Birthchilds and Hosts and Presenting Personalities, Oh My!

I spoke in an earlier post about how the diagnosis of DID can be a crisis in an of itself. Crisis #2 may come from another aspect of the Stabilization phase: mappping the dissociative personality system … accepting each alter as a part of the internal system. [1]

This post discusses the different selves and my experience realizing that *I* and not the birth child. !?!

Is this really me?

I’ve tried for years to understand how I could have so many simultaneously conflicting feelings. I could make a very important personal decision and then wake up the next morning unable to recall what I’d decided. Or the logic I used to make the decision. Like I was two people.

This can’t be normal, I decided.

Which is the real me? At any time, I assumed that *I* was me. That who I was right now was who I had been all my life.

Well, I was wrong. The part of me who has been center the past several years is a split.

So how’s that for an identity crisis, eh?

Center is a concept that many multiples use to describe the center personality – the one who is currently “driving” … talking to you. Now, that isn’t always a single personality. It may be several. It may change over time. One may do the “talking” while others comment or “talk through” or interrupt. Internal cacophony while your listener patiently waits for you to stop garbling sentences. <smile>

But that’s a different topic. I wanted to talk about the birth child in a multiple system.

I had assumed the birth child was me. After all, I am me. Then as I become more aware of the distinct switches, I realized that parts of me completely accepted this diagnosis, while I did not. I was in denial for a while. Still am sometimes. This whole thing seems just way to unbelievable.

But then I write notes…look at the evidence trail. Notes written to myself.

Camigwen, you have struggled with this feeling of duality your whole life. You’ve simultaneously loved and hated some close people. And not that “I feel several ways about you” thing. Sometimes you hate and cannot understand how you ever loved. And the next day the opposite.

Look at the time you have lost. In some cases, years. You do not identify with the child in many school pictures.

It’s not like parts of your past have faded; they just aren’t there.

To you.

She is right. My first-person memories start perhaps 12 years ago.

And even throughout those years, I still have missing time. Hours, days. I didn’t start to realize it until I was reminded too many times of events I attended or people I met, and had no recall of them. Or someone else’s recollection of the event and/or my behavior was very different from my own memory of it.

I read a good article that clarified some of this. It has both introductory “learning” material and some more in-depth stuff – Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder from BNET Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence.

Turns out, at this point in time, I am the “host.” Sounds kinda Sigourney Weaver-y in Aliens, that I have some sort of parasite growing in me. I’d feel more comfortable if the implication was that it was symbiotic rather than parasitic.

Persons with DID usually have one personality that controls the body and its behavior. Psychiatrists refer to this personality as the “host.” This is generally not the person’s original personality or birth personality.

The host is often initially unaware of the other identities and typically loses time when they appear. The host is the identity that most often initiates treatment, usually after developing symptoms, such as depression. The personality that seeks treatment – whether the host or not – is referred to as the “presenting personality.” [2]

I read this paragraph and my jaw dropped. WTF? This is me.

It was me who crashed last year; I who trusted the decision from the chaos in me and agreed to treatment. I have been the host on and off for several years, and now with regards to my recovery, I am the “presenting personality.”

It feels funny to have these terms applied to me. They feel so sterile, so DSM-IV.

Like I was just doing my job in this system, following some pre-planned playbook. <F them and their labels.>

But it also feels so right. Funky new labels and all, once I have gotten used to the nomenclature, it doesn’t bother me as much. <Yes it does. Hurry up and write the post about how we are just your “coping mechanisms”.>

I am still amused at the “presenting personality” label, like I somehow waltzed into a brand new therapist’s office with my arms outstretched, shouting, “Ta Da! Here I am!”

DID is quite the opposite; my therapist strongly hinted I was DID before I (the “presenting personality”) even realized it, although she still shies away using from the label. “You have one of the most severe forms of dissociation.” Initial shame and embarrassment forced me into even greater subtlety than hers. And even sometimes now this host does not believe it.

Until Emily kicks me in the head.

<Just remember, you are writing all this in MY Blog!>


[1] Turkus, J (1992). Diagnosis and Treatment of Dissociative Disorders,, accessed online from

[2] Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence. (2008). “Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder”. 20010406. 20 Apr. 2008. Accessed online from


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