I have a dissociative disorder that includes multiple personalities. Right now, with my psychologist’s help, I am trying to merge us so we can be one unified person. The idea of being unified is so exciting. I will have access to all of the emotions and memories, and stop fighting with other parts of me. It should be a tremendous relief.
But right now the process is difficult and overwhelming. My psychologist has experience with this process.
But I have discovered there is no roadmap for integration.
First I have tried to understand the personalities. I have been giving everyone a voice. Since I’m a creative person, I’ve had them write poems and create art. I let them write about their identities, fears, needs, and wants.
But sometimes it feels like the more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. Every poem, every vivid encounter with them, brings out something new.
My personality A keeps writing about events from the past. Through her writings I recover memories. My personality T is finally revealing some of her vulnerability. That is progress, but now I have a whole new side of her to understand and try to relate to.
Every week I strategize on how to deal with the personalities. I try out different coping skills and relational techniques. Some strategies work and some don’t. Often the strategy works at first, but then stops working. It’s hard to understand why.
Every week I see my psychologist and bring in typed pages of things that the personalities have written, and conversations I have had with them. Every week he sits and thinks for a while, trying to decide our next course of action.
He explained to me last week that integration is different for each person. He can’t give me concrete advice since my case is unique. We just have to keep trying things.
Last week he also told me that maybe integration for me won’t mean integrating all the personalities. My personality T is dangerous and keeps fighting with me. He said maybe I should never integrate with her. I was disappointed, but T scares me, so maybe that is wise.
Often I long for my experience to be different. Why do they have to be personalities? Why can’t they be hallucinations? Since I have bipolar disorder I have experienced hallucinations while manic. I wish I could take a pill and get the voices and inner conflict to go away. I wish I could find a cure to the twitching: how my head twitches violently every time one of them wants to speak.
I’ve been experiencing dissociative problems for 15 years and they never feel normal. It always feels strange and bizarre. I am “used to” having T scream at me for hours. I am “used to” switching back and forth with C. But every time it happens, there is a bizarre quality to the experience.
So often I think, am I imagining this? Is this real?
I am such a grounded, logical person. It’s hard for me to make sense of the bizarre.
I don’t think it will ever feel normal that T threatens to kill me. (By “kill” she means that she wants to be the dominant personality.)
I don’t think it will ever feel normal that C causes panic attacks and waves of emotions.
I don’t think floating outside of my body, or losing time, will ever feel normal.
I don’t think it will ever feel normal to sit in a room watching my therapist counsel one of the personalities. I watch C struggle to understand his words since she is only 8 and has a limited vocabulary and concrete thinking. I watch A attempt to explain to him that she “doesn’t know how to talk.” I watch T try to manipulate him. These selves are all part of me but they are so different from me.
I speak to the personalities by typing out my words and then their words. It’s hard to talk to them from within my head since we all talk at the same time and feel at the same time.
Recently I interviewed all of them. I asked all five of them what their greatest problem is, what their strengths are, and what they can do to help us integrate. Their answers were somewhat expected and somewhat surprising.
Afterwards I tried to read the interview out loud. As I read, my voice and behavior changed as I flipped to each personality’s lines. Some of them refused to read their words out loud. When I got to those words it was impossible for me to read them. It is so strange to see words on a page, that I have typed, and find it impossible to speak the words out loud.
At my next appointment, my psychologist asked me, “What are you doing with this interview?” I said I have no idea.
I wish I had a roadmap for integration.