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
Is Dissociative Identity Disorder tragic?
There was a time when I would have answered a definitive “Yes.” Now, with time, experience, and with moments that inspire pondering even deeper into those moments, my only conclusive thought can be, there is no right or wrong way to see the answer.
The truth of my own Dissociative Identity Disorder and what that means to me, can only belong to me, as well as can never be truly conclusive. Another’s story may unfold differently. As for mine, it shifts, it moves with time, and caters to my perception, my acceptance, or my lack thereof.
The source of DID is unacceptable and may never be condoned or accepted. Just as the fires sweep from the valley to the brush, or as the quiet, painful desolation leaves a remnant grey, yet peaceful burden, the rising of life from in the earth is a green triumph.
A quote from the Emperor in the Disney movie, Mulan, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”
While varying opinions might feud over the true meaning of this poetic statement, we would like to try a hand at our own viewpoint, as well as elaborate on the connection to DID and tragedy.
If you give us a listen and you want to find out more, you can find us over at thebagsystem.com We now have an option in our contact form to drop us an audio message that may be played in the show. The password to access the form is, Skittle.
Find our public Discord link in the description of this episode.
The Bag System podcast is now the official podcast of Multiplied By One Org; a nonprofit for trauma and dissociative disorders. Find the link to multipliedbyone.org in the episode description where programs and services include online support groups for all dissociative disorders, or families/partners of systems, as well as an upcoming magazine.
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I sometimes begin an episode with a simple statement, “I’m Melissa.” This might seem like an obvious or redundant thing to state, though, there was a time when things were as simple as an identity in some ways, residing within a name.
I can’t remember the defining moment or first time that I referred to myself as “we,” but I know that most often, I barely noticed it, and didn’t comment on it. This was, as I saw it, a quirk, and nothing more. I brushed it off, as I would imagine most did. When did I become we? And was I ever not we? My will for my ownership of the word “I” became a source of painful reminiscence.
Some repeat comforting serenades in search of peace or slumber. On occasion, over my lifetime, I might hear my name spoken inside my head, like someone trying to get my attention. In late 2019, after I was informed by our psychiatrist that I had alternate identities, my name, repeated in near loss of mind, was my insomnia trudging over every letter that formed my identity. “Melissa. MELISSA. I’m Melissa. I’M MELISSA. Me. I get to be Melissa.”
Sometimes, our own identity is a right as well as a privilege. Sometimes, a name, or an identity, is the only looping claim to ones own joys, faults and malady to this planet… our only claim to what it means to exist.
In late 2019, nights embedded their darkness to the days, while days lent their wakeful intrusion to the nights. The refrigerator hummed and cracked between groans and revs where we sat next to it on the kitchen floor. Camped with a pillow, blanket, phone and laptop, clutching to a life that I thought I led, and did in fact live, while barricading this new reality away with hard floors and major appliances.
This, a camp… to stand my ground; to wage my own war against my mind and reality.
On trips from camp, and on passing a mirror, I sought to search for my own reflection where only another’s stared back… If I was Melissa, what did I look like? Or, what did that even mean? Was I ever Melissa?
Sleep came in short dissociated bursts, while waking came with voices from interrupted conversations within the Headspace. “Go to sleep!” I commanded and complained bitterly to them, as though the intrusion on each others lives were one sided. At this, those that may not understand the difficulty of facing the sharing of ones own mind would scold me for my impatience with words like, “Don’t talk to them like that. They matter too.”
They matter too? I grew even more bitter, angry, hurt, afraid, and especially resentful that most had rights to their own mind, whereas, not only did I not, I needed to accept it, be fine with it… no matter what I wanted for myself.
I jumped in fear every time I caught them speaking. These were further reminders that this reality I tried to deny, was true. The more I fought to say I was alone, the more their escalating presence proved me wrong.
You might hear this story so far and think…. Dissociative Identity Disorder sounds horrible, invasive, and like a punishment to the minds of those who lived so much already. In a way, this is true, but in another way, those weeks sitting between the fridge and the stove, carving away my own sanity were my right of reaction to this news. As well, they were my passage to gather those carvings that chipped away, bring them together, identify with them, look at them in the palm of my hands as they sifted from fingers to floor. After weeks of mourning the life I never had to begin with, those carvings were nothing compared to those that had gathered from childhood. Delicate, intricate, soft, course, bulky, minute chips and carvings managed to seamlessly break the painful quiet after the field fire wiped us out. They built a stepping stone; a single stone, big enough for the amount of courage my weeks of gathering the pieces of myself could offer.
With eyes closed, I saw the future. It was my phone, laptop, blanket and pillow. I needed to take my camp and put it away; to stop fighting sleep, or fighting them. The future was deeply uncertain, though, I did not get up alone. With effects in arms, we stood up, rising together. We may have stumbled, but we coordinated our footing with a community of us in one mind. A multi-lingual Headspace with at least two towns, family lives, friendships, relationships. I, Melissa, rose with them, without knowing how many we were, or if we would be okay. All I knew was that we were in this together; no matter what.
While I once spoke dramatic analogies of living with a group of people in a room in which none of us could ever escape; forced to cope, to communicate, to work together to help everyone be functional, coordinated, loved, and heard, I still believe that is indeed a possible road to conquer.
Where there were no resources, we created them. Where the child was knocked too many times from her feet, she rose; a nation.
Perhaps, though, we began to bloom; a force to be reckoned with.
In the near month I spent in my camp of defiance by the fridge, there were key points that I was not ready or willing to consider. While I jumped at hearing them, they trembled that their words escaped to reach me. While I grasped at keeping the independence of my mind, they panicked that their secret security was filtering away. While I made jokes at their expense, like calling the euphoric smile and attitude, “Manic Alec,” the Headmate in question felt wounded. While I lashed out, we faltered. While I pulled or pushed for control, not one of us could win. While I shouted to get out of my head, they held every right to shout the same.
The answer was never for them to get out of my head. This is our head. What I needed most was to recognize that the space I was taking together with them was the same as it had always been. My awareness may have changed, but they had been constant.
When we were knocked down as a child, then knocked down again, there rested reasons on the ground to stay there; a place with no further to fall. Who would say stand? And who would get up? Not me. I did not; would not… and could not.
And yet, today, here we stand. We are the founder of a nonprofit; helping those with needs like ours. We stand up for our loved ones, or even strangers. Not because I took initiative. I in fact retreated.
To the Headmate who got up, and got back up again, and again…when we were small and darkness was strong, thank you. I know who you are. I never allowed myself to believe the one among us with the most anger… could only be the one with the most reason to be angry. I gave up, and in my weakness, you stood, took the blows. I hid in denial. Closed my eyes, and in my mind, I walked away. Because of this incredible gift you allowed me, you were hurt the most of all…. and… because of you, we gained every opportunity to rise to every next challenge. We grew under your protection; not mine. I used to call you Spitfire. I do believe this name still suits you, but the loving identity I learned you are was unexpected, and one to nod my chin in respect.
We are The Bag System. We are toddlers, children, girls, boys, men, women of all ages. We are more than a diagnosis. We are not a tragedy. As the sun draws the green from beneath the earth after the fires raged and the grey desolation owned too many years, a dew of respect for the seed to grow, rise, recover and absolutely prevail is one to admire.
As the emperor in Mulan so lovingly, and so accurately spoke, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”
Our mind is a community. Standing together. Where once, we were tossed aside, I falsely learned that my value was the way that I was treated; garbage. Now, while I still make it a goal to lean that I was not discarded for holding no value, but the value that had always been there could not be shaken out, shaken loose, nor disposed of; no matter the resolve of some who assume to try and take it. Our resilience was not in discarding our own carved pieces as broken and useless, but unifying them, giving each of them power, purpose, recognizing their feelings, and rising, together; a nation.
Shout out to our listeners on Spotify; fast in the lead as the largest source of downloads.
Shout out to the DID/OSDD systems listening and growing with us on our journey, and shout out to the supporters who are willing to learn as we find our words and footing.
Special thanks to the growing team at Multiplied By One Org, where volunteers are paving the way to an app for DID systems, online support groups, a magazine, and in time, with ambition in our sails, much, much more…