Kristin's Dissociative Identity Story, Part 1: Redefining Normal.

Part 1 - Redefining Normal

I believed my life to be entirely normal, but now I understand that normalcy is nonexistent & every individual must define their own beautifully unique version of 'normal' for themselves.

The unseen experiences, however, were processed much more powerfully in my dissociative memory, the vivid details living on to this day.

I remember the first time dissociation caused me to disconnect from all skin sensations. At age 9, I was exploring the new farm my family had just moved to. I cut my knee open climbing a fence but didn't notice until my cousin came running over with a streak of worry across his face: "You're gushing blood!" My entire leg was covered from the gash in my knee, & I laughed out loud at how silly it was that I couldn't feel a thing.

By age ten, suppressed childhood trauma body memories began unconsciously surfacing. I didn't learn what sex was or how babies were made until years later, so I had no cognitive ability to comprehend the strangely uncomfortable things happening to my body because of being molested at age four. I had no resources to put my experiences in perspective, & no opportunity to share my struggles with a trusted adult.

Every time I slept, my body went through a sexually aroused state because of the trauma trapped in my parasympathetic nervous system, yet I had absolutely no idea what was happening to my body, & it felt disgustingly terrifying. Even without knowing what was happening, I felt dirty & ashamed, which only added to the confusion of the unconscious experiences.

I remember when the anxiety, insomnia, & night terrors began at age ten. My whole experience of life shifted into a hyper-thrilled state of constant overwhelm, the vividness of experience consuming me. I stopped feeling safe in my own skin.

I channeled all of my energy into imaginative play, both outside in nature & inside with my toys. Every piece of play was a resource to channel my bodily anxieties into, creating suspenseful tales of maddened adventures, always with a dark plot of kidnapping or something similarly wicked.

I remember how intensely I dreaded the night. The horrifying time of darkness felt like a threatening cloud over my body & soul. I often found myself silently sobbing outside of my parents’ bedroom, desperately seeking help yet with no words to effectively describe my experiences or with enough developed intelligence to specify what help I needed.

I found ways to distract myself, only getting 2-3 hours of sleep each night for several years in order to avoid the traumatic sleep state: upon reaching 4 hours of sleep, the body-brain slips into REM sleep, where dream state occurs & memories unconsciously surface.

My nightmares often consisted of wild animals breaking into my home & ripping my family limb from limb before eating me alive too. Although the specifics made no sense, the terror felt indescribably real.

On a regular basis, I awoke with the room tossed about, pillows & blankets thrown across the room, scratches on my face from trying to claw my way out of the terror, soaked in sweat, hair tangled from all the endless tossing & turning to unconsciously fight my invisible enemies.

I remember the first time dissociation crept into my reflection. I looked into the mirror while cleaning the bathroom at age 10 & was appalled at my bleakly gray, grimly dim, hollow eyes. I marveled for awhile, lost in the abyss of confusion: Everyone said my eyes were blue, but I couldn't see that colour in them, or any sort of beauty; just, darkness; some empty, lost soul, though maybe not my own.

My weekly chore of cleaning the bathroom would take twice as long because of how lost I grew in the disorientation of my reflection. I remember the first time it lasted 40 minutes & I felt confused by my own actions: why did my own face mystify me so immensely?

I remember playing with my loving cousins & recording dramas with them for fun. Upon re-listening to our content creation, I was utterly baffled & beyond shocked to hear my own voice: I did not recognize it nor relate with it. I asked my cousins & their parents about it, & both children & adults assured me that it was perfectly normal to sound a little different when listening to your recorded voice.

Because of this & several similar instances, I dismissed the frequent dissociative experiences as 'normal', my mind creating explanations for the experiences I could not comprehend.

I remember when I first began showing only half of my face in photos at age fourteen, which continued for several years of high school, & on & off during college. Artistic style, I assumed; I had no idea it was because half of my brain was fatigued & struggling to engage, causing half of my face to be unrecognizable. I always wore a hairstyle that allowed bangs to fully cover the eye I could not recognize, adjusting as needed to accommodate for switches of consciousness.

Darkness began oozing into my writing, the carefree childhood stories were lost & forgotten as dark poetry & abstract tales of painful suspense began being regularly created. The words flowing onto my pages reflected the haunting blackness that crept into my quiet presence.

Learning that kids found tattoos cool, I carved a heart & a smiley face onto my wrist at age fourteen & excitedly showed it to my classmates. Mocked & ridiculed for being a “disgusting freak,” I hid my wrist carving. The coolness of it gone, the curiosity remained & grew as I continued with self-harm privately for the positive way it made me feel internally. I told an adult about it one year later, confused & petrified by my own actions, but there was no insight, support, or help offered, so it continued unnoticed, the only reliable friend to offer regulating relief.

In my early high school days, I began hearing thoughts in my mind that were not my own. Because of my religious upbringing & conservative relations, the only response anyone could create was convincing me of demonic possession or oppression.

“For a year I had the devil whispering to me. He made me go INSANE. I mean straight on, I couldn’t think clearly, I couldn’t remember my life or who I was or what I was even like… Total insanity. He took overwhelming control of my mind—including my memories & thoughts & perceptions of everything: he erased much of my memory & instilled ‘memories’ I never had; he enforced depression, discouragement, loneliness, & distrust; & life seemed too negative & hopeless that my soul became distraught, my heart crushed.”

{Photo Credits to Lauren Uhlendorf}

At 15 years-old, I spent every day & night reading dozens of books about spiritual warfare while simultaneously diving into the Bible through endless tears: How could I have possibly "given the devil a foothold"? How evil I must truly be to have self-inflicted such misery!

For all of high school & the years beyond, the depths of my consciousness, the core of my being, believed that all of my suffering was my own fault, that my struggles were all somehow my own creation, that I could be relieved of these burdens if I just had more faith & gratitude & discipline, & that to the core I was an evil person because of my experiences. This plagued me immensely & dominantly impacted my life experience for an entire decade until recently finding spiritual healing.

Fifteen year old me described the experience throughout dozens of journals: “All I can think of is this inescapable, haunting fear. I run to flee it only to discover that it is in front of me, its intensity doubled. It’s like an enclosed room with no doors or windows or openings of any kind, & it’s on fire. The scorching flames lick at my heels before maliciously pouncing upon my helpless body, but neither me nor the room burn up; it just continues forever & ever. I feel helpless as I pace within that boxed-in, burning room." Fascinatingly enough, I knew I had multiple personalities in 9th grade when amnesic barriers began.

{Photo Credits to Lauren Uhlendorf}

Although I did not understand the concept of “losing time,” my memory’s ability to consistently create day to day experiences seemed to be slipping away from me. I’d often join family for dinner & be confronted with questions about instances I did not recall, causing indescribable internal panic that there simply were no words for. For the first time, alternate states of consciousness fully fronted & I began going by a nickname I had at the time, “Monika.” Due to the ignorance & stigma surrounding me, that notion was quickly dismissed & forgotten, mental health never being suggested until years later, post-college.

Dozens of switches & desperate attempts to cope led to my first suicide attempt in 11th grade, which I attempted to process by describing in my journal: “Ending this madness of existence is all my soul truly craves. My head swirls, mind spiraling into a black hole without an end. I throw my wishes & final thoughts into the night, into an empty well. It is without a bottom, found in an abandoned field surrounded by dying wheat three feet high. With every other word, I hear the clinking sound of pennies hit the walls of that well, so hollow & desolate & hopeless. There is no sustenance to feed what is left of my soul. My sanity sinks away with every lost penny. It grips me, this blackness. Death is the one thing that seems real in my life yet it continuously avoids me.”

I recovered from the dissociative blackouts one year later, only to be sexually assaulted one month before high school graduation.

Little did I know that six years later, I would finally begin uncovering the answers I’d been seeking my whole life when I received an accurate diagnosis of DID, dissociative identity disorder.

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