What Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Feel Like
Wednesday, May 25 2016 Crystalie Matulewicz
While the experience of alters becomes the norm when you have dissociative identity disorder (DID), it can be difficult for those without the disorder to understand what the experience of having alters in DID is like. To continue with Mental Health Month and the #mentalillnessfeelslike campaign, I asked a group of people with DID to describe how it feels to have alters. Here is a glimpse of what it feels like.
Having Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Feels Like Constant Teamwork
An underlying theme in many of the experiences of having alters that were shared was that having alters requires teamwork. Alters are not all the same, and can have differing opinions about things. It can be difficult to make decisions when there are numerous other parts offering their opinions. On the other hand, it forces you to learn to work together. As one person said, "it means learning a lot about other opinions and reactions and attitudes, and getting to know other people."
Sometimes, it can be difficult to work together as a team, especially when you have alters that you have never met before and know nothing about. This can create an imbalance in the system, especially if alters aren't willing to work together. Alters can be friends, family, or foes. Alters can like, and even love each other, but sometimes there is hate or dislike within the system. When this happens, it can feel chaotic.
Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters Feel Like Different Parts with Different Roles
Alters in DID commonly take on different roles and have different purposes within the system. For those with DID, having alters feels like having different people for each role; one can be a student, another a lover, and another a caretaker for the children.
One person described the experience of having alters in DID as having different applications (apps), each with its own specialty. Sometimes these differences feel positive, but sometimes it can make you feel worse. "All of the apps are really good at what they are designed for, and some can run together and enhance each other, but others shut each other off."
Dissociative Identity Disorder Alters Feel Like Being in a Car with Other People
The car-driving analogy is common when talking about DID and the experience of alters. My therapist would often ask me to make sure I was the one "at the wheel," which can be difficult when you have alters fighting to take control. One person described having alters as all being together, riding in the same car, with each person taking turns driving. Another person described the experience of alters as feeling like being on a bus full of people; sometimes it's loud and scary, while other times it's quiet and calm. It's always an interesting experience.
Dissociative Identity Disorder: One Body, Many Minds
Each person with DID has one body, but they share that body with other alters, each with their own ways of thinking and their own mind. As one person put it: "DID is like looking into a broken mirror. Different parts of me separated, yet part of the same whole. We all look the same, but we're different. We feel broken, yet unique. There is no way to fix it, but you just kind of get used to how it looks."
What do alters in dissociative identity disorder feel like for you?