I’ve been trying to decide how to broach this topic for a quite a while now. It’s a sensitive subject. It’s something I want to make sure I explain well so that it is not misunderstood or misinterpreted.
It’s something I’ve avoided discussing publicly for fear of judgement or ridicule. But, it’s also something that I feel we need to talk about before we move forward in the Sex Love and Obesity series.
Without understanding this component of my life, you might not understand how badly my lack of self-worth, self-confidence and self-efficacy nearly ruined it.
When it comes to discussing mental health, I have issues with terms. Most mental health issues are considered “mental illnesses”. There is a stigma that surrounds mental health issues. In my opinion that stigmas is just as prevalent as those that surround weight bias.
I don’t consider what I am about to talk about a mental illness, I consider it a “mental ability”, a self-defense mechanism, a coping skill, a miraculous function of my mind that has allowed me to survive traumatic things. I believe that if I had not had this ability, I might not be here today. I believe it saved my life.
I have what is classified as Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) – is a condition where a person’s identity is compartmentalized into two or more distinct personality states. People with this rare condition are usually victims of severe abuse.
But, I don’t consider it a disorder, I consider it a super power.
I consider it something that saved my life during a highly traumatic time in my childhood. I’ve often defined myself as an “escapist” – when things in life get tough I typically find something else to bury myself in. I find something that provides me an escape from whatever is going on so that I don’t wallow in the darkness and self-pity of whatever negativity surrounds me.
I believe that DID, MPD, whatever you want to call it, is the first form of escapism that my brain learned as a child. It allowed me to NOT be present for the abuse that was happening to me at the time. It allowed me to escape to a place in my mind where what was happening wasn’t happening to me, it was happening to someone else.
Having DID as a child was never a problem for me. It was a benefit. I lived a very sheltered childhood. My mother considered herself “over protective”, she didn’t allow me to do much and as such I didn’t have much of a social life. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I learned to deal with the loneliness and isolation by making up my own friends. That’s how I explained the different personalities my mind had created to myself as a child, they were my friends.
It wasn’t until my late teens that having DID started to cause problems for me.
As the insurgence of the internet exploded and chat rooms that allowed you to anonymously talk to people came into the world, I started to realize that what had saved me as a child was posing a problem for me as an adult.
Things started to happen that I couldn’t explain. I started losing time. Suddenly waking up in a different part of the house and not remembering being there. I found clothes in my closet that I didn’t remember purchasing. Food in my refrigerator that I didn’t remember eating had disappeared.
But the most alarming issue was that I started finding chat logs on my computer of conversations I didn’t remember having. Conversations with different men, each of which I appeared to be having some sort of romantic relationship with, and in each circumstance, I had given them a different name for myself and many of the names where names that I recognized as “my friends” – the friends I had when I was a little girl. The girls I played with in the backyard when I was lonely or scared.
I convinced myself that these girls were my roommates. That the reason there were chat logs on my computer of their conversations with other people was because they used my computer when I wasn’t home. I attributed much of what I was experiencing to these roommates. The strange clothes in my closet, the missing food in my refrigerator, the things that got moved around the house. It was the only rational explanation.
But my time loss issues started getting worse. I started losing track of days not hours. I started losing track of weeks not days. Then one day, I woke up in an apartment I didn’t recognize, with a man I only knew of as one of my friend’s internet boyfriends looking at me and calling me by a different name.
I had lost the better part of three months – I had no idea what had happened in that time frame. But from what I could piece together – I had ended my previous relationship, moved in with someone new, and had spent the better part of three months smoking methamphetamine trying to lose weight because the man I was living with thought I was too fat.
Not too long after this incident I went into treatment.
Treatment didn’t happen overnight. It took almost a year before I found a mental health professional that recognized what was going on with me. Things got a lot worse before they started to get better. I was very lucky. I had a Godfather that had some prior experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder. He was relentless in the pursuit of getting me treatment and making sure that despite this diagnosis, I would be able to function in the world.
I spent the better part of 6 years in therapy. I went into an inpatient program at a hospital that specialized in the treatment of DID – and miraculously by the time I was 25 I was what mental health professionals considered a “Cooperative Multiple”.
It is common in treatment for DID/MPD to try to integrate the compartmentalized personalities. To try to bring them together as one whole. It’s also something that isn’t achievable unless the personalities want to be integrated. This was the case in my situation. I had personalities that were designated as “Protector Personalities’, pieces of my identity that were assigned protector roles in my life. They had protected me from harm and abuse several times over. They had protected me from others, and even sometimes, from myself.
When you have such dominant personalities that do not want to be integrated, for whatever reason, full integration is pretty much unattainable. In my case, my protector personalities didn’t believe they were no longer necessary. Life had been rough for me, they had to be there to protect me a lot, they weren’t ready to leave me to my own devices. In situations like mine, the goal then becomes cooperation. The compartmentalized personalities must be able to function together in a way that represents a whole cohesive unit. They must be able to communicate with each other, make decisions together, and present to the world as one whole person rather than multiple personalities encompassing one body.
I am a Cooperative Multiple.
What that means for me personally is that in everyday life, my compartmentalized brain functions as one common unit. I’ve always explained it to people close to me like this…
Everyone has that little voice inside them that tells them what they should or should not do. Some might refer to it as their conscious, some might view it as the devil or angel sitting on their shoulder debating right from wrong. For me, in my head, those voices are more distinctly recognized. They have names, personalities and sometimes skills attached to them.
Ever heard the saying it takes a village? It applies very much to how I live life every day. I have a village, a tribe, in my mind that helps me function in the world as a normal person.
I’m not walking down the street having conversations with myself. I’m not standing in front of someone talking about myself like I am not there, but every day of my life, the compartmentalized components of my mind work together to form one whole version of myself that is presented to the world. This is what I learned to do in therapy. This is how I learned to deal with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
If you did some research on Dissociative Identity Disorder you might find this discussed as a “harmony between altered identities.” It is sometimes referred to as “resolution” and involves achieving a cooperative arrangement between identities. It allows someone like me, “optional functionality” in the world and it is a much more common outcome that full integration.
Living as a cooperative multiple worked for me for almost 15 years. I didn’t lose time. I never found myself out of control of what I was saying or doing. I didn’t experienced an internal struggle inside me for control. I never felt the need to warn anyone about it or to explain it, because I had done all the work to learn how to deal with it, manage it, and live with it. When something hasn’t been an issue for nearly 15 years, you don’t really expect it to be an issue.
So why am I sharing this information with you NOW?
Because we’re talking about Sex Love and Obesity. We’re talking about how my lack of self-worth and self-confidence attributed to decades of suffering from obesity as well as my lack of self-awareness of these issues lead me to make poor choices when it comes to sex love and relationships.
My poor choices didn’t just wound me emotionally, they wounded me mentally.
My next relationship choice led me right into a full-blown mental breakdown and suddenly after 15 years of being able to function and manage as a cooperative multiple, I found myself back to losing time, losing control, and losing my cooperative skills. My compartmentalized mind started trying to protect me when I wasn’t doing a good enough job at protecting myself.
It was a very ugly, very scary moment in my journey, and we’re about to talk about it.