During journal time, our dissociative identity system likes to end on a positive, affirmative and summary statement.
If we make a plan, trust each other and stick to the plan – then we can do anything.
That’s pretty much the theme of our healing process and our DID recovery goals. Systems with dissociative identity disorder are often forced into integration by therapists and treatment centers. If you ask us, it has more to do with the stigma surrounding the disorder and society’s need to see one personality as “normal” than it does with what works best for that system and the senses of self within it.
Our goal for living with dissociative identity disorder is not integration.
We are fortunate and grateful to have a therapist that not only believes in DID but supports our decision to not work toward integration. Her only comment is that sometimes integration happens naturally with alters that have a lesser role in the system. Of course we are fine with that – but that isn’t exactly how’d we like it to turn out.
As far as goals go, we hope that if we all learn to work together effectively then we will be stronger but still separate. For us, achieving these goals has been anything but easy and we certainly aren’t there yet. It’s a long process – as is any healing journey – and we are taking it one small step at a time. That’s not to say that pace isn’t excruciating for some of us, but is comfortable for most of us and sometimes that’s what matters when you’re a multiple.
Our long term treatment goal is being able to function in daily life as a full time business owner like we used to, use healthy coping skills to manage triggers, and to process trauma to regain control of our minds, body and souls.
For us this means getting a handle on several things. Honestly – it felt like anytime we got a handle on something – there was something else to get a handle on. Eventually, we bought stock in the handle company. (thanks Gage)
Here are the steps we are taking to get where we are and where we want to be – we hope that they help another multi-conscious mind achieve their goals as well.
First – we had to accept that we were a system. Then we had to accept that the other parts of self had their own needs and deserved to have them met. After that – we thought – we got this in the bag. But then – – –
We had to accept that most of us were unaware. Of everything. Our needs, our strengths, our desires and our own personal treatment goals. With that came the need to accept that each of us had our own additional issues to work through. Just when we thought we had accepted it all – we then accepted that we had to befriend each and every one of our alters, get to know them, encourage them to get to know themselves and finally – we felt like we accepted what our treatment goal actually was.
Now we knew who needed what and when. To this day, we still aren’t fully aware of everyone and everyone’s needs. However, we are working on it. You can read Emmie’s update blogs to find out exactly how.
Meeting our alters where they are
Trying to get alters to act how we want them to wasn’t working too well the way we were doing it. Criticizing their choices, their actions and telling them how they should do it seemed to only worsen the relationship and firm up the amnesiac barriers we had. We had to find a different way.
Therapy led us to some expert insight here. While those behaviors were how we had always done things because that’s what example we had – they weren’t effective at making anyone feel safe – much less want to work with you. When the therapist put into that perspective – we decided to choose our words and actions more carefully.
We started to treat our alters like friends. We chose to help them with how they are feeling. We chose to even ASK how they were feeling. We chose to observe changes in the body and recognize when someone needed help.
Encouraging alters to ask for help
Entirely at the recommendation of our therapist – we began to actively ask each other for help. When MaKayla was too anxious to go on, she was to ask Lydia or Izzy for help with doing something to get out of that mindset. It is never one sided though – and encouraging someone you love to ask for help also means reaching out and checking in. It means being supportive and helpful in a time of crisis.
More radical acceptance here – but we discovered that we also needed to attempt to gently remind her of coping skills to use in her time of need. This meant we had to care about more than just our time in the body – which sucked for me, Lydia. This resulted in both our conscious sense of self and our subconscious sense of selves having to both practice mindfulness – simultaneously. There was only one problem, we couldn’t do that without trust.
Fostering a relationship with alters based on trust.
How do you build trust in a relationship? You do what you say you’re going to do. You don’t do things you know upsets the person you’re fostering the relationship with. You look out for what’s best for them and your relationship. You respect them. You prove to them with actions that this is how you feel.
So – that’s what we did. We had to have frank conversations with each other about what behaviors they had that were issues for us personally and/or the collective. We have to focus on ONE relationship at once because it’s too much otherwise. For example, MaKayla and Lydia had some trust issues around work, and exercise. Lydia didn’t trust MaKayla to exercise for good reason and she also couldn’t trust her to stop working so Lydia could exercise. MaKayla didn’t trust Lydia to not OVER exercise and then dump dealing with the pain in her lap while she used up all the time MaKayla needed for work.
We agreed in a meeting for Lydia to limit exercise to 15 minutes and for that to happen after MaKayla completed only half an hour of work – preparing for the day and responding to emails. We set timers – we failed HEAPS of times. After about 2 months of trying, we are now able to trust each other enough to let go and switch to accomplish our goals.
Staying consistent to our commitments to the system
In the past, most of us would say or do anything to get the voices to stop. This led to tons of broken promises, mistrust and manipulation between those of us who could communicate. We would have meetings, set goals, make a plan and never follow through. Part of our issues overall as a system is people who we should trust doing that to us – and we were doing it to ourselves.
The day that realization hit in therapy changed our lives. We started showing up, listening to the signs of other alters, tending to our subconscious parts and making plans together – that worked for all of us and didn’t just de-escalate the moment.
So today – when the words “If we make a plan, trust each other, and stick to the plan – we can do anything” appeared in the journal, we knew exactly where those belonged and what they were for.
We’re ready. We’re together. We can do anything.