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Dissociative Identity Disorder – My Super Power

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.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Sex Love and Obesity Part 9

In part 8 of Sex Love and Obesity I was getting on a plane and going back to wrap up my life in Portland – put all my things in my car and move myself all the way across the country to be with the man I had loved for the last 10 years.

I did that. I arrived in North Carolina in February of 2014 after 3 miserable months in Portland of trying to figure out how to tell the people in my life where I was going and what I was doing.

Now let me be honest about what that looked like in my world and how I rationalized this. I didn’t tell them I was leaving and not coming back. I told them I was going to North Carolina to take a job offer at a gym where I had the opportunity to get my start in fitness, build my career, and that I’d be back in a year.

Why? Well I had a lot of good reasons when I made the decision to lie about my plans. The third-party in our relationship asked me not to make any decisions right then. They wanted a chance to get their life together and get settled before I broke the news to my husband and they got faced with the challenge of having to move out on their own and stand on their own two feet financially.

I had this weird sense of broken obligation. I had made a commitment to be a slave. To do whatever he told me and even though he had broken every promise he had made to me along the way, I had some weird sense of financial obligation to make sure that when I left, all his finances were in order.

But more than anything, I didn’t want to face what was happening. I wasn’t ready to say the words “I want a divorce, I’m leaving” out loud because the one thing that I’ve been afraid of my entire life is being alone. If things with Superman didn’t work out, if I needed an escape route in that relationship, a safety net to fall back on, even though I was unhappy, leaving the way I did allowed me a sense of security if things went horribly wrong.

So far, life had shown me that things usually go horribly wrong.

I never used that safety net. I never went back. But things did go horrible wrong, and it was nobody’s fault but my own. I hadn’t even begun to deal with my issues. I had dealt with my obesity, I had dealt with my addiction to food. But I hadn’t come near dealing with the stuff that and drove me there to begin with.

On top of those unresolved issues we had now added to the mix the grief of losing my Father. Something I hadn’t dealt with; I had instead masked it. I had relapsed into smoking several times. When life got stressful I’d pick up a pack of cigarettes, chain smoke, and then quit again.

Back in 2011, stuck in a house in California surrounded by my dysfunctional family and not having food as an available coping mechanism while I was trying to deal with my father passing away, I had started smoking marijuana again as a way of escaping the emotional pain. In the family I come from, drugs are a readily available, accessible and acceptable escape route from our problems. When I’d gotten back to Portland after my father passed away, I had obtained a medical license for it. I had spent the better part of the last 3 years smoking the pain away in one form or another.

I had started drinking. Not to the point that I would consider myself an alcoholic, but to the point that it was becoming an issue. As a bariatric patient, I get drunk fast, it can get away from me quickly if I am not being responsible.

My intentions when I moved in with him were to not do any of those things. I wasn’t going to smoke anything, I wasn’t going to drink. He didn’t do any of those things. His life was low drama other than my involvement in it.

At first things with Superman and I were perfectly fine. For the first few months. I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, our life was everything I wanted it to be and more. I was happy for the first time in as long as I could remember.

But June rolled around, Father’s Day came, and neither one of us was prepared for how that grief was going to hit me. I didn’t know how to ask for help, I didn’t even know I needed it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt like I was suffocating, I felt anxious, I was stressed out.

Then July came around, the anniversary of my Father’s death hit, and it just got worse. I didn’t even know what was happening. There was this feeling in me I couldn’t explain or describe, this pain that nothing made better. I don’t think either of us realized what was happening. I started smoking again. Chain smoking. Something he very clearly told me he found unattractive.

He started becoming distant with me. Less affectionate. I felt rejected.

I understand, now, far too late, that this is where it really started to fall apart. Looking back, I wish I had realized what was happening. I wish I had gotten back into therapy, started trying to get help. I had recovered from my food addiction. But I hadn’t realized that the food addiction wasn’t my primary addiction. My primary addiction was sex.

It makes so much sense to me now. Now that I can look back on it, have gotten into therapy, can reflect on it. I could write an entire book on how sex had been my primary addiction my entire life. But once I started smoking and he stopped being intimate with me, a down whirl spiral was about to ensue.

I was trying to grieve. But I had no idea how to even begin the process. Sex was healing to me. It was one the thing that always made me feel better. Now, the choices I was making were causing him to not want to have sex with me, and him not wanting to have sex with me had my whole world spinning upside down.

I couldn’t do this again. I’d been in sexless relationships for far too long. I needed sex to make me feel better. I needed intimacy to make me feel wanted and loved. But now, in the middle of trying to deal with everything that lead me to obesity and the grief of loss of my father, sex was pretty much being withheld from me.

Him withholding sex from me made me feel abandoned.

I started burying all of that in a bottle. Not just a social drink here and there. No, this was more like, start drinking and don’t stop until you don’t feel anything. This was another behavior he didn’t find attractive. The more I exhibited behaviors he didn’t find attractive the more he disengaged from our sex life. The more he disengaged from our sex life, the more I looked for something else to escape in.

The situation just kept spiraling and neither one of us realized what was happening. I kept looking at the relationship wondering what was wrong with me. I kept wondering why he couldn’t give me the one thing I really needed from him. I tried to tell him what I needed. He didn’t want to lay the blame for the lack of attention at my feet, so he made excuses. He blamed it on age, lack of libido, anything but me.

When the alcohol started to affect my weight, I panicked. Regain was one of the most terrifying things in the world to me. I’d gained all my weight back once before, I wasn’t going to do that again. I stopped drinking and went back to smoking marijuana again. Another behavior he didn’t approve of. The cycle continued.

I think if either one of us knew how much the decisions we were making were hurting each other we both would have tried to fix it. We both would have tried to get me help.

Our relationship just kept circling the drain.

We went close to a year, in this vicious cycle where my actions made him reject me and his rejection pushed me deeper and deeper into my vices. I told him several times that if he didn’t give me the attention I wanted I’d start finding it somewhere else. My threats only made the situation worse.

Eventually, I made good on my threats. I started cheating. First it was a one-night stand at a weight loss convention that I’d never admit happened. Then it was me running off for a weekend to fool around, completely denying it while asking him to drive me back and forth the airport.

In less than two years my inability to recognize I needed help dealing with the grief, my lack of understanding of an underlying sex addiction and my tendency to turn to anything that would make me feel better rather than face it all had all dramatically damaged our relationship.

He was still there though. He wasn’t leaving me or giving up on me. But the lack of sex left me feeling unloved and feeling unloved and rejected by him was something I’d lived with inside of me for the last 12 years and something I just couldn’t do anymore. He loved me. I had no doubt he loved me. To this day I have no doubt that he loves me. But I couldn’t accept love in the way he was speaking it. I was just too broken and damaged to be loved.

Unfortunately for us both, someone else had come along and offered me “happily ever after”.  Someone else was offering me the best of both worlds. Someone else was promising me unconditional love, unwavering acceptance and an absolutely amazing sex life.

Two age-old adages apply to my story here.

For me, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” – I went to go check out other pastures.

For Superman, “If you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be.” – He let me go, without any fight or any resistance to see if I could figure it all out.

Stay tuned for Sex Love and Obesity Part 10 – Broken Promises, Broken Dreams, Broken Pandora

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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