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First of all I want to commend anyone and everyone who supports a
survivor of any type of abuse. I realize that it takes much compassion
and empathy to deal with someone who has experienced so much pain in
their lives and have so much baggage to tote around. If you are a
supporter of someone who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, your
friendship is unique and can be a special one for the both of
Just as anyone who experiences trauma needs to talk about their pain,
multiples need an outlet as well. However when you're dealing with a
survivor with D.I.D. you are also dealing with more than one individual,
taking into consideration the mental, emotional and even the physical
stamina that appear in each alter personality.
That being said, I feel that it is important here to emphasize how
separated our memories are. In general multiples are often accused of
being chronic liars because one alter personality may relay a memory of
their childhood to you; while another alter personality may confess that
there are no memories of childhood at all. The survivor may also seem
like they are contradicting themselves at times by giving you two or
more opinions or answers to one question or event, when in reality you
have been conversing with two or more alter personalities during that
During our life time we are also thought of as a Hypochondriac, suffering with one ailment after another and never seeming to get to the bottom of what is causing the pain. This happens because each alter personality deals with different issues and each alter personality carries his or her own memories, including "body memories." And also, we really do suffer with a multitude of ailments simply because we are under so much stress.
And while you may have spoken to one alter personality a few days ago
and they told you that their favorite color was pink and had seafood for
lunch, today another alter personality may tell you they like the color
yellow and had a hamburger for lunch the other day. Well, the other day
to that particular alter personality could actually have been three
years ago if that alter personality has not been out and active in a
Survivors who live with D.I.D. are forced to cope with a tremendous amount of noise in our heads from the alter personalities talking back and forth and the children inside who are singing, laughing or crying and the angry alter personalities who are ranting and raving while still other alter personalities may be comforting another alter personality
with a lullaby or humming.
To top that off when a survivor is trying to have a conversation with
you, other alter personalities may also be listening and can be
triggered by something you or the alter personality that is already out
might say, or a certain noise, smell or any other stimuli that could
catch the attention of other alter personalities.
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These triggers have the potential to cause an alter personality to
switch in completely and take over the conversation, which in reality
probably happens a lot more than you are aware of. But your friend, or
one of the alter personalities may at some point want to tell you what
they are seeing in their heads, but be ware that if a person is a
multiple, then what you are about to hear is not the usual pat on the
behind or a beating with an iron rod. The type of abuse that causes a
person to create alter personalities is far more graphic and unbearable
than you can ever imagine.
I am told that just by hearing of the atrocities performed on someone who
is a DID survivor could even cause the listener to dissociate. You must
protect yourself from any damage that could be caused by listening to
the stories of torment that the survivor has experienced. You might stop
the survivor and gently suggest writing these thoughts down so that they
can be sure to tell the therapist on the next visit. But unless you've
been trained to treat such disorders please refrain from counseling your
friend, it could actually do more harm than good.
You may notice that the survivors alter personalities start switching in
and out more often than before. That happens because all of a sudden all
of these selves are coming out of hiding after years and years; and more
alter personalities with even more hidden memories get triggered by the
last memories and then more memories and the survivor is flooded with
images and sounds that no human should ever have to experience. Another
reason that this switching might become more obvious is that you may be
paying closer attention, or the alters are beginning to get more
comfortable and want to spend "their" time with you.
Probably the worst comments you can make are "I understand" "things will
get better" and "I know, I was abused too"! No one could possibly
understand what this individual has been through! Even if you are a
survivor of childhood abuse yourself, each case is unique and each survivor has
earned the right to own the feelings that they have, and only a trained
professional should proceed with counseling.
Another one of my pet peeves is having someone try to cheer me up. You
must understand, that what has made your friend so depressed is far more
serious than just a bad hair day. And don't forget that you may be
dealing with an alter personality who may not have the capability to be
anything but sad (most of the alters only have one emotion and that
emotion is usually exaggerated many times because that is all that they
But you may also be dealing with an alter personality who simply does
not like you and that "one alter personality" has the ability to
sabotage the entire relationship between you and your friend for good if
they choose to do so. Please remember though that just because one alter
personality may not like you, it does not have any affect on how the
other alter personalities feel about you. Be careful not to take it
If you choose to remain friends with a survivor after learning of their
diagnosis you will have to accept the fact that these alter
personalities are not simply just another side of your friends
personality but rather they are separate individuals who, for the most
part have absolutely no knowledge of one another.
Be honest with your friend! If you find that the friendship is
overwhelming and is interfering with your own lifestyle or comfort zone
and you feel uncomfortable, then by all means please do not take the
friendship any further. We survivors are strong and intelligent and we'd
much rather face an honest denial than a long drawn-out, confusing
By the way, this does not make you a bad person by ending the
friendship! As a general rule I would have to say that multiples do not
pose a physical threat to you or anyone else for that matter with one
exception (their own body). Even the angry alter personalities for the
most part have their place but know where to draw the line. All we want
is that you treat us with the respect that you would the next person.
Another good tip to remember is that the process of healing does not
necessarily mean integration. If your friend tells you that he/she is
happy with the progress that they have made, then you must respect that.
And if your friend and his/her alter personalities decide that
integration is not for them; then be happy that at least he/she is
feeling better. After all that's what is important. You may not
understand why your friend does not want to be like other people, and
experience life as a whole integrated person but it is a scary issue to
After all we survivors have lived the majority of our lives by
dissociating, therefore this has become our comfort zone. Integration
may come later if the alter personalities decided that it is safe
enough, but until then your friendship will have to stand on it's own
for what it is. And if you're waiting for the day that this person
becomes whole, you could be wasting a lot of precious time that could be
better spent just enjoying their company because most multiples are in
therapy for years and years until the final stage of good mental health
is achieved (what ever level that may be).
If you have an issue with one alter, you have to address the alter
personality that you have the issue with while they are still in control
of the conscious part of the mind in order for the issue to be resolved.
Otherwise the innocent alter personality will be confused, having no
recollection of the incident that you are addressing. Before your friend
has been in therapy long enough to gain some control, you may tire of
the alter personalities switching in and out and even become angry
because of the alter personalities speaking out of turn. However if you
direct your anger or lack of patience toward another alter personality,
(as if that alter personality were the guilty party) then your point has
not been made.
Being a friend to someone who has Dissociative Identity Disorder is much
like being a friend to someone without D.I.D. You just need to
remember that your friend is not always in control of the conscious part
of the mind. And your friend may be and probably is an alter personality
and not the original person who was born to the body. Try to be
yourself! Be a friend and leave the rest to the professionals.
Try not to guess what's going on in your "multiple" friends mind, it'll
drive you crazy for one thing and besides the survivors who are living
with this disorder do not even understand the mechanics of it, or how we
created these selves in the first place (or else we would know how to
undo what has been done), We only live with it!
And finally if you love someone who suffers with D.I.D. and you need
more information about the disorder or how to treat that person, him or
her. Remember that you have a friend who has been silenced for an
eternity and chances are that he or she would be delighted to know that
you care enough to acknowledge their pain, and eager to share in the
discovery of their inner world.
By: Candy Little