I recently watched an episode [S3 E16] of The Good Doctor in which a patient had a personality disorder. In the storyline the patient had a cyst that was causing his alter to exist. This is a teachable moment in what I feel is the most accurate portrayal of someone living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I took to other social media platforms to discuss this and applaud the writers of this episode for not making someone with a identity disorder out to be an exaggerated version of DID nor a dangerous person, at that. As I stated in my other post, Questions About Dissociative Identity Disorder and I Have Dissociative Identity Disorder, Hollywood takes it to the extreme and strips the dignity from those of us with this diagnosis. I did receive some more questions and comments about this topic and would like to address them now.
№.1: “I watched that episode. Can an alter legally act on behalf of someone?”
Honestly, I don’t know. That is something to inquire about. I would say that because each alter is separate from the core that it wouldn’t be; but in the context of that show it does indicate that the alter is there to help and would likely make a decision that is in the best interest of all.
№.2: “I also have DID and was upset by the idea of alters being “cured”/taken away/sacrificed and by the idea that non-DID folks might think that’s how it works for everyone/we can/should all be “cured”.
Thank you so sharing your opinion! This is one of the misconceptions about DID, that, it can be cured. It cannot. However it is possible for an alter to “die” or go into hiding. Think of DID having a hierarchy, you’ve got a Gatekeeper, maybe a couple protectors, they are there to serve and protect per se. If there is an alter that is destructive and hurting the core (the body), it is possible for the Gatekeeper to ban an alter from fronting, ie. go into hiding. This doesn’t mean our diagnosis is cured, simply that one of the alters was not doing their job.
№.3: So, what IS the job of an alter?
Simply, to protect the the body you see. To make life manageable for a mind that was traumatized and split before a normal integrated personality was able to form. Each alter assists with a specific job, represents a certain emotion, or point of view.
№.4: “I read about a woman who had 2,000 personalities and testified in court. How can that be real?”
Yes, Jeni Haynes. This is very real and a huge win for acceptance of DID. Her story is tragic but amazing. She was allowed and able to testify in a court case against her abusive father, with several alters testifying on her behalf.
Someone can have a large amount of alters, it all depends on the severity of childhood abuse. Those form main alters, but someone with DID as an adult can continue to “split”, or create a new alter to cope with the memories and pain of abuse. It is a coping mechanism that is an automatic response to trauma, and as long as trauma continues, so will splitting.
№.4: Can medicines help DID?
Yes! Although there is no medicine that is DID centered, as it is a coping mechanism, medications can be used with associated anxiety, depression, and physical symptoms.
№.5: What does it feel like to switch?
It depends. If I am co-existing it feels like I change moods, my eyes blink and it just happens. There are times though that I can look in the mirror and not recognize myself. I physically feel like someone else but am realizing I am in my current body. By the way, we don’t shape shift! There are NO drastic physical changes when an alter takes over. Sometimes I will be somewhere and “wake up” suddenly feel insecure and wonder why I am wearing the clothes I am, the makeup or lack thereof.
№.6: Why are you talking about this?
Because it is important to not have to live with this alone. It is not something to be feared and as with any mental health diagnosis, the stigma need to end. People with mental health issues should know that they aren’t alone and that talking about it will ease the burden and hopefully generate some support.