Sunday, March 26, 2006

What's It Like Having MPD???

PREFACE: For the purpose of this article I will be using the terms multiple and MPD instead of dissociate disorder to avoid confusion. There is such spectrum of dissociation covered by the term DID. Having actual alters being at one extreme I felt using MPD would be less confusing. I refer to someone not having MPD as a singleton.

“Isn’t it hard living with multiple personalities?” “What is it like living with so many people in your head?” I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve been asked these questions. I’m sure that this may seem like a fairly simple question for these well-intentioned (some not so well-intentioned) people when they ask. Unfortunately that is miles from the truth. It would be like me asking you “what is it like living as a singleton?” The question becomes a little more complicated when the ball’s tossed in your court doesn’t it.? You don’t know how to explain what it is like to be a singleton to someone who isn’t, because being a singleton is all you know. There are no comparisons for you to make. The best understanding that I’ve achieved with this particular aspect of understanding of multiplicity vs. singularity was when I experience periods of what I consider to be integration. The closest I can come to an example is to imagine what it is like living in a large boarding house with a lot of people (with all that would entail) and with integration finding yourself living in the house alone ( I admit there are some negative aspects that go along with the obvious positive ones). Society tends to state that the successful conclusion of treatment for MPD is integration. However, there are a lot of multiples that would tend to differ with that and find that cooperation and awareness throughout the system is actually the ultimate goal. Society puts pressure for the mentally ill to achieve a semblance of ‘normal’ behavior. For a multiple to dissociate and have an alter who is better equipped to handle a particular situation to ‘come out’ and do so….is normal. In fact, for them the ability to create and use alters to deal with stressful situations is an adaptive skill that helped them survive what would have literally destroyed them had they not had this skill. Yes, I called it a skill. There are many multiples that have no desire for integration. For some it would be no more dramatic than asking them to ‘kill’ or ‘remove’ a part of themselves as basic to them as a toe or finger would be to you. I can already hear a few of you that are reading this thinking “oh get a grip. It can’t be that dramatic”. Well, you’re wrong, it is. It would be like for me to come up to you at your favorite grandmother’s funeral, put my arm around you and tell that I know how to make you feel much better about this whole thing. I look into your eyes compassionately and tell you that to stop feeling bad all you have to do is come to therapy and let me help you forget all your memories of your grandmother and presto you’ll be feeling better….and you would. You would have no memories of your grandmother and so there would be no grief at her passing. Yes, yes, yes, I realize that was a pretty dramatic example but sometimes it takes an example so simple yet so shocking to make people realize what they are asking for a multiple to have complete integration in terms of having no alter activity ever again. Talking about my own situation only after many many years of therapy; I have come to what I would consider an integration of sorts. An arrangement that I’m comfortable with at least. I have what would be considered a cognitive, cooperative and for the most part cohesive system. Only at times of deep stress will I have active alter activity (where an alter will come to the surface to the point that if you knew me you would know that I had an alter out). I don’t engage in any behaviors anymore that are damaging or destructive to the whole. I have a chronic severe pain condition and there are times when I have alters who will come out and let “me” rest a while. I personally find this to be helpful and no more harmful than meditation and it helps me to carry on with a much more active and “normal” life than I would otherwise be able to. I would love to wise enough to explain in such simple terms that everyone could understand what it is like to be a multiple. Unfortunately I can’t. I’m only one person diagnosed with MPD and just as every person is complicated and different so is every person with MPD if not more so. The only reason I felt that I had any experience with to share understanding is that I’ve tried several different levels of “trying to integrate” at different times until I found an integrated state I felt comfortable with. For anyone with or deals with MPD sometimes it takes more than once to find a comfort level with integration. It’s kind of like shoes occasionally you have to try on more than one before you find a comfortable fit. The last thought I would like to leave you with is this…..there is no such thing as normal or perfect in this life. What we should be striving for is a state of being where we feel comfortable living in our own skin.