For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Sep 25, 2008

An extraordinary thing

An anonymous commenter on this blog inspired me to write this truth about survivors. You would expect that people having such horrific memories, nightmares, flashbacks, etc. would be traumatized (or re-traumatized) by such explicit and terrifying material. That is not the case though. When survivors remember their trauma and have the opportunity to process the emotions, they heal. They grow stronger as each new horror surfaces and the dissociated selves who held the trauma move into a place of healing and safety. To me, this is validation of the existence of DID.

I'd also like to take a moment to address the belief that people would choose to fake DID. The only people who might gain from such a charade are criminals wanting an excuse for a crime. ("Joe" killed that person, not ME.) DID is not insanity, although defense attorneys have tried to claim so. You will always get a defense attorney claiming insanity with psychiatrists supporting the claim while the prosecuting attorney proclaims the opposite with his or her own expert testimony.

Aside from that, people with DID in treatment learn that having DID is not an excuse. One body encompasses all the dissociated selves and that body is responsible for all of its actions. I taught this to children with whom I worked. They understood. An adult understands too.

If someone wanted to fake a diagnosis (for whatever reason there could possibly be beyond protection from prosecution for a crime), they would certainly choose something easier than DID. I'll use an example (a composite of several survivors). Alter Janie is 5 years old and appears as terrified with a soft spoken voice. She twirls her hair constantly and never maintains eye contact. Everytime without fail.

Lola is the promiscuous adult who recalls being "sexy" for the father beginning at age 5. She sits in a provacative position, has a husky voice, laughs in a flirting way, and cries as soon as she is asked about her feelings about the father. Corky is an 8 year old boy who loves to play. He bounds out and wants to jump up and down on the sofa (which he is not allowed to do) or play pirates. He talks endlessly about his favorite cartoon shows with barely a breath. Corky's job was to be happy no matter what was happening to the body.

Whenever any alter presents, s/he can recall exactly what we were talking about the last time they were "out". A person without DID would be hardpressed to remember who is what age and exactly what unique identifying characteristics go with each consistently over the course of regular treatment.

Lily is an adult who holds hopelessness and is extremely depressed. She also holds constant thoughts of self harm and suicide. She appears at the beginning of a session and begins to work with me when she is suddenly interrupted by another alter. (I work with whomever is there unless I know it's intentionally disruptive to certain work. Then I will set up an appointment time for that part to be heard.) The client is subject to switch frequently. At the end of the session when it's time to ask for a "safe driver", Lily appears completing the sentence where she was abruptly interrupted an hour earlier. She has no awareness there has been a blip in time and is frustrated to learn, once again, that she didn't get enough time with me.

Anyone want to volunteer to do that three times a week for several years? Actors playing someone with DID get retakes to get it right and consistent. DID would be nearly impossible to fake over a period of time. I would imagine that those on trial for crimes have plenty of time to rehearse how they will spend their very limited time with a psychiatrist and attorney to play one or two other roles.

I'm not sure how The Netherlands manages to gain funds for their wonderful research for DID, but I'm glad they do. Several researchers have done groundbreaking work which has been published in the literature recently. One study shows that at least two separate areas of brain activity in someone with DID can exist at the same time. This translates to findings that each dissociated self may have it's own blood pressure, heart rate, vision, and various other characteristics. More research is being done in this area. This is a component that someone trying to "fake" DID would not be able to imitate.

Admittedly both having and/or witnessing someone with DID noticeably switch can be disarming, bizarre, and fascinating. What we need to remember is the survivor is first and foremost a human being who dealt with tremendous trauma at the very least for several years prior to age six. The person deserves our utmost respect and understanding. For those who have some misinformed fear, unless you are threatening the survivor, no part of him or her is going to hurt you or anyone else! If you are known to the host--the survivor who has been your friend or co-worker or spouse and you have been safe in the person's life, it is highly unlikely any part will come out in fighting mode. If anything, there is likely to be a "Who are you?", in which case you can explain you are (name of survivor)'s friend.

In fact, a support person is critical to help the survivor heal. She is not going to know when some other part comes out to talk to you until co-consciousness kicks in. A helpful hint on this topic: If an alter speaks to you and you feel uncomfortable, simply say, "I need to speak to (name of survivor)." Or call the survivor's name and say you need to speak to her. That is okay. It works. Maybe not immediately but it is usally all that is needed in a non-triggering environment.

Remember that having DID is as disarming to the survivor as it is to you in the early stages of awareness and healing.


Anonymous said...


Im glad you are pushing this message out, respect to you :-)

NO-ONE would lie about being abused or the effects of it. In my experience its exactually what you WOULDNT do to get attention. Ive found people very un-sympathetic and very cautious with me when ive discussed what happened to me. Of course theres always going to be the odd person who will lie, but this percentage is going to be very small in my opinion!

Its a fight trying to survive, and when you want to heal its also a fight. My life has been one big scrap against people and my own mind. I pray for the day when im at peace with myself and the world, and i feel like the world is also at peace with me!


Kath08 said...

I am so thankful for the information you have put together here and your other sites. You have validated so many things for me.
I witnessed my brain carry on 2 separate activities. I witnessed me fighting to regain thought control without success. I witessed my usual self recede into the back of my head while another self came.

Can you please post more how to integrate. I have been trying to do it for months now. I wish my therapist understood it more.
I wish i could see you if you were in nyc area. Or do phone sessions. I would email you this if i could find an email here. I think my post contains my email.
Thanks so much.

Grace said...

Thanks for letting me know the information helped you, Kath. Sorry I couldn't find your email. I'll be talking about integration at some point. What I can tell you is that you don't get to decide when to integrate; your system lets you know. Sometimes survivors wake up and realize something has happened.

There is confusion about which terms to use when one or more parts merge together, when one or more groups merge together, when a substantial portion of the system integrates... Different literature will say certain things happen that wasn't true for me. I had 3-4 clients have an integration experience and no two were alike.

Maybe you can ask your t if she is willing to help you explore if anyone inside would like to join together. No part that doesn't want to, doesn't have to. Some are afraid until the others have tried :-O. You know how that goes. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I'm indetifying with some things you say on this blog. Some of the terminology is off putting.

I don't view myself as HAVING a disorder. As a person in a collective of people sharing one body, I am constantly fronting. I am the one most people know as the body's name, but I am not the body.

Each person within the body is not an alternate of the body. They are not just a person holding an emotion or a memory, they are whole people.

Of course, it's taken me 10 years to get to this understanding.

But not every body with multiple persons is the same. I just want to acknowledge that.

Grace said...

Hi Asrai-D,
Thank you for posting. The language that goes with DID is so subjective. Each person needs to use the terms that go with him or her. I sort of use various terms at various times that are common. But I do acknowledge how each multiple views him/herself is very individual.

I'm not meaning to label anyone--am trying to be as encompassing as I can. And I agree wholeheartedly that it is not a disorder. It's the term that is used "out there" though so I am using the term to re-educate. Any having DID would rather it be called DIB (dissociative identity blessing) or something similar. It saved our lives.