During the COVID pandemic, I have been operating in “fight mode” these past 14 months. My extreme survival instincts kicked in without having to give it much, if any, thought. I remember telling my therapist “I” (meaning my DID system) was built for times like this.
Those early weeks of the pandemic, I remember sitting for hours watching the news and the circus of people who were supposed to lead us out of this mess I had never seen before in my lifetime. At some point it clicked. Things were really bad, and if I wanted to live, and keep my family alive, I had to hunker down into survival mode and follow the rules even as they changed and didn’t make sense on a daily basis.
I had to shed lots and lots of parts of me. I couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, soft, rebellious or childlike. I needed the strongest, toughest, smartest parts of myself to be here. The others would have to go.
I did not consciously choose to rid myself of the vulnerable parts of me, the parts of me that might get in the way of our survival. I experienced what I typically experience, as if a higher being inside me had made some choice to reorganize the system without my input. I just rolled with it as usual.
I had moments where my hidden parts were quietly active as the pandemic wore on. Still, their expression within me was very limited because I could not risk dying, and in “fight mode,” I needed only the best fighters.
Typically with dissociative identity disorder (DID), there is a lot of noise in your head. For me, that noise is different parts commenting on things going on in our life. Opinions, name calling, crying, planning, negotiating and more goes on all the time. So, I have learned to live with “noise.”
With all that noise, the benefit is I know what is going on with the parts of my system. I know when someone is upset, happy, or creating a problem within the system. This is critical information to have if I want to have some semblance of a life in the world.
So, with all the silence over the past 14 months, I don’t know the answers to questions about other parts of me. I have no idea how or what they are doing.
Probably more importantly, I have become phobic again to interact with the other parts. It’s a real thing, not wanting to talk to other parts, not wanting to know the answers to important questions, not wanting to experience them and their pain and other unpleasant feelings/memories they bring to the table.
Without acknowledging your parts, you can pretend like you don’t have a trauma background. You can try to pass as “normal,” but truthfully, if anyone looked closely, they would see you have an extremely limited range of emotions and history (hello DID amnesia). Fortunately, most people are so self-absorbed, they don’t even notice.
The parts hold the deepest shame possible for someone like me who has experienced horrendous abuse. Unimaginable things, things you wouldn’t even believe, they hold for me so I can function.
Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of what has happened to me in my past. But my parts allow me to stay detached from it. I have gotten close to them and felt their pain, and it is awful, and no one in their right mind would want to absorb that. I fear absorbing it and it truly becoming part of me, which keeps me stuck in recovery.
I started having something happen to me during the pandemic, and I really wasn’t sure what it was. It started with me waking up at the same time every early morning, making the loudest, panicked, god-awful sound that was kind of like gasping for breath while drowning. As I would get my bearings, my mind would immediately turn to self-harm and suicide because my body and mind feels so bad, and for whatever reason, those thoughts take it away. Except it started happening earlier and earlier during the night, and I can never go back to sleep after that cortisol surge.
I have been living these past few weeks on 3 hours of sleep. I didn’t tell anyone because I can still function fine with that much sleep. But what I didn’t count on was the toll it was taking on my system. It enabled a little part of me to come forward.
On que, a young part of me came out and had a lot to say about what was happening to us at night. I don’t know where she came from with so much to say. I never do.
I have been struggling a lot this past week. Lots of dissociation, memory loss (switching), suicidality, thoughts of self-harm, detached from everyone in my life, feeling depressed, and generally disconnected from the world.
Today, I was quite shocked to hear my little one reveal new memories in my head. She did not really speak of them, but I could see and feel them. I was horrified as I thought I was done with new memories. I don’t want anymore bad feelings. I don’t want new knowledge of trauma that I will have to come to accept whether I want to or not.
But, there she was. Seemingly out of nowhere. Telling the story of what is happening to us at night. She had so many answers, and I didn’t ask her for them, but she gave them to me anyway.
I worry because we are living in a different world. A world where therapists aren’t as accessible to me as they were before the pandemic. I had safe people and places to get the support I needed. I clearly don’t have that kind of help now as therapists seem to be the last to crawl out of the pandemic “hole of fear” despite getting their first responder vaccinations.
I worry for the little girl and others who share this memory. I worry for myself and what this new memory is going to mean to me. Will it change my history once again? I have a fear this new memory involves someone specific, and I don’t want it to, but it is pushing up against my consciousness.
I worry about the level of dissociation I am experiencing. I worry that I am doing things and not understanding what I am doing. I seem to be returning to an old, familiar, but troublesome way of living with my DID.
Yet, there is not much to do with that worry except to get lost in the dissociation that will make me forget I am worried. What choice do I have?