Why does Dissociative Identity Disorder exist?

On the way to session, someone reminded us why we had DID. The diagnosis made sense with losing time and discontinuous experience. But the revealing evidence to us of the in-brain divisions was in the hospital circa summer of 2018.

Our therapist there assigned us homework to document all the trauma we’d ever experienced. We were given a few days to do this.

We wrote everything we could remember in our journal. It was not chronological—and maybe couldn’t really be—because some trauma was ongoing while other time-limited events occurred during it.

We wrote as many different traumas as we could remember (just labels—not full recounting).

In those few days, we would be triggered to a particular trauma and would search in our journal to see is we had documented it. In many cases, we hadn’t documented it. This astounded us. These were major life traumas, and they were not secrets or forgotten. Just not accessible when we were listing them.

We could not seem to remember them all at once. So we tried to study the list.

A day or two later, we took blank paper and folded columns and rows like a spreadsheet and tore them into separate cells (no scissors in-patient).

We then tried to write each trauma down again. And again we could not recall them all in one sitting.

This has really brought home to us the divisions in our brain that keep the enormity of so much trauma from being discernible all at once. For us, is this what DID is? Is this a primary reason or a side function?

DID created divisions to prevent us from experiencing all this trauma at once. This is what a brain can do to try to survive.

Especially as a child, what we could tolerate was limited, but the year we turned 18 added significant traumas, and we were already so vulnerable from prior traumas.

It’s hard to write about because it’s a little mushy. What are the dangers in trying to stitch together things that are not neuroconnected?

We don’t keep trying to see traumas all at once. We don’t do exposure therapy. It might take our whole life, and we might never finish. We want to try to experience presence, even a little, instead. Maybe these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. But with so much trauma, constant exposure seem violent, the gain not worth the pain.

Those who know exposure therapy, what do you think?

Does the potential purpose of our DID make sense to anyone reading this post?

17 thoughts on “Why does Dissociative Identity Disorder exist?

  1. That explanation makes a lot of sense.

    The DID guidelines from the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation identify 3 phases of treatment, with the second being “confronting, working through, and integrating traumatic memories.”

    They say: “The process of Phase 2 work allows the patient to realize that the traumatic experiences belong to the past, to understand their impact in his or her life, and to develop a more complete and coherent personal history and sense of self.” It sounds like they’re saying that the more fragmented that memories are, the harder it is to be in the present rather than pulled into the past. But perhaps there are multiple roads to greater presence, and exposure is only one possibility. What might be the right path for others may not be the right path for all of you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for saying the explanation makes sense. Meets our need for shared understanding 💕

      Your explanation of Phase 2 gives that Phase some credence to us: if we’re pulled into the past by fragmented memories, how will we practice presence?

      But therapists said they wouldn’t even do EMDR on us until we can be present and stay here. How can that happen? Ugh, maybe EMDR is phase 3 or later. Please don’t let there be like 74 stages!

      We know another path to more presence is through what the AIR Network (type of treatment) calls Most Resourced Self (another name for it has the A-word that AJ doesn’t appreciate). We have been working with a therapist on it for years, and we are just starting to explore out what the Most Resourced jons might look like.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. They combine AIR with some light DBT in our weekly skills group. DBT feels to us like made up strategies, like the rules for a board game or sport. Since it doesn’t feel organic or intrinsic to us, we have difficulty connecting to DBT or its rules. It feels kind of like this: https://youtu.be/qvXKmffeMkU (YouTube video of whack bat rules, _Fantastic Mr. Fox_).

          But we can use some of the neurobiology, find what resonates in DBT (like “check the facts”), translate it through NVC (ie feelings and needs) to try to grow our skills and resources.

          Most resourced self is hard, too. But it seems self-evident to us that we would be most effective as our most resourced self. It’s learning how to summon that us that is so vexing, like this: https://youtu.be/Z3sLhnDJJn0 (YouTube inconceivable montage The Princess Bride).

          Since NVC does resonate with us, this is the lens through which we are trying to interpret our world. Our brain is getting fried like an egg on drugs commercial: https://youtu.be/3FtNm9CgA6U (YouTube USA this is your brain on drugs tv ad campaign)

          Liked by 2 people

  2. To be human is a miracle. The things we do unconsciously to survive is amazing. Though, once again, I’m sorry that you were called upon to do these things. Dividing the unmanageable into piece that can be addressed or even simply borne seems like the probable potential purpose for DID. I like the way you’ve described it.

    I have used exposure therapy occasionally to help in my eating disorder recovery. I found it effective, but also difficult and close to traumatizing. I’m not sure it’s the best for people who still drift into the emotions of their traumas. I find it hard to stay present when examining the traumas of the past.

    I like what Ashley said – what may be the right path for others may not be the right path for you. Especially in therapy, I like to avoid the “one true way.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Em. This comment is very helpful in normalizing our fears about exposure. Thanks also for highlighting that Ash was pointing out that exposure therapy might not be the best path for us. We can lose sight of those options when we focus on reading and understanding the definition from a book and feel oppressed by our own construct of a right/wrong binary

      Liked by 2 people

  3. In awe of how you have progressed, showed courage and persistence to improve

    I think all
    Seriously abused kids
    Are
    Dissociated
    To
    Differing degrees

    You are
    At the far end

    We all
    Carry
    The demon, you carry a
    Carful

    Even those
    Of us who are not DID bury parts of our trauma to
    Survive

    We pay for it later in life when it explodes

    I can see that handling this buried trauma with my childhood trauma would not go well

    The mind protects
    Itself subconsciously also

    I commend you on
    Never giving up

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for seeing us!

      It did not stay buried for us. And the cost of the eruption has been high.

      “The mind protects/Itself subconsciously also”

      It’s sneaky

      We really do want to protect kids

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That link was useful for us! Thank you! Just reading about parts phobia and fear of Patty’s helped us feel seen and have shared understanding. What a gift for us!

      This bilateral stimulation is used by some us’s automatically when we get overwhelmed. Could that be helpful? Wonder how/why that developed in us?

      Ts do sometimes use bilateral stim. Specifically, when we’re floating away, New T uses it to broaden our awareness. It is effective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We don’t remember how we found it but we’ve bookmarked so many articles from it. We share the site quite regularly on Instagram to friends in the complex trauma community.

        The author has a newsletter ❤❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

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