Saturday, 20 April 2013
Are there different degrees of switching in dissociative identity disorder?
In response to a very heartening comment on an old post asking if I had given up on blogging, I had said that I would answer that question with a post. I have felt bad about that as it was quite some time ago and I never did post again, but I feel now is the time to admit that it has not been for lack of trying. I did try to write a post to get me back into it but it somehow became a monumentally long autobiography and by the time I reached the age of sixteen in the post I was feeling utterly exhausted and overwhelmed and also realised that no one in their right mind would want to reach something so long, so I never posted it. So instead of trying to write a 'getting back into blogging' post, I have just written a post. A plain old standard post with no mention of my lack of blogging, no introductions for new readers and no apologies for not blogging etc (aside from what I have just said). So here you go... (oh and PS, I'm doing a lot better lately than I was a year ago and maybe I'll tell you about that some other day)
In therapy this week my clinical psychologist and I discussed the previous session and some 'switching' (changing from one part/alter/personality being in control, to another) which had occurred during the session. My memory of this is vague... I remember being anxious, not being able to breathe, then feeling like... bad feelings in my throat... then I don't remember what happened next... then I was watching someone talking to T (I was watching from inside my body, in the background, far away) and asking her what she wanted them to do for her. I could see out. I could see the room and I could see T and hear her saying I wasn't anywhere but her office but it somehow didn't make sense and I wasn't the one talking to her. I remember everything being blurry and later my eyes feeling strange and not being able to see properly.
This week, on meandering through our reflections of the process from each perspective together we talked about degrees of switching. Or perhaps we came to conclude that there are degrees of switching. The switching that happened last week was clearly obvious. It was clear to T that I wasn't the one talking to her. I don't have much to say about that really. That's an obvious aspect of DID. But for me there is a different kind of switching, which seems to be more of a grey area.
I can't remember exactly how this came about but at one point I commented that sometimes I don't know 'who' (or which part) I am. I feel like I am actually a different person (not just observing a different person) but I can't say who and I feel that other people probably wouldn't even notice but to me, I am someone else. I happened to be feeling this on this particular day also, I don't know if that's part of why I was talking about it or not as it happens at other times and I don't mention it. I had noticed the change about an hour before I went to my session but I didn't mention it to T because I didn't feel it was necessary; it seemed like more of an internal difference than an out and out switch. I was taken aback therefore when T responded by asking if I felt that way at the moment because she didn't think she was talking to Candy. This surprised me a lot as I hadn't actually realised how obvious my 'internal changes' are.
I couldn't help but smile a little at that moment. I think it was relief actually because I want to be 'seen' and understood and T had just proved that she does see me and notices these subtle changes... or I am more obviously different than I thought. But either way I just felt glad that she seemed to notice and understand. Even Adam doesn't get it sometimes. He knows how to identify some of the parts and responds to them accordingly but there are times where I think he just assumes I am in a mood or something. Don't misunderstand, one alter can have moods. I can be in a bad mood and it not be that I have changed to a different part. I may be a part but I have more than one aspect to me nonetheless.
So T had realised she wasn't talking to 'Candy' and wondered what part she was talking to. I explained that I still feel like I am Candy but that I'm also someone else. It's hard even for me to understand that; let me try to explain... When I completely switch, I often feel like I am observing someone else from the background. I am Candy, but I'm not out at that moment so I am not the person you will be talking to; someone else is in control of me and I am just seeing out from the background. However, during these less obvious switches I still feel I am the person in control and I am talking to you but I am actually someone else, rather that just observing someone else. Does that make sense? Yeah, I'm not sure either. If you have DID you are probably kinda getting it and might have better words or knowledge of dissociation to explain it.
We discussed a little bit and T proposed that it is like I am in between the two; the two being 'myself' and 'another part'. She said: "You're neither here nor there" which I found kind of funny but true in a way. On this day I seemed to be in between being myself and being Ebony, a darker part. T said that I seemed like a less happy person, more subdued. (I wondered then if she ever does sees a 'happy' side of me? I often feel she only sees the downer sides of my personality and then I worry that she must find me a terrible sad sack and a bore) So could it be that it's half a switch? Or is it that I have switched to another part but that me and that particular part are not entirely separate personalities?
In general we like to think of Dissociative Identity Disorder as involving very distinct, separate personalities who have no shared knowledge or memory with the other personalities. I suppose that is what is even 'required' by those who make a diagnosis of DID. In reality, for me anyway, it is not all clear cut. I can't deny that there are those levels of separation (I try to deny it plenty but that's another blog post) but there are other levels of separation which are not so distinct and separate. Is this what it's like for people with Borderline Personality Disorder and Complex PTSD? This reminds me of when I used to try to figure out what was wrong with me when I knew I had dissociation but wasn't sure what diagnosis I would have. It's hard to really worry about categories or symptoms and diagnoses anymore. I used to worry about what my official diagnosis would be if I was 'tested' etc, like it made a difference to how I should feel. I guess I thought if I got diagnosed with DID it was more serious than if I got diagnosed with something else and on one hand I didn't want that because I wanted to be able to deny anything bad could have caused it, but on the other hand I felt if I was told I didn't have DID then I shouldn't be feeling the way I was and that, somehow would make me feel bad.
Nowadays I don't worry about it so much. I have learnt somewhat to accept the periods of denial I go through and not get tangled up in analysing myself but try to sit with the feelings and remember that sometimes I feel differently. Then during the other times, when it is apparent that I very much do have a dissociative disorder and I am more aware of intrusive images and symptoms etc and starting to feel overwhelmed by the need to either accept or deny that I was abused in this way and that way and the other way by him and her and him and them etc... then I try to keep it simple by forgetting about the past and focus on looking at how my life is affected at this moment in time and remembering that this is what I am working to change in therapy, no matter what has caused it. Phew. Hard to write parts of that last sentence and now I am having to do the very thing I just wrote about. It's upsetting and it's an ongoing thing that affects me. I don't need to analyse it more than that at the moment. Breathe...
I digressed a bit there, sorry. To get back on point... maybe the levels of segregation/separation in a system (all the parts/alters/personalities that make up one human with DID) can vary as well from one time to the next. On one day I might be able to be more aware and involved in being a different part where on another day I might be more oblivious to them. I think the experience of feeling like I am another person is a good thing though. It allows me to be able to be more connected to my DID 'system' and even if only for a short time, realise that therapy is the place for me and that I am not a total time waster who's lying to myself as well as my therapist.