Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder and Dysfunctional Dissociation
When we left off in Sex Love and Obesity Part 21, my entire life when it came to sex, love and decisions that involved those two things was unraveling at the seams. Every part of me was going in a different direction. Each part of me wanted something distinctly different. If you read my Dissociative Identity Disorder – Six Women One Mind blog, you’ll understand how dangerous a situation like this was for me.
Imagine six different versions of yourself, each fighting for which one gets to be in control. Each one has a different primary love interest. Each one is willing to do whatever it takes to end up where they want to be and with the person they want to be with.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is already challenging to deal with when it comes to daily things like deciding what to wear or how to fix your hair. Unsurprisingly, it is exceptionally harder when the decisions that your identities are struggling with are quite literally life altering decisions.
The fighting with Peter continued even though I was out of the house.
Peter and I had the blow-out I expected when he found out that I had gotten in the car, drove away and went to my ex’s house. It took a couple of weeks before he figured it out. I adamantly refused to tell him where I was. He thought I had taken my Godfather up on the offer to put me up in a hotel nearby. I was careful not to let anything slip when we spoke. And, no one that new where I was would give him that information. I made sure of that. I even stayed off social media for nearly two weeks, worried that somehow something I posted would clue him in.
In the end, that is exactly what happened. I made a stupid post on Facebook that showed my location in a town Peter knew my ex lived in. The next time we spoke, it resulted in an absolute blow up.
It wasn’t just that conversation though. Any conversation I had with Peter at that point resulted in a fight. We argued about where I was and whether I was coming back. We argued about who was getting what in the apartment. You’d have thought this would be simple. We had only lived together for a year. Anything you brought with you was yours. Anything I brought with me was mine. The stuff you bought is yours. The stuff I bought is mine. Nothing was black and while though. There was always something to fight about.
Fighting and sex was all that kept Peter and I together.
If we were not fighting, we were having sex more. If we were not having enough sex, we fought more. I knew if I went back, we’d end up having sex. We’d patch things up. Things would be better for a little while, then the fighting would start again.
My brain was spinning. I was in fight or flight mode and I wasn’t choosing one or the other I was constantly doing both. I was trying to get away. In my mind, whether I was right or not, Peter was a narcissistic monster. Being with him was unhealthy and dangerous for me. I kept telling Peter I needed time to sort through my emotions and feelings and decide what I was going to do.
I’d try to tell him it was over. That would lead to an argument that I couldn’t disengage from. The argument would get ugly and Peter would say things that would shake my resolve, make me doubt myself, make me question my sanity and whether I was making the right decision.
Once he had me discombobulated, he’d attempt emotionally manipulate me.
Getting me flustered, attacking my pain points and suggesting that whatever option he offered was in my best interest. This is a skillful act of emotional manipulation.
I told him, I was going to move out and be on my own for a while. Peter suggested that we move into a place together as roommates. He’d have his space. I’d have mine. Then, we could work on being friends and see if reconciliation was in our future. We wouldn’t be on our own financially. I wouldn’t have to live alone. Something he knew I was afraid of. I’d lived with my exes before. But none of my other ex’s were dangerous to my mental health. I knew this wasn’t going to work. It would just perpetuate the cycle we were in.
Next, he suggested that I get another apartment in the same apartment building we lived in. Just on the other side of the complex. This suggestion felt so stalker-ish to me. I wanted space and distance and he kept offering up resolutions that limited and restricted how much space and distance I could achieve. As a result, I fought harder for independence.
I should have said “This is over.” But I couldn’t make that decision.
Because, there was a part of me that thought that if Peter got help, if he saw a therapist and started addressing his issues, there was a still a chance that we could save the relationship. Part of me thought if we backed up, went back to being friends and each singularly worked on resolving our own issues, a time might come when we could re-approach a relationship.
I suggested that he see a therapist. Peter went to see a therapist. But intent is a big determination factor when you are in therapy. He told me he went in to the therapist’s office saying, “My girlfriend thinks I am controlling and confrontational.” In the end, the therapist he saw expressed that he didn’t think Peter had any issues at all and didn’t need to be in therapy. I was the one with all the issues.
This wasn’t shocking. Peter never thought he did anything wrong. It wasn’t surprising he had convinced a therapist of such in 1 session. I did have issues, there was no denying that. But, what Peter, and the therapist he saw were not seeing, was that my issues had been under control until now. I had done the work in therapy. I was a cooperative multiple. For nearly 15 years I had managed to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder without it ever being an issue for me.
Yet the more I struggled with trying to end things with Peter the worse my own mental state got. Before long, I began having full blown disassociation episodes again.
Peter was triggering all this, and I didn’t know how to stop it.
It wasn’t until I took Peter to see my therapist that this really started to come to light. I asked Peter to meet with me and my therapist so that I could tell him it was over in a safe space that allow me to avoid another volatile confrontation that would trigger me. Peter misunderstood the intent of the appointment. Peter thought we were there to attend couples’ therapy or for him to have a chance to try and fix things. He came prepared with a list of things he wanted to change to make the relationship healthier for me.
After that session, my therapist commended me. “I’m not sure how you did this for a year. Talking to him is like Chinese water torture. He’s so wrapped up in what he believes that he can’t hear anything else that is being said to him and he just cycles all his grievances on repeat.” She also reinforced my belief that for some reason I didn’t understand yet, Peter was triggering my disassociation. “You’ll never do well in a relationship that consists of constant conflict. Confrontation like that is one of the primary things your systems was developed to avoid.”
We never got around to reading the list he brought. He handed it to me before I drove away that day. I kept it. But at this point, nothing on the list mattered. No matter how much I loved Peter. His narcissistic personality triggered my dissociative personality. It was an unhealthy combination. Alone, we were both someone with some issues they needed to deal with. Together, I was so dissociative I was dysfunctional.
Dysfunctional Disassociation is a little hard to explain.
As someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, every action I take is mine. Mine. No matter what any of my alternate personalities do, in the end the responsibility for that lays on me. This is something they teach you when you are learning to manage Dissociative Identity Disorder. It isn’t always easy to accept though. Because often, the actions don’t feel like yours.
It feels like you’re having an out of body experience, watching your life happen but having no control over what you are doing. When you are in control, you’re cleaning up the mess of whatever happened when you were out of control. Often, the action is something you never would have done in the first place.
It makes sense if you think about it. As a functional and cooperative multiple, everyone is working together. No actions are taking place that are not in sync with this united goal. But when things start to get dysfunctional, alternate personalities are functioning on a singular level. I often refer to this as I versus we actions.
When disassociation like this is happening, it’s like watching a television show of your life….
Think of it like this… We have four orbs in a room. In the middle of those four orbs is one vessel. One body that each one of them can control. We’re going to give each orb a name, identify them and watch how it plays out.
Brieanna, who is madly in love with Peter and who wants nothing more than to do whatever it will take for her and Peter to end up back together. That means talking to him, trying to get him to go to therapy, trying to figure out a way to help Peter be a better man.
Genna, who is madly in love with Clark. It doesn’t matter to Genna that a relationship with Clark will lack passion and intimacy. She doesn’t necessarily care about those things. What Genna cares about is safety. Feeling safe is her top priority. She is content to sit on the couch with someone and watch television and just peacefully exist in the same space.
Shyann, who isn’t in love with anyone at all. Her epic love story happened long ago. In fact, she kind of resents romance and intimacy in general because of it. Her primary goal in life is to protect all the other orbs. If someone else does something and that results in a negative consequence, Shyann comes to the rescue.
Spice, who isn’t in love with anyone but who’s primary action is pleasure seeking. Meaning, she finds healing in sex. Because she is emotionally unattached, so is the sex. It doesn’t matter who it is with. Sex makes her feel better. It’s not unlike the way some of us use food as a temporary solution to our feelings.
In a perfect world, all these orbs cooperate with one another and decide on what actions the body in the middle of them are about to take. That’s a cooperative system. But for someone who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, that cooperation doesn’t always take place. Instead, that I versus we singular action kicks in. One orb does what they want to do with the body in the middle while the other orbs stand around waiting for their turn to make decisions again.
As A Result, A Day of Disassociation can look something like this…
Brieanna takes control. She calls Peter to talk to him and try to fix things. This results in an epic argument that has her upset and flustered. She loses control and that allows someone else to take the wheel.
Enter Shyann. She fights with Peter in defense of Brieanna. The fight becomes uglier and more volatile because, Shyann will say things Brieanna would never say. To escape, she ends up drinking her way to the bottom of a wine bottle. This allows for someone else to take the helm.
Genna pops in. She’s calm, rational and unattached to anything that just happened. Once Clark gets home from work, she tells him about her day. She includes the phone call with Peter, the argument and the bottle of white wine. Clark is likely to ask her, “Why did you call Peter to begin with?’ Her response is likely to be something like “I shouldn’t have, but it’s all so complicated.” Genna spends the evening snuggled on the couch watching television until Clark goes to sleep. She starts to fade off to sleep on the couch. Less alert her control slips.
Spice takes over. Bored, she decides to sneak off into the back room, call an old flame and stay up late on the phone discussing the potential of hooking-up the next time he is in town. She makes plans to see him that she may or may not follow through on.
This kind of scenario is a very typical example of how someone with dissociative identity disorder functions. How personalities cycle and how confusing life, especially when it comes to relationships, can get when you are in the throes of it all. An entire day is spent cleaning up the mess of one simple I versus we action. Brieanna calling Peter.
Dysfunctional Disassociation lead to a plethora of issues for me.
It’s important to me that as I tell you this story, I help explain to you how Dissociative Identity Disorder works. How unobtrusive to life it can be when someone that has it is getting treatment to manage it. And yet, how horribly life impacting it can be if it’s uncontrolled.
Peter used to often label me a control freak. In the context that he used it, he was wrong. I very rarely try to control what other people do. He had this one example, of that time I got mad because he went out on a bike ride to explore the new town instead of staying home unpacking boxes and looking for a job. That’s not a control freak. That’s a typical woman expecting you to act and behave like a grown ass man. ( Sorry, Not Sorry. True Story. )
But in some way, he was right. Control is important to me. Controlling my Dissociative Identity Disorder and controlling the village in my head is an integral part of my existence in the world. It is something I am tasked with daily.
The next part of this story is going to paint a good example of why. Additionally, it’s going to show very clearly how Dysfunction Disassociation nearly ruined my life in the matter of six short months. Stay tuned.