When I was younger I always thought I was normal; I had other people in my head just like everyone else. That is until I realized I, or rather we, was not like everyone else. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder. The other people that I share my life with are referred to as my alters. No, we are not what the horror films depict us to be; quite the opposite actually.
I still remember the first time someone was scared of us because of our DID. I was a bit shocked, in all honesty. I had people say they didn’t believe me, among other not so nice things, but scared of me? That was new. I was outed as multiple (a common synonym for someone with DID) by a friend that I don’t believe had bad intentions, but that lead to an eye-opening encounter nonetheless. I clearly remember what the boy she outed me to said. “I hear people with that are dangerous. You aren’t going to hurt me are you?” I responded with a shocked “No, I would never hurt anyone and neither would my alters.” I knew that people with DID were depicted as villains in horror movies, but I didn’t think that people actually believed we were dangerous. Now I know better.
Since then I have had several other similar experiences. At first, I was angry. How could people believe that my alters, some of the most caring people I know, are dangerous? It was a real confidence buster for them and me. Eventually, I was inspired to educate people on DID and what it really is. When I think dangerous my mind goes to the copperhead snakes I was told not to pick up when I was younger, or a monster from a scary film. My mind even drifts to people because there are some very dangerous people out there. I never considered myself or my alters in that category.
Society uses the word dangerous to describe things they fear. Parents automatically try to keep their kids away from things labeled as dangerous, even if that label is not accurate. As a DID advocate who also works as a nanny, this is something that is often on my mind. Would I lose my job if one of the parents saw an article about me? I hope not but I really can’t say. I am not, nor have I ever been, a danger to others. Unfortunately once someone is given a label with such a negative connotation, even an untrue one, it is hard to escape it.
This idea that people with DID are dangerous comes from a few media accounts of people claiming to have it in an attempt to get away with horrible crimes. Most of the people who claim such things do not have a history of DID symptoms and are trying to use our survival mechanism as a scapegoat. Most people with DID, including me and my alters, practice system responsibility. System responsibility means if an alter was to do something, such as accidentally break something in a store, I would not say “It is not my fault, my alter did it”, but rather apologize and pay for the thing that is broken without protest. The idea that people with DID are dangerous is also amplified by the use of multiples as villains in movies, television shows, and books. This is still going on today with the upcoming movie Split, set to release January 2017.
We always feel like we have to be very careful about what we say, even if it is a joke. I feel like I cannot say things that may be even remotely considered a threat because of this label that follows me around. Being labeled as dangerous always hurts because as an advocate against abuse and violence it goes against all that I stand for. I am a trauma survivor and the reason I have survived is because of my alters; they are not villains, they are heroes. My mind found a way to make it through some horrible experiences in my childhood and continue to function, even if it is not in the way most people do. I would very much prefer to be called a survivor rather than dangerous because I simply am not dangerous. None of us are dangerous and we honestly just want to live our life. People with DID are all around you; we are your neighbors, doctors, teachers, taxi drivers. We are survivors.