Living Day-to-Day with Dissociative Identity Disorder
Living day-to-day with dissociative identity disorder is tough. People sometimes think that they can tell if a person has a mental illness like dissociative identity disorder (DID) just from observing their behaviors (Is Mental Illness Really an Invisible Disability?). But that's just not true. Statistically speaking, one out of every 100 people has DID.* Do you think you could pick that person out of a crowd? I doubt it because living day-to-day with DID isn't what you think.
Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder Is Not Always How It Appears
From the outside, my life seems rather typical. My alarm goes off at 4:30 A.M.. I get out of bed, take a shower, put on my work uniform, grab my backpack, and head out of the house, walk a mile up the main road to the bus stop and take the bus to work.
At work, I turn on my music and go about my tasks. I excel at my job, regularly receiving outstanding reviews from my superiors. When I’m finished at work, I go on the next activity. Some days, it's therapy and other days, it's class at the university. I try to fit in a meal somewhere in between. When I’m home, I do my homework and by 10 P.M., I’m ready for bed.
This seems like the typical life of a working person and graduate student, right? Except, I have DID, and each of the tasks I mentioned above is affected by my disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Living Day-to-Day
I struggle to get out of bed. I have nightmares, a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which commonly occurs alongside DID. Before I take a shower, I reassure myself and my parts inside that we are safe; the shower is a trigger that often brings back memories of sexual abuse.
As I pick out my clothes to wear for the day, I often explain to my younger parts why we can’t wear that pink t-shirt or those bright, yellow sneakers to work. If you looked inside my backpack, you’d see schoolbooks and folders just like any other college student. You would also find coloring books, crayons, and toys -- all things my younger parts may need throughout the day.
As I walk to the bus stop, I have to battle the suicidal teenager inside that wants to run out in the middle of the road. I listen to music at work not because I enjoy it but because it helps to drown out the voices in my head so I can focus. When I’m having a hard day at work, an alter comes forward to help me so I don’t fall behind, allowing me to continue to excel.
Before I go to therapy, I hold a meeting inside to see if any parts have anything to say in session. Even though we exist as one body, each has his or her own thoughts and I make time for them to share as well. Before I go to class, we all agree that we have to stay focused so we can learn.
Meal times are times of disagreement. It’s difficult because I, as well as some of my alters, suffer from disordered eating. Someone wants to eat cake for dinner. Another doesn’t want to eat at all. Some days, it seems like a neverending battle.
I set time aside after homework for coloring, an activity that my younger parts enjoy. Before bed, I read a children’s book and let my parts know that we are safe. Even though my body is 30 years old, many of my inside parts are young and need to be comforted just as any child would.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Does Not Always Mean Dysfunction and Disability Day-to-Day
To outsiders, my life may seem like a lot to manage, but I have accepted the hardships as well as the benefits of being a multiple. You couldn’t pick me out of a crowd and know I had DID. With open communication and a lot of hard work on all of our parts, I have managed to lead a functional life.
Each person with DID has different abilities. DID doesn't automatically mean that you can't do something any other person can do. Never let any disorder defeat you.
*From WebMD: "Statistics show the rate of dissociative identity disorder is .01% to 1% of the general population. Still, more than a third of people say they feel as if they're watching themselves in a movie at times, and 7% percent of the population may have undiagnosed dissociative disorder."
Matulewicz, C. (2016, February 3). Living Day-to-Day with Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2016/02/living-day-to-day-with-dissociative-identity-disorder
Author: Crystalie Matulewicz
It all seems so strange especially when my alter makes me look so stupid. Thanks
Any advice would be appreciated
HealthyPlace has an online forum, which can be found here http://www.healthyplace.com/forum/dissociative-disorders-forum/
There are also several groups on social media and Facebook which cater to different needs.
If you are concerned that you may have DID or another dissociative disorder (PTSD can also exhibit dissociative symptoms), you should bring it up with a mental health professional. The symptoms you described are present in so many disorders, it's impossible to give you answers just from that.
Have you tried keeping a log? That can help you keep track of your time during the day, your feelings, etc. and help pinpoint if there are any problems (dissociative or otherwise).
I couldn't possibly explain the experience of DID in a short comment. I will tell you that to have DID, you would need to have distinct alters, or parts (though you may not necessarily be aware of them). Are you familiar with C-PTSD? It would explain a lot of your dissociative symptoms combined with those of the PTSD.
Isolation is a horrible way to live.
Do not let your illness dictate who you are !!!
Even if you have tried and lost friends do not give up. Reach out and trust, if you are a person of faith poor out your heart to God.
No matter what ,YOU MATTER , You deserve happiness.
Sharing your life with others is healthy and very beneficial in so many ways.
I know from experience It is hard to make and keep friends when mental illness is in the way . But many people will warm up to you over time, some times it just takes a while for them to get to see your beautiful good traits, and not on what surfaces due to DID
I have found it helpful to tell new friends about my illness. Let them know what they may see in advance, and assure them you value there friendship and support . But if they notice you acting odd or saying or doing things that are hurtful,tell them to let you know and be patient with me. I would never purposely want to hurt you. Keep and use a good sense of hummer when talking to your friends about you illness . And in the end, even if you only find one person that values you as a friend and is willing to patiently and compassionately share life joys and pain it is worth it.
I don't have control of my parts all of the time. It's definitely a lot better than it was in the beginning of my diagnosis, and even before my diagnosis. Sometimes it gets frustrating when you can't "reach" an alter. You just have to be patient. It takes a lot of time to work with all of your parts. A great therapist can help you manage as well.
As far as support groups and the like, I find that there are quite a few support groups online. I know it's not the same as face-to-face, but it does help somewhat to communicate with others who understand what it's like to live with DID.
Both of us are doing our DETERMINED best to lovingly support one another. Any one who lives with or suffers from such mental illness as this knows how important LOVE PATIENCE , and determination is . The stigma that comes from those outside as well as your own, can if you allow or give in to it undermine your efforts to fight these illnesses. A good sense of humor is invaluable ,and to the best you can , getting professional help and educating your self concerning your mental illness It is impossible to deal with an illness you do not understand. We are very grateful as a couple to have each other and a loving caring family that supports us. We also have a very strong christian faith and spiritual family that is very understanding and supportive. We encourage any who suffer from Bipolar ,DID or any form of mental illness to do all you can to seek out those who will support you, and educate your self with information such as this web page provides to help you cope and lead a full happy life not a stigmatized life .