One of the scariest parts of living with DID is the blackouts. A “blackout” can last from seconds to hours. What is happening during this time is that whoever is present becomes overwhelmed for some reason and retreats. Alters generally take over in order to protect the “main” personality or the system as a whole. An alter may step in to protect the rest.
For example, I was at the doctor’s today. All weekend I have had chest pains and shortness of breath, but I have mainly written that off as allergies and the humid weather — maybe a little stress too. At any rate, I was seeing Dr. K to discuss the fact that I am gaining weight, more tired than usual, and irritable. I am thinking maybe it’s my thyroid. One of my alters, probably Victoria or Joanne (Victoria is the “perfect one” and Joanne is my “organizer/adminstrator”), must have told Dr. K about the chest pains. I have no memory of mentioning them to him, but he insisted on an EKG based on what I “told him.” I realized then that another part of me must have shared the information for the benefit of the “whole.”
My many parts are as much a blessing as a curse. Nonetheless, just keeping track of myself can be an exhausting, uphill battle. My brain, like a computer, sometimes works quickly and efficiently. It retrieves information from many different folders and files and feelings stored by my various selves. At other times, though, it slows down. Files become blocked. Sometimes I will freeze or get stuck in a loop. I need to hit “ctrl-alt-del” and use “task manager” to shut down. Then I can regroup and retrace where I’ve been.
The safeguards my mind has constructed create obstacles that can be difficult to maneuver. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the challenge of simply remembering where I am and what I am doing. Sometimes I find my emotional self trapped in one alter even though a different alter is out and controlling our actions. The younger parts of me are beginning to understand that even though they still “exist” per se, they no longer exist in the same form or physical body that they were in when they were born or became trapped.
One of the strangest effects of DID is what I call mirror shock. There are times when I am unable to recognize the person reflected at me from the mirror. I catch a glimpse of myself and I am shocked. “That’s not me,” I think. Then I realize that it is me even when it isn’t. Although I can see subtle changes in my facial features based on who is most present, my outward body doesn’t always match my inner construction.
The mind is a brilliant and beautiful creature. Mine has constructed itself in such a way that its various facets co-existed for many years without my even knowing it. As my therapy gradually unfolded and I began to learn more and more about DID the pieces of my life started falling into place. That “wow, this explains everything” moment of realization was proof at last that I wasn’t crazy; I was coping.
The way my system has been developing awareness and integrating feels natural. I am not pushing the process as much as I am allowing it to unfold. I worry, though, whether I will still be able to multitask the way I do once (if) I am fully integrated. Will I still be able to tap into the energy and resources switching alters provides me? Hopefully, The United States of Tara will examine that question.
The United States of Tara debuts tonight at 9:00pm ET on The Movie Network.