Here are some tips on reducing the headache of living with dissociative identity disorder (DID). There really are no hard and fast rules for ‘dealing’ with it unfortunately, since what worked well yesterday might not today and what works for one personality, might not work for the others. So, knowing all that – here are 10 general tips for living with DID on a daily basis. The number one thing to remember with all this is – Be Flexible.
1. If you drive, get yourself a GPS (global positioning system)
Depending on how fragmented you are, which of the alters drive, and what’s going on inside the ‘system’ (is it chaotic? calm? is everyone mostly working together?) sometimes, the body ends up across town – or worse halfway across the state (or further) before you realize it. Here’s how it goes – one minute you’re standing in your kitchen cooking dinner or talking to your significant other; *blink your eyes* and the next minute you’re behind the wheel of your car without a CLUE as to where you are going, why you’re there, or how to get back. Program the GPS for home first thing. Just last week this [psychogenic fugue] happened to me, and I ended up near the Canadian border!
2. Put up an internal whiteboard or keep an external notebook.
One of the most important things you can do to try to keep some sort conscious continuity between your parts is to make it mandatory that all of you keep notes in some central notebook or internal whiteboard. Because we tend to lose time due to personalities switching, it is vital that detailed notes are kept. Some people are able to keep an internal ‘whiteboard’ where the alters write notes of important things they’ve done or committed to (doctor’s appointments, dates, exams); others keep an external notebook that everyone writes in. I’ve been able to make both available though the whiteboard gets neglected.
3. Let people around you know how to call out your more cooperative personalities – just in case.
Sometimes when the system is in chaos or is having a panic attack, it is helpful that someone around you that you trust is able to call out a calming personality – one that will get things under control for the system. But only do this if you’re comfortable and trust the person; otherwise, the ‘shout out’ won’t do any good. In fact, it might trigger a protector [potentially violent alter].
4. Secure your funds.
Understand that there are more than just you spending your money and wanting to spend your money. So, if you have bills to pay, pay them first as soon as you have money. Better yet – have the bills on autopay or try to pre-pay them so that you don’t have as much debt. That way – the bills get paid whether you remember or not. Have it so that all your financial responsibilities and living necessities are taken care of first – that way any money remaining can be spent and it won’t effect your life style. Set up a two signature requirement for checks if possible and avoid keeping an ATM card on you.
5. Have a place for important papers or unexpected documents (traffic tickets, IRS notices, etc.) and make sure that everyone in the system knows to have a look at that place when they are out.
This falls in line with trying to keep as close to a continuous consciousness as possible. Not all alters are considerate or care to cooperate with the others; Some are extremely reckless, in fact. Make sure you keep all your documents in one place; here’s a real life example of why. Imagine you’re in your car and for whatever reason, you get pulled over and find out you have outstanding tickets and a warrant. That would annoy even the most gentlest of people. Something similar to this happened to me. So, make sure you keep your papers in the one place – no matter how horrible (I’ve had some alters hide documents from the rest of us). This is a tough tip to adhere to as you’ll have to get the others to agree and not hide stuff. Be willing to be a mediator.
6. Keep an emergency contact phone number (next of kin) in your purse, wallet, and/or cellphone.
Even people without DID should have this information handy. For those of us with DID though, it is also important that we have the contact information of our psychiatrist and/or therapist or treatment facility.
7. Set up a safety network for yourself in case of a panic attack or similar emergency.
It is so important to have a support team when you have DID. Your team might include your significant other, understand friends, your therapist, even your child. It is also important for me to say that it isn’t always necessary that any of these people know that you have DID, either. People that care about you will assist you anyway they can and most times – without asking a lot of questions. Seek out those people you can trust and build your safety network from there.
8. Keep all prescription drugs secure and keep a journal of when you take them.
Unfortunately, there are alters who are suicidal and who hate the body in general and hate all the other personalities as well. At some point, these alters do come out and sometimes harm the body either by putting it in dangerous situations, by self-mutilating, or attempted drug overdose. So, it is best to keep the drugs in a location that these alters don’t know about. It is also a very good idea to keep a log of when you take your medication. Otherwise, if an alter comes out and doesn’t know you’ve already taken your required dose, that alter may take another dose as well.
9. Become a good actor/actress.
Learn how to ‘play it off’ when someone comes up to you that you’ve never met and acts as if you two are good friends. These people may be strangers to you, but could be best friends with one of your alters. You simply do not know because you did not have co-consciousness during the interaction with that person. So, become a good actor and/or actress when this occurs. Use your judgment with this one – I mean – you know a creeper when you see one, right? There’s a difference. Just be careful.
10. Be prepared to have your child alters come out at Toys -R-Us and other places.
If you have child alters, be kind to them and have somethings for them to play with around the house. I learned this the hard way when while at Toys-R-Us, one of my child alters came out, grabbed a toy and went running down the aisle with it – footloose and fancy free (at least that is what I was told later). Mind you – I’m a 42 year old woman. I don’t have stuffed animals. I don’t even have board games – yet there was the body running and playing. So, now I have a few toys at home and I have ‘the talk’ with my child alters before I go out to the mail or to the grocery store as I got really tired of finding sweet cereal and toys in the shopping cart at checkout time.
I do hope these tips will be helpful for you. Let me know if you have questions.