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, though, if you asked 2-year-old Headmate Katie, she calls me Melsa.
It may seem peculiar when a grown adult composes themselves like a small child. From an onlookers perspective, this can draw a variety of reactions, such as judgement, interest, or simply kind acceptance.
If seen from the eyes of a little one in a Dissociative Identity Disorder system, the reality is complex. Implications are rooted in someone like myself, an adult, who sometimes acts like a child, as well as someone like Katie, Skittle, or Dot, who feel small, while our appearance is grown.
Today, we discuss what experiences for littles can be like, while also delving into how this impacts me, or our system as a whole.
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The experience of being a little in a Dissociative Identity Disorder system is not one that I’ve lived, though I do feel what they feel when they are near the front, or sense what they think or say. When someone very young fronts, it can feel vulnerable. Our body can feel small and our voice speaks like that of a child. Our legs might fidget with youthful energy.
I used to set a time each day for watching a cartoon with the littles. I recall watching, “Mune: Guaradian of the Moon” as our first cartoon. The imagery was remarkable and the kids were entranced. As I experienced it, I sort of took a back seat in our head and felt as several young ones peered through our eyes to see the cartoon for themselves.
We wiggled in place and held a bag of candy that I gathered for them to eat while we watched. They didn’t eat the candy, though they gripped the bag and leaned very close to the screen. An especially young Headmate slowly reached out our arm to touch the screen, as though they could make contact with the beautiful cartoon girl.
This first cartoon with the kids was not far into our diagnosis and into my knowing what was going on. Living that moment was both captivating and unnerving. I was trying my best to be accepting and allow them time to be themselves, and while I felt very connected with them, I also had a dawning realization about 20 minutes into the cartoon that ruined everything.
As we fidgeted and our eyes were wide with amazement, I could hear their buzzing excitement, curiosity and freedom. I felt like I was many ages at once. The control of our movements was theirs, which I was not accustomed to realizing was the case. I used to think there was something distinctly different and wrong with me, though, I did not guess it was due to alters.
I can’t say how many littles were watching in those 20-ish minutes, though, I can explain what ended this dissociative wave like that moon falling from the sky.
I realized, in my own simultaneous sadness to their joy, that what was occurring right there and then was indisputable proof of the fragmenting of my mind, as well as evidence of the series of trauma’s this sourced from.
I felt our face wince and heard an anguished, “Nooooooooo…” streak through our mind, and like the sudden slamming of a door, I can tell you, I was very alone. Not a single young one remained. I had frightened them away, and I was then the only one watching a cartoon for which I held no interest. The young fidgety joy vanished. Our legs were still. The change was so sudden that it was jarring.
When I began hearing young cries and tears, I grew especially remorseful. I thought, “What have I done?”
I softly closed my eyes, then reached in our mind, trying to connect. “I’m sorry,” I grieved. “We are safe now. All that is over now. I’m so sorry.”
Depending on the system, this experience can vary. Some hosts are hesitant, or outright refuse to connect with their system. Some littles are restricted from experiencing the front, while in other cases, they are allowed their own time to experience and play.
As for my system; Katie, who is 2 years old, and very sullen, wishes she could grow up to be big one day.
I have records of a written conversation between Katie and my Baby Brother Jason. While she may be little, we’ve been around long enough for her to learn to sound out words in text. I will read the way it was written. To see the spelling, this can be found in the transcripts of thebagsystem.com
Katie’s typed message expressed, “how yu growd up when yu wuz more dan me tis small. yu wuz more smaller dan me but yu more bigger. U live in a big moontin?”
By this, I think she meant, “How did you grow up when you were more than I was small? You were smaller than me, but you are bigger now. Do you live in a big mountain?”
Jason’s response? “I was loved like Clifford the dog. Must have been some kind of miracle.”
“Dat yur dog?” Katie wanted to know.
Then, I’m not sure who wrote this next part, but it read, “Katie want to know where to get the love like a big dog so she can grow like you. Hi.”
Jason drew his answer from childhood memories when he explained, “Clifford the big red dog. Like the books. I got that love from you.”
In reading that back, nearly a year later, I feel blessed. I sense Katie would remember us reading ‘Clifford the big red dog’ to our baby brother when he was small; a story about a small puppy who was loved so much that he grew up to be miraculously big. This book was among the many that we used to read to Jason when he was a toddler.
Jason speaks fondly of how we taught him to read before the age of Kindergarten. Some of our younger parts look back with love, fondness, and reminiscence. In a clip from one of our recorded therapy sessions, one young one recalled this little boy with curly blond hair.
In a very stark contrast to Katie, Skittle is a joyful 4-year-old girl who becomes upset when she can’t play with kids she sees who are her age. While these children who are physically the size she longs to be, they play while she is held back.
During one memorable therapy session about 5 months ago, I grew very dissociated and floaty, as was often the case. In order to ground, our therapist asked us to stand and toss a pillow back and forth with her.
When that wasn’t enough to feel grounded, I was asked to describe the cushion. One prompting question was as to how many buttons it had. As there were 4 buttons, and as Skittle is 4-years-old, she rushed to the surface and the next words were hers.
“Like me!” she exclaimed, and we began to jump, shriek, and also stomp from joy.
Clip of laughing
We collapsed from laughter and lack of balance into our chair. My response when returning to control was to sit there in a wave of embarrassment. Our therapist asked me to look at her, as my eyes were avoidant and ashamed. “I’d really rather not,” was my decline in meeting her gaze.
When told that she had no judgements and that it was safe to look, I made a slow countdown from 3 to 1 where I gathered the courage and met her eyes for only a second before turning away.
After expressing my shame, we had another switch that sort of felt like Skittle, but due to the sad tone, I felt it couldn’t have been, as it was vastly different than anything I had sensed from her.
“She doesn’t even like me!!!”
In looking back to this clip that appears in our intro reel, I’m beginning to think that it really was Skittle who must have felt rejected and unwanted.
As for me, it was a great loss of control for which I didn’t know how to accept.
“I feel like there’s something really wrong with me,” (Burst into tears) “I don’t like this at all!” (Tears) “I’m a really awful person. I try to be accepting but…”
“I feel their hurt feelings and it makes me feel worse. I’m offensive, because their still not allowed to be themselves, and I’m allowed to be me, and I’m pushing them away like their embarrassing and that’s mean. It’s just that, I’m an old lady, you know. I can’t act like I’m 4, like…”
I usually listened to our therapy sessions after, as due to the dissociation, I do not remember all of it in order to benefit. Following this session though, I did not have the courage to listen and hear the scene that still felt like a painful memory.
Making this episode led me to listen. I’m not sure how to describe how it makes me feel when I hear it, though, the shame I feel now is not for having behaved like a child. It’s for having expressed so clearly how devastating this felt to me at the time, and by extension, hurting Skittle deeply.
If I’m to be very honest, I still find it difficult to cope with these switches at times, though, from the perspective of the young ones, their coping is much smaller and more vulnerable. They may live in the same body and can develop more-so than a child that is their age, though their feelings are young. While it’s hard for me, it’s certainly not easy for them.
This diagnosis continues to be a journey of ups and downs, of leaps forward and of seemingly losing progress, of sadness, joy, and of compassion that really adds up to self-compassion.
I’d like to say aloud, for the upcoming moments where the littles will make another appearance, I may continue to shy away from being the person I wish I was brave enough to be. I may fall short again, as I have shown to do before. If or when this moment returns, I say in remembering a hurt voice cry that I don’t even like them… that while I may flounder, this is not a reflection of you, or of how much I appreciate you, am fond of you, and of how much I wish I could hold the sort of joy that cannot be contained. I admire you. Please, don’t give up trying to find your place. Though I may withdraw, continue bearing forward. We may meet somewhere in between.
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