Integration and Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
Last night I listened to the HealthyPlace Mental Health Radio Show interview with Sarah Olson, the author of Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Multiple Personality Disorder. She talked about her integration experience and I greedily took in every word. Here was someone who had achieved what was once my most fevered wish. After I got over the initial shock of my Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis, my focus narrowed to one elusive, coveted dream: the complete integration of alters. This shining promise of a cohesive, unified identity was all I wanted out of Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment.
Integration Isn't Possible Without Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
But it wasn't really recovery I was after. Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder isn't easy. It's a painful process consisting of years of therapy and no small amount of hard work. I didn't want that. I wanted simply and only to be free of DID. I searched libraries and bookstores for a guide of some kind; a manual that would provide me with a checklist of steps to achieve integration. I became increasingly frustrated and angry each time I eagerly brought home a book, searched its contents, and discovered nothing like the quick and easy recipe for integration I was looking for. I saw my alters as the problem, and I just wanted them to go away.
Integration is a process, as opposed to an actual event, that begins as soon as DID-focused therapy begins. To view integration simply as a time when all the internal parts come together to form a unified self does not do justice to the process. - The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook, Deborah Haddock
Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder Reveals the Truth about Integration
My ideas about integration reflected a lack of understanding of DID itself. My perception of my alters as entirely separate beings is part of my disorder. This idea of integration as something that makes them go away is born of that same mindset. Part of Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment is learning that though we experience ourselves and operate as individual people, we are ultimately fractured pieces of one identity. Integration is therefore the opposite of what I thought it was. Rather than a final and total rejection of my alters, integration involves embracing them more fully. It dissolves the barriers between these alter states, but not the alter states themselves.
It took a long time to learn that integration isn't the miracle solution I was looking for. That, in fact, what I was desperately seeking wasn't integration at all but simply an escape from Dissociative Identity Disorder. And even though I know better now, listening to Sarah last night I couldn't help but hope for a moment that I was about to hear the recipe I'd been searching for.
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Gray, H. (2010, October 21). Integration and Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/10/integration-and-dissociative-identity-disorder-treatment
Author: Holly Gray
I do notice this last year a sense of not understanding my sense of identity. What is this thing with the label 'Mark'. What will I become in years to come as Baxter and Morgan go from co-present manifestations into the wholeness I now enjoy with the part of me formerly called Jade.
The strange part is it was another trauma that has been the catalyst to integration. My therapist mentioned that new trauma can be a catalyst this way. I had always thought someone kind in my life might be the catalyst.
I wish I could compare thoughts with someone that has gone through complete or partial integration. I feel quite alone in this.
Did your therapist explain the process of integration? Many with DID choose not to integrate. You have options, and the decision is really up to you whether or not you want to integrate. It is a process, and can take a lot of time, depending on how many alters you have.
I know her name, and she is slowly beginning to trust me, but still is wary of me. Thebalter works as her protector is what ive been able to decipher so far, and they are conscious of each other. We dont have the funds for therapy, so i will be the one assuming the role of supportive care. We've already made contracts on what is to be allowed/not allowed and such. Shes very diplomatic.
We are without a moderator at the moment on this website but I wanted to take a moment to thank you for posting you insight. It sounds like you have been through a lot but it is very encouraging that you are at the end of all the confusion.
Somehow my healing seems to come to an end and for some reason i able to see the many separate identities that have been part of my life over my entire life.
I think i can share, briefly,out of experience, what these separate identities are.
For a start because of massive abuse starting at childhood, something did not grow well in me. ie the boundary of my identity. The i am me and you are you. This was the perfect breadding ground for multiple identities.
To avoid abuse i learned to "manufacture" an appropriate personality that was suited to the potential abuser... and later to every human being i interact with!
I have heard of a few alters. Mine were as many as the different people i would interact with!
In other words i was always a different me with a different person. Now that i have healed substantially my internal mind is full of "who was that??" referring to myself in a past interaction at any given age of my life.
Today trying to understand this phenomena i remembered the women who gets beat up in domestic violence.
They acquire an agreeable "self" for the abuser that is different from their real self. All inaim of fore stalling being beaten up.
This other self, in my vire an understanding, is what is called "alter". The said woman may only have one alter that is designed for the beating man.
In my situation, and true to a very broken up mind, i have had over a hundred alters, who could speak diffrent things and hold diffrent view of life. They all could speak for their own account (which i was attributing to posession). Sometimes they were voices of people i knew especially abusers.
They were persistent and have expressed inside of me for incredibly many years, some since childhood.
But i think that journey is coming to an.
The very ability to see that these were self preservation personalities to protect myself from abusers seem to be a giant step in recovery.
This to me is what alter integration seems to be.
Enormous help here. Explains so much. Going to skip official diagnosis part for now and work with it 'as if' . Already creative ideas coming.
Have been experiencing so much stress driving that have isolated even more. I just came up with idea of howvto help someone who is very fragile behind the wheel and gets very upset when rude drivers do their thing. This girl has been in car accidents and brother was killed in one. She really needs extra TLC. When iI go out
thinking to put her safely buckled in the back seat with a blanky.
Dunno sounds like it ould work or make me laugh!
Best to everybody. So glad to find your company. I can't get over how this framework of thinking about my self is resulting in almost immediate relief of symptoms.
A therapist told me of a client she treated who had emphysema & coughed chronically. She was DID and when she switched in therapy, her coughing would stop.
Has anyone experienced anything like this? Has anyone experienced alters that have very different physical symptoms? I have seen this phenomenon in the movies but assumed those must be extreme cases. I would love to read a blog on this topic!
You say it wasn't integration ... do you mean it was spontaneous?
Just for the sake of argument, let's say you did integrate fully - that's what cured means within the context of Dissociative Identity Disorder. It's entirely possible that you re-fragmented. After all, dissociation is your old stand-by, your most familiar coping mechanism. You said you had a mental breakdown, went back to therapy and notices your DID was back. That makes sense. You found yourself in the midst of overwhelming stress. It might be that, severe dissociation being the method of coping with overwhelming stress that you're most familiar with, you split again. That happens.
In fact, I believe Sarah E Olson (author of the book I've cited here) mentioned having a similar experience in her radio interview. Follow this link to listen to her interview: http://www.healthyplace.com/radioshowblog/dissociative-identity-disorder-after-integration/
There's also the possibility that you did not integrate, that you were not cured. It's possible that your dissociative walls became, for a time, far more opaque. Your mention of feeling a bit emotionally flat makes me wonder if that's what was going on for you.
Either way, yes ... others have also experienced something similar.
Thanks for the posts as always Holly, for they always inspire someone to just look or question that little biit deeper.
"For we really need to “get” each other, if we are to truly understand ourselves as a whole. And from this may spring an intermingling of selves or it may not."
I think that's the best course of action for me too - moving towards acceptance and understanding and letting the chips fall where they may. If we achieve full integration, great. If not, it likely won't even matter as much if we've created what you describe: communication, respect, understanding.
"It was really interesting to compare what I thought of them and who they were, and what they thought their functions were and their personalities."
Yes! I'm consistently surprised by the dissonance between who I perceive someone in my system to be and who they actually are, once they begin to reveal themselves. I'm wrong - or just off a bit - so often. Like you, I often find it amusing.
"Thanks for the posts as always Holly, for they always inspire someone to just look or question that little biit deeper."
Thank you, kerri. I've found writing about DID helps me to question and look deeper as well. Not to mention what I learn from reader comments and dialogue. So thanks for being a part of that.
Thank you for your comment.
"i have a real effort with the disassociation side of the illness. it is very scary for me as i don’t have control over my life."
It really is scary at times. Even now, in my sixth year of treatment, I struggle so much with Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms. I will say though, it's better in many ways now than it was for me when I was first diagnosed. Learning about the disorder has helped me to understand how it manifests for me and why some of the things that are so scary for me happen. Of course, there's still so much I don't understand. But I share this with you because I hope that you too feel more stable over time. Diagnosis can be so frightening for a DID system. If this is your experience, know that it will get better, things will settle down.
I'd never thought of a family tree before. You guys are all offering such great ideas for system mapping/expression, thank you. I should compile these into a post.
Thanks so much!
Early in therapy I chose to attempt fusion... a step past integration. But then I got to the point of each of mees talk to each other and take turns being themselves, I realized how dampened the effect will be when my adventurous 9 year old boy is merged with my 60 year school master man. So now I'm not sure.
When I experience things in the present that bring extreme reactions out of proportion to the real event, I know a part of me is working out a hurt from the past. And as I walk through the process I find a new person emerging... someone that may eventually be all of us.
"When I experience things in the present that bring extreme reactions out of proportion to the real event, I know a part of me is working out a hurt from the past."
I really like the way you worded that. I've started to realize that same dynamic in my own life. It's hard, but understanding it helps. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Thanks for reading, Nancy, and taking the time to comment.
You're a librarian! You have my secret dream job. :) Surrounded by books, categorizing and alphabetizing. Sounds heavenly.
It's interesting to me what you said about avoiding categorizing your system. I have a tendency towards putting things into categories and groupings. It helps me understand things. But I've found that when it comes to Dissociative Identity Disorder and understanding my system, it's counter-productive. I try to approach getting to know them just as people, not as "protectors" or "gatekeepers" or any of that label lingo. When I try to categorize them, I end up not seeing them for who they are. Which isn't to say that labels can't be helpful to my comprehension of myself, my disorder, and the world around me. I believe there is absolutely a place for labels and categories. But like you, I avoid that when it comes to mapping.
The video is a great idea. Thanks for sharing it. I'm getting some good ideas here from readers!
Thanks for your comment.
"I have a husband and kids and it’s so hard to juggle all these things, and try to maintain some sense of “normality for my family."
This struggle to maintain some sense of normality is so incredibly draining, I couldn't agree with you more. It really takes a toll on me, particularly when I'm having a hard time with things that most people who don't have DID couldn't possibly understand. They don't get it, and so I try very hard to appear as normal as possible. Inevitably I fail from time to time. And that's hard.
The book you mention by Deborah Haddock is the first book I recommend to people wanting to learn more about Dissociative Identity Disorder. She covers the basics in a really accessible way. And in my experience, the more I know about DID the easier it is to live with it. If nothing else, I understand my life better. And though that doesn't make any of the pain or frustration go away, I at least feel that I know what I'm dealing with.
Grueling is an excellent word for the recovery process, Leslie. I hope you know that though having DID can be a very isolating thing and feels incredibly lonely a good deal of the time, there are so many people in the world who are struggling with DID too and feeling those same feelings of isolation and loneliness. I know it doesn't make the loneliness go away, but maybe it helps to know that someone, somewhere understands.
I'm glad you like the idea & I hope it helps you also!
"Maybe someday I will be integrated, but the path to get there is to accept who you are now (meaning with parts)."
You're so right. It took me a long time to learn that.
"The ability to dissociate, to become fractured, I think is always there whether one “integrates” or not."
That's one thing that was hard for me to accept. Because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and have had it for most of my life, I believe dissociating is what my brain does best. And it's my brain's go-to method of managing ... well, life. I wanted DID to be an illness that, with the proper treatment, went away like a cold or a fever. But now I know that integrated or not, DID may always be a part of my life in some manner. Dissociation certainly will be.
I love your scrapbook idea! I abhor doing system maps in a traditional way (i.e. writing down the names, ages, and other pertinent information of every system member on paper according to where they are within the system). The anxiety that activity provokes is almost unbearable. So I'm always curious about other ways for a system to express itself, less exposing ways. I don't know why the traditional map feels so exposing to me and your scrapbook idea doesn't, but there you have it. Thanks so much for sharing that. I'm looking forward to trying the same thing.
I, like you, keep hoping for some miracle cure. I have come a long way in respecting my alters for allowing me to survive what I needed to survive, but DID is a scary, horrifying disorder to live with. And to know I may have to live with it for the rest of my life, or for a really long time, feels unmanageable. I have friends who had DID who, in just a few years, managed to integrate and I don't know how they did it.
Integration has been on my mind a lot recently, so this article is very well-timed for me. Thinking on it for too long makes my stomach hurt, though, so I think I'll stop there. Thank you for voicing how I've been feeling for so long.
"I have friends who had DID who, in just a few years, managed to integrate and I don’t know how they did it."
This has been a huge source of frustration and even jealousy for me. When I was first diagnosed, I started reading about Dissociative Identity Disorder and book after book, article after article, reported the estimated total treatment time as 3 to 7 years. I'm in my sixth year of treatment now and nowhere near an end point. I don't even feel near the halfway point. I can't help but feel embarrassed about that and like I must not be "doing treatment right."
"I don’t want to have to spend all of my energy managing dissociative symptoms and keeping order amongst my system."
Yes. DID is confusing, frustrating, and makes me feel powerless in my own life. It's exhausting to constantly try to keep things from falling apart, only to be disappointed yet again when they eventually do. That sounds a little defeatist, I suppose, but it's how I genuinely feel.