” This essentially means I was a bad batch that turned out wrong. I knew something wasn’t right, but I told myself that this was purely my failure. I never imagined the source was a mind fractured by trauma and dissociation.
The topic of this episode relates to those who wish they could have alters and seek to learn how to get Dissociative Identity Disorder on purpose. There are a few reactions that I can think to this; one of which is to be dismissive and offended. The other, however, is to explain if this is possible, and why this may not be what you wish for after all.
This message goes out to anyone wishing to be anyone but who they are. We offer insight into what it is to not be aware of our DID, and yet to have it. My hope is that we can offer a bit of the mending that we have experienced for ourselves.
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How can a person get Dissociative Identity Disorder on purpose? The honest answer is too shocking to reveal in a podcast. Without detailing in depth, dissociation is the minds means of escape from a traumatic moment or series of them. In order to evade full awareness, our mind lets us take a trip away from the danger. When this type of event is commonplace, the brain’s habit to turn to dissociation strengthens.
The short answer is, one would require repeated exposure to a series of events so traumatic that there was consistent fear for life or safety. More than that, these events are said to need to occur prior to the age of 8 or less in order for the child to keep from becoming an integrated self, rather than dissociated states. In the face of difficulty, this child would not know where to turn, other than inwardly.
When threatened and in a traumatic moment, the brain releases glucocorticoids, which floods and reduces the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory processing.
In essence, DID is not simply living with Headmates; it’s the most severe form of PTSD, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I will state the obvious this one time, then move onto delving deeper into where this need might come from and what can be done instead. The obvious is, to wish to have DID is to wish for repeated trauma to your young mind to the degree where you are dis-regulated, dissociated, disconnected from your own mind, while losing time and living with symptoms of PTSD. It is impossible to develop DID after young childhood, but it is possible for the symptoms of an already existing condition to become apparent at a later age.
Rather than asking, how to get DID on purpose, perhaps the question is, why do you want this? I am an honest believer that everything has a reason. If someone wishes to have alters, they may have a few misconceptions guiding this thought.
One of these is that living with Headmates is fun and engaging; never boring. While there are endearing moments in most difficulties, Dissociative Identity Disorder is no different. There can be moments of bonding, but this is not what DID is. It takes years, if not a lifetime, or never at all, to get close enough to headmates and connect in a meaningful way.
Living with alters is not like living in a tight knit family that just gets along. Trauma and the way we survive this are huge elements in keeping a divide in the mind and in perspectives. Alters can feel deep hate for each other. They can fear each other. Feel indifferent. Feel burdened. Feel like they can never escape each other and be alone. All these things are not a family. They are the result of something beyond the control of the person with DID.
Another misconception is that Headmates will help to feel less lonely. Have you ever been to a party with no one to talk to, or you were shy to go reach out and connect, or you were pushed away? Being with others doesn’t take the emptiness away, and it doesn’t resolve why you feel lonely. It’s very likely that Headmates will further a sense of loneliness, as it’s difficult to experience this stigmatized difference from others. Feeling out of the norm is a sure way to feel lonely.
So, if Headmates do not cure loneliness, perhaps a means of achieving friendship could be in braving social settings, which can even be a library or a park. It can be virtually with support groups, or social networks.
Perhaps some may find the idea of living a unique way could be a certain differentiation that makes them more interesting. If this is truly thought on, why would there be an appeal in this defining you, or even more, why have the main source of interest in you turn out to be something beyond your control?
Does this mean that if I had the choice, I would never have been multiple? If I had been asked near the beginning of our diagnosis, I’d have jumped at the chance to turn back the clock. As things are now, with communication and getting to know my system, my choice is to remain multiple.
This might sound contradictory. I’ve been making a point that DID isn’t something to be longed for, yet I also say I wouldn’t change it.
As I see my life and those I share it with, we are what we are with who we are with. We aren’t one unified mind, so that is not who we are, as The Bag System.
If we were not multiple, then my unified self, fracturing into dissociated states would not be me anymore. It would be aspects of who I was within many parts.
As things are, we are many, and that’s okay because it’s what has always been.
There’s a misconception that there is one main real identity in a DID system and the rest are alters. In truth, we are all equally alters to each other. We are each a piece of a whole; none are who would have been without splitting off into complex self states.
In this line of thinking, if someone were to choose to fracture, despite the fact that it’s not possible after a certain young age, they would not be as they were. Every piece would be a part of who was, while none are who they were. I do not express this to make multiplicity sound discouraging or tragic. For me and my system, the only thing that is tragic are the events that caused us to remain separate.
Someone might also have the misconception that with DID, you get to be someone else. This is false. Just like in a room of people, the person talking doesn’t become the crowd; they speak as themselves while the others remain individuals. Switching in Dissociative Identity Disorder does not mean that you become another. It means one takes the backseat while a different one takes control. They do not change into someone else; they trade places for a time.
The reasons for DID seeming ideal are a long list, though, I hope that in considering the truth of what it would mean to be multiple when you are not already, this may not be the experience you seek.
If the cause of dissociated selves is considered in this equation, then the ultimate choice is to submit to trauma. In consideration of the experiences of those who do have DID, I might suggest an avoidance of minimizing this past by making it sound appealing.
While I realize that some who are not multiple have endured hardship, the validity of these challenges don’t need to be proven with a condition such as DID.
For those wishing they had alters, I might suggest looking into the reasons for this desire and make a list of solutions that are healthy and attainable.
We, as a system, have fought our lifetime to get to the point where we can connect as we do. We were lost in psychiatric stays and with symptoms we couldn’t understand. We still struggle, and more progress needs to be worked towards. We fight tooth, spit, grit and nail to improve and rise up and to be functional. This is valuable, but it only has value if it’s necessary. There’s no need to go into harms way to create a new future. My suspicion is that someone wishing to split into parts of self is likely unhappy, or feels something is missing, or that it might validate something.
To quote an old poem of mine, “Listen to what I have to say. You can’t keep going on this way.” In this poem, I wrote of how I needed to let go of the past in speaking to my child-self in a lake. “Below the surface, a child appeared. She rose to where the mist had cleared; A face like the girl I used to be. I knew the child I saw was me. Eyes like ice caught in a storm; Too fierce for any tears to form. As she sunk, I caught her hand; Tried to bring her to the sand. I pulled with all the strength within, failed and faced her subtle grin. With water spilling past her lips, she released my trembling fingertips”
“My breath was deep as silence broke. She held my eyes in hers and spoke. ‘You think you’re strong but its a lie. You lost the will to even try. But I’m the keeper of the past. I’m the breath that couldn’t last. I’m the part of you that died. I’m the reason you survived. You seek the secrets I could tell. Of these, I’m deeper than the well. I remember when you found, the terror as you nearly drowned. I remember all the painful ways, you lost your mind to grief that stays. Are these the things you want to know? The answers that will help you grow? Will you find a better life? Will knowledge bleed away the strife? Listen to what I have to say. You can’t keep going on this way. Part of you stayed in the lake, with only so much your heart could take. You’re the one I died to save, and now you come to seek my grave. You live to wonder of my death; To breathe what was my final breath. This lake is not the only thing, your journey through this life can bring. Leave my breath and leave my grave. Use the second chance I gave. I beg to not be laid to waste. Give the life I lost a taste'”
Today, in reminiscence of this poem, I say to those who yearn for multiplicity, “This is not your grave. Use the chance you have and follow a journey of building your futures. You live to wonder of another life, though there’s no solution in what cannot be unless it already is. I listed our talents in this episode that have nothing to do with having headmates. Follow your own skills and build on them. Build your tomorrows with what matters to you. If your life isn’t where your dreams rest, pursue a path to them. When you’ve met that dream, experience it, live it, hold it in all your senses, then dream… another dream.
Always aspire for more. Eliminate the endgame.
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Stay tuned for an upcoming episode where we unveil a major project of ours that we aspire will assist those with trauma and dissociative disorders.