I get asked quite a bit how I found out that I might have Dissociative identity disorder so I wanted to take the time to write out my story in a hope that it might perhaps help others who are going through similar experiences.
Growing up I had a lot of, what I now know to be, dissociative symptoms. I often didn’t feel real or connected to the world around me. I felt like an outsider looking in and as a child, I would spend a lot of time sitting alone watching everyone else play, often feeling like I wasn’t really supposed to be there. I have a distinct memory of being 10 years old and crying in the playground because I couldn’t remember who I was. I remember the confused looks on my friend’s faces while I tried to put my depersonalisation into words. This feeling also manifested when I was look in the mirror and suddenly feel completely separate from the person staring back at me. I’d often be left frozen, blinking blankly at the stranger in my reflection.
I mention in one of my previous blog posts that I am a voice hearer. I hear voices inside and outside of my head. When I was very young the voices inside my head felt almost like imaginary friends. They would have their own names, voices, personalities, and opinions. I didn’t think much more of it until I was in my late teens and I started to see people that others couldn’t see. I felt like they were constantly watching me. Other strange things began to happen. My things would go missing or I’d find stuff in my room that I didn’t recognise. I’d find notes in my diary that I didn’t write and was startled to wake up and find Russian poetry scribbled on my wall. A few times I came home to find my clothes cut up or my posters ripped up. I was so confused and scared. I didn’t know if someone was messing with me or whether something supernatural was going on, but it gradually began to get worse. I’d have blackouts where I would end up in random places and have absolutely no idea how I got there, or I’d hurt myself but have no recollection of doing so. I convinced myself that I was being haunted and needed to appease the spirits, so they’d leave me alone. I was too scared to tell anybody in case they thought I was crazy or making it up.
It wasn’t until 2009 when I was attacked by a man I hadn’t met before and sought counselling with an organisation called RASASC, that I began to open up fully about what had been happening to me. My counsellor was kind, patient and non-judgemental. She made me feel like it was safe to let her in and that she wasn’t going to abandon me or call me crazy. After several months of working with my counsellor she asked me if anyone had ever spoken to me about the possibility of having a condition called Dissociative identity disorder. She explained that she thought that the people I could hear in my head were other parts of me or ‘Alters’ and that they were the ones acting through me when I dissociated and ‘blacked out’. She reassured me that this was my brain’s response to trauma when I was a child and that I wasn’t being attacked by spirits or losing my mind. She helped me to start to communicate more effectively with my alters and signposted me to organisations such as PODS (now known as Positive outcomes for dissociative survivors) and First-person plural. We had a safe place to explore our emotions, get to know each other and learn to trust each other enough to form the system we are today.
I am so grateful to my old counsellor for all the support she gave me in my journey and the power she handed back to me when I felt terrified and helpless.