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
I’m Melissa, and I am diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Together, with my Headmates, we collectively make up The Bag System.
In researching the topic of DID, we came across some of the questions that are input into Google. People want to know what it’s like to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Some search to learn what the voices from Headmates sound like, while others wonder if everyone with DID hears them. Questions on the internet that are asked regarding this dissociative disorder are many, which includes wondering if one can hear the difference in someone’s voice when they switch, while others ask if DID is real at all.
Today, we discuss the reasons that I do feel we have DID.
Simultaneously, I will tell you something that will sound contradictory; I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder. In fact, it doesn’t exist.
While I may know I have Headmates, I also know… I don’t. How does that make sense? It’s a matter of what I know to be true, in opposition with what I may not be capable of allowing to be true.
When it comes to if there is such a thing as a fractured mind into parts, the world is divided. That may be, in some respects, understandably so. However, in comparison with the credibility of the entirety of mental health conditions, why is this particular issue so debated?
They say… denial; it’s not just a river in Egypt.
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I do live with Headmates, so I am qualified to express what this is like from my point of view. I can also say that I am confused, distant from my own mind, and unwilling to face the truth.
Perhaps, when those who question the validity of a disorder such as DID, they too may have their own equations in not wishing to believe in it, or refusing to. The implications are far reaching for some. If you consider that even those with dissociative disorders will outwardly claim they do not and to say that they are just confused or psychotic, it feeds the idea or the possibility that it’s all just a crock.
Sometimes, I feel like I don’t exist. I can reason away the reality of everything around me. Though, if we think, therefore we are, perhaps I am.
Sometimes, the world shifts and distorts from one moment to the next to the point where I question if I’m still in my own home. I feel disconnected from objects or places around me, but no one around me seems to notice that nothing is real. Perhaps, I wonder, if they are not real either.
So, what is it like to have DID? It commonly feels like an ignorance to the fact that you have it at all. It is small but significant shifts in denial behind the meaning of the so called quirks that we brush off.
Similarity to how you may not believe me that I don’t exist, or that the objects around me have shifted in reality, you may believe at the least, that I do believe this. In taking this concept, sometimes, I am convinced that the things I say are not true, but that I only believed they were and I am unbalanced. Were they untrue though?
If my reality from my perspective was to feel unreal, then its a truth that I felt it. While one can deny that I stopped existing, they cannot deny that it felt like I did.
Well, I feel feelings that are not mine. I share a mind with other states of self that feel, think, speak, express… while also simultaneously experiencing my own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, when words come out of my mouth, it sounds like someone else said it, because another state actually did.
In saying this, I do not intend to impress that those with Headmates should not be deemed credible. That would be against what I know to be true. Just like one may know that a person has only one body and one mind, they may also take into consideration that not all minds are formed the same. Some have dissociative walls… or barriers between their senses of selves that create distinct states of being, or distinct and unique memories or personality traits, or even ages or abilities.
Most in the psychiatric field will not tell you that dissociation does not exist. They do question the point to which it can or does.
Similarly, while I’m presented with a degree of recognizing my own symptoms, I also believe they are a delusion; partly, because I don’t want to believe they are real. I’ll tell you why they are, and what they are like.
An inner world is created within the mind where altered states can interact. This can be a basic room, or a whole space ship. Headmates connect with each other here, often unknown to the host, where they can communicate behind the minds dissociative barriers.
When I learned about my Headmates, I thought that perhaps we had no inner world. I had never connected with it or sensed it, as far as I knew. I came to learn otherwise through another aspect of living with DID.
Dissociative experiences can include voices. For me, it does, but it wasn’t always as frequent or as pronounced. I used to believe the voices were a waking dream, like a brain glitch. It crossed my mind a few times that it could be another state of consciousness, but I brushed it off as a quirk.
On realizing that the voices were alters, the voices began to frighten me deeply. I grew unnerved and unsure how to accept it. In time, hearing them talk on occasion changed from something to jump out of my seat from, to now a usual, “Uh huh,” or, “Okay,” in response.
Learning the details of our inner world began with catching bits of conversations indicating where they were or their surrounding, or sometimes context gave details away. I heard various phrases indicating a stairway in a home, moving from one home to another after getting married, meeting someone behind a warehouse, or even interactions sounding like mothers discussing their children on a playground.
A girls voice spoke the words, “Things are different in Bardenova, where I am from.” This indicated a few things to me. One was that she was unfamiliar enough with this other Headmate that she needed to inform of where she was from. Two was a confirmation of more than one inner town, and three… the name of the town; Bardenova.
Around a week later, a male voice greeted another with, “Yes, yes, Mr. Grant.” Then stated, “Dispatcher 504.” I knew of no context. This could have been anything from an emergency responder to a cab or train dispatcher, but one thought was that they were travelling from one location to another with transport.
What do the voices sound like? They sound like anyone else to me, but coming from inside my head, rather than out. Tones, pitches, and accentuations that are unique in sound, like the signatures in most voices are heard when they speak. Some sound like children, while others are distinctly men or women.
Another way to hear their words is in the same tone as our thoughts. I hear others speak in thought format that is not mine.
It might sound strange that I can differentiate my thoughts from when it’s one of the others. Thoughts are willed and owned by the person thinking them. If the words play without my willing them and they are like hearing someone else, then I can tell it’s not from me, but I might not know from who.
Overlapping Inner Voices
If you do not have Headmates and I asked you how your thoughts flowed, it likely sounds in continuity with one thought and phrase following after another. What if those thoughts overlapped in words that co-occurred, like a crowd of people talking at once?
“Can she even hear herself?” “What’s going on?” “Where are we going?” “I don’t like crowds.” “Can we just stay home?”
Does our voice change when a Headmate speaks?
Tones of voice and mannerisms can be quite distinct during switches for some, while for others, the change is subtle and mainly only noticeable by close friends or family.
As the clips in the beginning of every episode of The Bag System podcast indicate, there can be a significant change in not only voice pitch, but personality differences heard that are unlike each other.
What does it feel like to have DID?
For me, it felt like the worst thing I could have learned ended up as my reality. It felt frightening, haunting, and like my space in my mind was violated. Our journey in getting to know each other was one of peacemaking, fondness, of course, also making mistakes and making amends.
It’s not like living in a tight knit inner family. We have issues and disagreements like anyone else would. We do what we can with what we have and who we are with. When we can go nowhere without the others, who we are with is unchangeably each other.
As complex and intricate as my experiences are with my system, I also deny them. I sometimes get so consumed with day to day that I can forget the others are there. I sometimes become so overwhelmed that they are there that I shut down the ability to even believe they were ever there at all. It’s my way of coping when there’s too much going on.
They say, denial is not just a river in Egypt.
I say, denial; it’s a river in my head…
Shout out to Italy who rose quickly to our number two listeners according to demographics.
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