When I joined Canvas I had just “come out” as having other personalities. I’ve been researching them a lot, because I don’t understand why I do this, and research is helping me understand, so I would like to share, especially as there isn’t a lot of first hand experience out there.
I have two others who I consider different personalities to my own. One is called Charlotte, the other is Jack. I also have the real me. The real me who you might know as Sailor, but everyone in the “real world” knows as Carrie.
You might think I could have some sort of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but then again I don’t think that’s entirely what it is. I wonder if I show some signs of DID and some form of psychological “splitting“, providing me with a fun mash-up of the mind!
DID is defined by good old Wikipedia as the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of behaviour.
The diagnosis of DID requires two or more personalities to be present, one is the “host”, but there can be more than one “other”. The “others” routinely take control of the host’s behaviours and there is also an associated memory loss.
Diagnosis of DID is often difficult, as with many other mental illnesses, there is a considerable amount of co-morbidity with other conditions.
Aside from the other clinical signs manifested with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), individuals often show “black or white” thinking patterns. This is often shown as idealisation or devaluation episodes. For example I am a Veterinary Nurse I love my job and I am very passionate about it. Sometimes I hate it and want to quit right there and never see that green uniform again. It sounds relatively normal after a bad day at work, but when you do this with your friends and other people around you, it makes life very difficult. People with BPD don’t seem to have a grey area. I can concur with this because I very much like something or someone, or I very much hate them. I like to call this the Marmite effect. As in you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground.
Because of the black and white thinking patterns, people with BPD find it very difficult to integrate both the “good” and “bad” sides of their personalities. They can either see themselves as “all good“, or “all bad“, there is no in between. They split into separate parts of themselves and find it very hard to see their personality as a whole. When this happens to the extreme it can result in fragmentation of the self through Dissociative or Multiple Personality formation. All of these strategies are used as a coping mechanism.
Because I can only see the good and the bad, I split the bad off into Charlotte.
Poor old Charlotte is the one who all the bad stuff happened to. She is the one who carries it with her every day. She is the one who gets angry and confused about it. She is the one who hates being a nurse and hates herself and everyone else more than you could ever know. I also think she is very childlike, because she has never had the chance to grow up.
I’m not sure where the line is drawn between DID and BPD/splitting in this behaviour, and I’m not sure Charlotte is either because there are aspects of both at play. Charlotte has a complete different personality, she enjoys different things, but for the most part I am in control of the body. Charlotte does not get to do things unless it gets really bad. When Charlotte does take over completely, that is when I dissociate and I’m only vaguely aware of what she is doing. For example, sometimes I come across blog posts or Facebook statuses that I don’t remember writing, or I have self harmed, although I know it could only have been me physically performing these actions. But sometimes I can have conversations with Charlotte. If I had true DID I wouldn’t be able to have conversations with her.
Before I finish talking about Charlotte, I just want you to know I am trying not to consider her as an entirely bad person. She is just in pain and she is in pain for me, so I don’t have to be. Charlotte is more creative than I am, so I’ve been allowing her some freedom to draw and paint. I often wish I could meet Charlotte in her physical form so I could give her a hug. I have spoken with my psychologist about “getting rid” of Charlotte, but this is a whole other post, because right now it seems impossible.
As for Jack. Maybe Jack is just my/Charlotte’s imaginary friend. If Charlotte is all bad, then Jack is her opposite. He never takes over my body, but I can always find him to talk to in my head when I am feeling bad or indecisive.
I found a nice little book about developmental psychology about splitting and the “good” and “bad” aspects. This is also makes sense to me in my situation and I hope that it can make sense for others too.
When we were young and developing, “good” and “bad” should have become integrated. I guess you could call this the grey area that I, and many other people, seem to be lacking. Ideally there is more “good” than “bad”, so the bad slowly diminishes because there is enough “good“ for protection.
In the theoretical Stage Three of child development (between ages 3 and 5 of life), if the “bad” does not diminish, and the child is unable to integrate the two, a vicious circle develops. I guess this is where the difference between a classic borderline and quite borderline comes in – if the “bad” is projected outwards, it is done so with increasing force, if it is introverted it becomes more and more frightening.
At this point in development we start to idolise seemingly “powerful” objects so they can protect us from the “bad“.
This part particularly struck a chord with me. When I was around 10 years old I had a small brass elephant that I would take with me everywhere because I was sure it protected me and I’d die if I didn’t have it. I still do this now and have a whole little treasure box of things that I can’t go anywhere without because they make me feel “safe”, even though I know they are inanimate objects and are not magic in any way!
At this point in life, along with idolising powerful objects, the “good” has to become better and better, but it never quite diminishes the “bad“.
I think this is why I feel the need to be better and better as a person, because if I can be better, than maybe Charlotte will be better, but it never works that way.
In conclusion the author expressed that the child’s developing personality gets caught up in a world that feels dangerous and the sense of self is unstable and intense. This interrupts the natural process of ego strengthening and integration of the self.
The author provides no suggestion of how to re-integrate the two, so maybe I’m stuck. Perhaps the CBT is helping, Charlotte isn’t appearing quite as often, or to the degree that as she was, but I think I am also consciously playing a part in this by trying to understand her better and allowing her a bit of freedom, because she is a part of me, so she can’t be all bad.
But I still ask - Is this DID or psychological splitting. I think maybe it is a bit of both and I don’t think it really matters the name which is given to it. I’m still me, slightly damaged but learning to live with myself and my others, and that is what is important.
Love from Hello Sailor (and Charlotte )
Further reading -
Dissociative Disorders – Mind
Developmental Psychology – Jacki Watts et al.
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