Parts? Dissociation Confusion

daisydew

Learning
Just wondering if anyone has advice on this.

My therapist told me it sounds like I could have dissociated parts. I've been suspecting that for a couple years, so I'm not shocked. She's recently been referring to them as maybe functioning as separate people or even having their own names. Again, I've wondered about that, but hearing it from a professional is very confusing and stressful. If I do have parts, I don't know how to communicate with them at all. They don't really respond to notes I leave and usually don't speak in my head. Mostly, all I can do is "repress" them and keep them in and hidden.

I'm simultaneously very scared that this is real and I do have parts and scared it's not which would mean I'm just faking which I'd feel horrible about. I guess I'm just wondering if anyone has advice on getting through this part of healing/possible diagnosis. It's been very overwhelming recently.
 

Sideways

Sponsor
I have DID. When I first got that diagnosis, I felt completely and utterly insane for quite a while. I think that's relevant to how I'm responding...if that helps at all!

Everyone has parts. Your doctor is a different person, with different language, dress sense, priorities etc when she's with you, than the person she is at home with hubby in private. That's an easy example.

Second? Everyone dissociates. Daydreaming? Is a form of dissociation.

Both of those things - having a compartmentalised personality, and dissociating? Are normal. You'll find a lot of folks here who don't have a dissociative "disorder", still have a lot of issues with dissociating deeply and frequently; and also that many people use different parts of their personality to help them a great deal with their therapy.

Sp, if your doctor is suggesting you have dissociated parts of your personality? All she's suggesting is that the way your brain uses dissociation and compartmentalising its personalities? Is just a bit further up the spectrum than the average person. Your brain has used Coping Mechanism A to handle your traumatic experiences, where other people's brains have used Coping Mechanism B or C.

So, okay, you may be further up the dissociative spectrum than regular folks. What that means in a practical sense is: your doctor can seamlessly transition from Work Personality to Date Night With Hubby Personality. You can't, because the walls between those personalities are stronger.

Because some of those personalities have really traumatic experiences, and your brain has decided that it's easier to function if it keeps its different personalities completely seperate. You can't transition smoothly from one to the other like your pdoc.

That means it makes sense what you're describing, yeah? If this is the first time you've been told "your internal personalities are more distinct than the average person", then of course it's harder for you to communicate with them.

It's a tumultuous time learning about where you, as a unique individual, sit on the dissociative spectrum. But, wherever that is? You're learning about you, the whole of you, possibly for the first time. Some strategies for creating internal dialogue will work, others won't, others will just take patience:)

If you're leaving encouraging and welcoming messages for your parts, that make them feel like talking to you will be safe? That sounds like a great start. Have some patience though. Because they've all lived their life relying solely on themselves up until now. And that's kept you alive. Working as a team isn't natural, it's learned. And like any new relationships, or teams built from a wide range of personalities? It takes time and patience and a little flexibility:)
 

daisydew

Learning
Thank you for your response. My therapist and I have talked about DID, which I think is part of what I'm worried about. I'll hear from friends that I do things that seem very out of character, and sometimes go very far inside my head if that makes sense? Like I'll "retreat" from my limbs and go to the back of my head and watch myself do things. Sometimes I'll notice that my expression changes drastically, or that I'm doing things I don't really want to do.

It's nice to hear about the compartmentalization being normal. I guess I knew that, but hearing it from someone makes it make more sense. Some of them do seem to react to certain situations more (like "taking over" during social situations) but that results in me losing time and hearing that I've done things that don't sound like me at all.

It's good to know communication is still possible. Sometimes that's part of why I feel like I'm just making it all up. They've talked to me a couple times, but it's very rare. I think they know they are "supposed" to be me and not themselves if that makes sense? So they don't seem to like leaving much of a mark on the world such as physical notes. I get the impression some don't like me much at all, so that makes communication difficult.

I think I tend to compare myself. When I started noticing my amnesia and behavior changes, I looked into it and saw people who had very clear-cut amnesia, instead of the weird, half-forgetting, blurry type I mostly have, and people who had total communication and a great relationship with parts, and very obvious behavioral changes. It makes me confused, like maybe I'm not dissociative enough to be telling people my symptoms. I don't go by different names or anything like that, so it's hard to know if I'm just lying or something. (I know I'm honest about my experiences to my therapist, but for some reason I very often feel like I'm making it all up.)

It's good to know leaving messages like that is good! I left one on my computer and on a whiteboard in my room. So far I haven't heard anything, but hopefully that will help. I really appreciate your reply, it helped me feel a bit more normal. I don't judge anyone else for their dissociative experiences, but for some reason when it's me I judge myself.
 

Sideways

Sponsor
One of the difficulties I've found is that I get dissociative experiences (from flashbacks to derealisation) like many folk do. The losing time thing, acting completely differently from situation A to situation B? That's mixed up in it, and it's not always easy to figure out what's going on.

Improving internal communication, teaching your parts that they can trust each other, and trust you? Takes time and work. But is sometimes actually a really rewarding experience, and I'm going to give a shout out to @Wendell_R whose trauma diary is a real inspiration to me.

For all that it seems a but overwhelming, give yourself credit. You have survived, and functioned, and made friends, and lived your life up to this point without even realising that this was going on. So, you can pull off life remarkably well even just with the status quo.

All that remains from this point? Is getting to know yourself, the whole of you, better. Making choices for yourself that sit right with the whole of you. And approaching your recovery much better informed with just how you've coped up to now.

All your parts? As different as they may be? Have pulled off being you, and helping you survive up to now. They've done a remarkable job. You now have a brilliant (albeit somewhat difficult) opportunity to heal those parts of you who are deeply hurt and traumatised more directly, and tap into some of the amazing strengths and talents that some of your caretaker parts have mastered over the years to keep you safe.

Some of them will be scary. But some of them will be fun, intriguing, fearless, spiritual, peaceful, social and outgoing, reserved and reflective...It's really not all bad:)
 

daisydew

Learning
Thank you! I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to write this. It means a lot to hear. Usually the stories I hear are about people who already know how to communicate, or on the other end where they don't get along or talk. I don't usually hear about learning how to actually get to a good relationship, so it's good to hear.

I guess it's simply something I have to be patient about. Keep working with my therapist and with myself. 🙂
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
I don't usually hear about learning how to actually get to a good relationship, so it's good to hear.
Welcome, @daisydew

Thanks, @Sideways, for the shout out. I've lived with Little Wendell a long time, but for most of my parts, Sideways is right, it can take a lot of patience and work. I have a dissociative disorder, without much amnesia (Mrs. W says I have very little since doing a lot of parts work). Accepting that I have this condition took some time. Embracing that that's who I am has also taken time.

Communication with the parts is definitely a learned skill that I'm still learning. I think the first key for me was for the apparently normal part to be quiet and trust my therapist enough to let the other voices speak. Later, we learned to speak to each other. I remember walking in a field near my work and learning to have a conversation, so that I could switch back and forth and experience the feelings and thoughts of two parts in succession. I remember the first time that my adult female part came out and talked to our therapist. At its best, the experience is exhilarating, deeply rich in humanity, and full of life. At its worst (which is often when a new part comes up), it feels like a huge cloud of long-forgotten trauma rumbles up into my life and we need to deal with it.

I'm happy to chime in with ideas about how to communicate, but you'll probably do fine on your own path. It sounds like you are making good progress.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
It's good to know communication is still possible. Sometimes that's part of why I feel like I'm just making it all up. They've talked to me a couple times, but it's very rare
I also have DID - although it doesn't function as a disorder at all anymore - and it took me a long time before I could talk to my insiders. Also...I go for very long periods of time with no communication at all and have some that have never talked to me directly.
 

daisydew

Learning
I think the first key for me was for the apparently normal part to be quiet and trust my therapist enough to let the other voices speak.
I think this may be the most difficult part for me. It's so hard for me to let them do anything. If I feel them coming up, my first instinct is to suppress or to monitor everything as much as possible so I can try to push myself back into control if I need to.
I'm happy to chime in with ideas about how to communicate, but you'll probably do fine on your own path. It sounds like you are making good progress.
Thank you, that's good to hear. I'm going to ask my therapist if she has any ideas on how to better communicate, as they've been especially quiet recently for some reason.
I also have DID - although it doesn't function as a disorder at all anymore - and it took me a long time before I could talk to my insiders. Also...I go for very long periods of time with no communication at all and have some that have never talked to me directly.
Thank you for letting me know! I'm not even sure what's possible when it comes to dissociated parts, so it's nice to hear different experiences, because what I thought of as "dissociated parts" seems to be a very small portion of people who actually have them.

Obviously I am not sure exactly what I am experiencing, and I'm not self-diagnosing at all. I don't know if it's DID or another dissociative disorder or something else entirely, but my therapist has been using a lot of parts language and encouraging me to try to reach them more.
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
If I feel them coming up, my first instinct is to suppress or to monitor everything as much as possible so I can try to push myself back into control if I need to.
I will just share that the more you try to stay in control, the more out-of-control you will likely get. Letting go and allowing those inside to express themselves is what helped me feel back in control.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I don't have any diagnosis, but talk a lot about parts with my T. I have no idea where I would sit on any sort of spectrum, but imagine it's at a lower end.

I'm going to ask my therapist if she has any ideas on how to better communicate, as they've been especially quiet recently for some reason.
This may or may not help, but I struggled with communicating (and probably still do in some ways, but much better in others). I was communicating verbally with adult language. Got me nowhere. My T suggested being more tactile, think of colours, don't use words, more actions, to try and communicate. Because some parts might be very young. And communicating in an adult way is not something those parts are at developmentally.
She also suggested that the really little parts may not know that adult me exists. That blew my mind a bit. But then, through very sad life events, (i.e my actions trying to protect and advocate for my nephews and nieces), it seemed to trigger little me knowing adult me was here and able to care. And that started a dialogue that was less about words but more about feelings.

So maybe try different forms of communicating?
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
My parts are so distinct I could get another diagnosis but I stopped at cPTSD. One size fits all. It was scary. I’d say I was morbidly afraid since I tried to put myself to sleep rather than face it, meaning her, BUT, it’s not so front facing these days, I mean I’m not interested in perusing it. I have parts, it’s real. Now I have to get up and get some more coffee. I hope you feel better and integrating is easier for you. It would have been nice to know some of this before I went through it. I don’t think it’s over but it’s certainly not what I think about most these days. It’s a process.
 

daisydew

Learning
I will just share that the more you try to stay in control, the more out-of-control you will likely get. Letting go and allowing those inside to express themselves is what helped me feel back in control.
That makes sense. I remember two years ago, I would let them have much more control, and I started having decent communication. Once I started suppressing them, it seems like they've vanished except every once in a while I'll lose time or get some angry thought or emotion directed at me. My therapist is encouraging starting to trust them to take over a bit.

My T suggested being more tactile, think of colours, don't use words, more actions, to try and communicate.
I never even thought of this. I get things like emotions or memories directed at me, but I never thought of doing it back. I'd always expect them to just talk to me, but I guess it makes sense that they may not be comfortable doing that or might not know how. I also have intrusive thoughts, which makes it really difficult to distinguish if it's someone speaking to me or a thought, so I could see this working better.

It was scary. I’d say I was morbidly afraid since I tried to put myself to sleep rather than face it, meaning her, BUT, it’s not so front facing these days, I mean I’m not interested in perusing it.
Yes, I remember when I was eighteen I watched a video about dissociative disorders and I just had a breakdown. I was like: "That's me. That's exactly how I feel, I have parts." I don't know why the video triggered that. I'd known I was very dissociative, but suddenly things seemed to click and I thought "This explains everything. This is what's been wrong." I mostly stayed in bed for a while. I didn't want to think about it. The first two counselors I told didn't believe me, so I have a harder time believing myself now. But I remember when I first realized I was 100% sure, and that was the most terrifying.

I don’t think it’s over but it’s certainly not what I think about most these days.
I'm glad it's gotten easier for you.
 
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