Friday, September 23, 2011

Integration: Gaining and Losing

     When I first heard of integration, I was quite against it, as were my alters that I heard from.  How could we possibly fit into 'one' person without losing vital parts of the rest of us?  If Jack* is tall with red hair and hates green beans, but Lucy* is short and round and loves all vegetables, how are they supposed to become one person without one of them losing who they are?  Everyone was so diverse, so different, and so very important all on their own that none of us wanted to lose another or be lost.  My therapist told me that integration is sometimes a natural by product of healing, but was not something we needed to focus on as a goal, much to our relief. 

     Since I was focused on healing, some integration has indeed started happening on its own, and as we had feared, some loss is inevitable.  Whereas different alters can become aware of the existence of others with different pasts memories and beliefs, and respect that, if there is a merge there would be the problem of some of them losing their past, their beliefs, their identity to who they are.  I think some of us put off any possible merging until we could accept that.  Because they are right, they are going to lose that.  We have always tried to honor each others extreme varying views as they come.  With merging, there is less of a dramatic 'switch' now, less headache and extreme loss of memory.  Like first looking into a pair of binoculars when two individual circles of vision start to merge into one.

  One of my alters with the good memories panicked.  They were being lost as that grip on reality merged with one completely opposite.  We wanted to make a collage of her 'good dad' to honor all the good memories she had and let her hang on to that.  We knew she had whole reserves of good memories tucked away.  But when we went to get ideas, all we could remember was 'my dad makes really great chocolate chip cookies'.  The rest was a total blank, we could not remember much of our previous life from her perspective.  So we got out a picture book to find pictures with him and us doing happy things; Disney land, vacations, etc. always smiling for the camera.  They were from her memories all right.  But now we saw them differently.  Now we remembered those events from a different point of view, the shut out parts that she hadn't remembered, the not so good ones.  Every picture brought back new/shut out memories, every picture saw him smirking, hiding his secret.  Now her belief of this separate perfect world is gone.  Her world, her past, her life is gone.  Now 'she' is more connected to 'I' and we can't switch out to her world to take a break from that hard life.  This is our life.  I believe she made that choice to accept this, bravely let go of her perception of the 'perfect world' the 'perfect dad', and instead honor all of us as a human being with the truth.  It is incredibly painful, but it is healing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Honestly: a day in the life

     I filled out government forms applying for assistance this week, and again had to push myself to be honest.  To tell the truth about things that I had so carefully hidden my whole life, about what life with DID is like.  It's important for myself to speak out about it because silence has been such a destructive rule my entire life.  Hiding that secret was taking the burden of that on myself, and it was not something I should have ever felt the need to stay silent on, then or now.  My form questions went something like this;

     Describe your day  I know that I wake late, eat and care for myself, spend time on the computer emailing, researching, watching shows.  I know that I spend time each day cooking and usually exercising.  However I can never remember one day all the way through.  At the end of the day I can remember snippets, but I am never sure exactly what I did, so I can't tell you, because I don't really know.

     Do you have any trouble grooming, washing, feeding, bathing, using the bathroom?  I try to be dressed and groomed each day.  Usually other alters come out in the morning so it is often 2-3 hours before I can get around to that.  Showering is considered a waste of time to alters struggling to get some much sought "out" time, so between 38 alters showering usually happens every 2, or often 3 days, and even then reluctantly.  I am sometimes not in control of my body when another alter is "in front" so to speak, and many times cannot feel my body.  At these times it is difficult to have the awareness and control to do things like eat and use the toilet in a timely manner, or put a jacket on when cold, etc.

     How does your illness/condition affect your ability to sleep?  The more tired I am, the harder it is to keep control of my body.  Different alters come out at night and are unaware or don't care how tired the body is.  I often only get any sleep after the body has collapsed from exhaustion.  PTSD makes it difficult to sleep at night.  No matter how tired I am I have been unable to fall asleep before 2a.m. for the last year.  Because some alters have been conditioned not to be around other people, I have trouble feeling safe enough to sleep soundly if there is anyone else home.  I often sleep early in the day when no one is home, it is the only time I can sleep soundly.  One alter keeps me unconscious after I try and wake if there is someone else in the house.  This always lasts 2-3 hours no matter how I fight it.  Switching sometimes causes headaches and sleepiness, making it difficult to feel fully awake throughout the day, regardless of how much or how little sleep I have gotten the night before.

     Does your illness/condition limit your ability to drive?  Because of constant switching with alters that do not know how to drive, including child alters, it is unsafe for me to drive.

     How does your illness/condition affect your ability to work?  I cannot drive to work.  I cannot predict how much I will be capable of at any given day or time.  I cannot reliably remember information or scheduling for work.  I have trouble focusing or understanding verbal instructions.  I cannot prepare and bring food to work to take care of my food allergies with constant switching.  Because of some alters' conditioning, I have severe difficulty being near or interacting with other people.

     List any hobbies or interests you have.  I have 38 alternate personalities of all ages and genders, they all have their own interests and hobbies, ranging from martial arts, yoga, coloring books, guitar, cello, violin, penny whistle, harmonica, drawing, crafts, fashion, painting, boxing, watching shows (all kinds), reading (all kinds), studying french (other various languages), rollerblading, belly dancing, running, herbology, emergency medicine, alternative medicine, playing dress up, lunastix/fire dancing, photography, throwing knives/throwing stars/archery.

     How well or often do you do these interests or hobbies?  Sporadically.  Alters are rarely out frequently enough to spend much time on their hobbies unless it is shared by others, so few are at an advanced level.

     How does your illness/condition affect (speaking, talking, movement, memory)?  When another alter is "in front" I am often unable to speak, talk, move, sometimes see, to varying degrees.  Sometimes I can do these things as monitored by them by what they allow, ex: able to speak but not about a certain subject.  Often when someone else is speaking to me I find myself inert and unable to respond.  DID appears to make me very forgetful, not because I am or any of my alters are, but because they each have their own individual memory, and information is not always shared between alters.

     How well do you handle stress?  Considering that I live with quite a bit of stress in my day to day I suppose I handle it quite well.  I do have PTSD and panic attacks, and things that would seem normal to others, such as going out in public, can be quite frightening to me.  However I  am making good progress and expect to continue to do so.