Switching in DID

For weeks, I have been in a despair of utter depression. Rageful and angry. Lashing out, frustrated, hurting people without realizing, unable to see beyond the next few hours, uncaring what happened to me.

Suicidal, resolute to quit therapy, nearly done with life. Drugged into daily stupor, unable to engage in any of the activities that used to give me pleasure or distraction.

And then I switched. A personal discussion of how and why switching occurs and what does it feel like?

That rageful self

I bear four large scabs on the knuckles of my right hand. Two deep enough to scar. In a rage, triggered by an unexpected phone call from my therapist, I held back as long as I could, but then slammed my fist repeatedly into the roof of my car. Completely enraged and out of control, while helpless for anyone to hear me.

For weeks, no one had heard me. My words, pleas, ignored or downplayed. Devalued. My attempts to find a facility to release the building rage, unfruitful. My attempts to repair a friendship, rebuffed. My attempts to explain the separateness of my selves, discounted by my therapist as something similar to her ability to leave work behind to do other things. My husband, afraid to talk to me, walking on eggshells. I cries for methods to deal with the sudden rage, unanswered or addressed only trivially. Situations at work where my worth and motivations were seriously but inappropriately questioned, unresolved.

For weeks I have struggled to be heard, falling deeper into a hole, begging for someone to give me a small respite of trust and value to cling to. But all I saw around me were people turning away.

Since I was a child and abused by my cousins, I lost my voice. Unable to tell what was happening. Since then, my inability to speak, or other’s inability or unwilling to hear, has been a strong trigger for me. Pent up frustrations building into uncontrolled rage, and the unstoppable desired to hurt myself.

And then I switched.

Since Saturday, I am a different person. Two days so far. Over the course of about 2 days before that, I slowly felt myself pulling away from the rageful person. A compulsion to fix that friendship with emails hours in the making, finally bringing understanding. A frustrated comment by my husband, turned into an unplanned conversation where I managed to explain this turmoil along with my intense desire that we stay together, and he let down the wall to let me back in. My therapist’s attempts to resolve the several disconnects I identified. My need to be a woman who promised to bring enjoyment and gathering of many friends for a milestone party. As hostess, I stumbled upon introductions, unsure of myself, misinterpreted as being angry. So very carefully medicated. But within me came the knowledge from nowhere how to act, behave. Acting inside a skin not my own, but acceptably for others not to notice. Feeling so awkward.

Hours later, the slow switch was complete. For a few hours, I felt “normal” as my husband has wished. Not depressed and sleeping, not full of rage, not angry, not running. With only an hour or so left before sleeping, I regretted that by morning it would all be over. Each morning for weeks I awoke inside the familiar hole of despair until the drugs stole me into the stupor I needed to survive.

But I woke up “normal.” Shocked, I still took the meds, but only half. I woke up differently – I wanted to be around people. How was it possible that after weeks at the bottom of the pit, that I suddenly felt fine?

Pursued some of my hobbies, stayed awake nearly all day.

The weeks of despair and rage seem so long ago. Weeks old, not days. The overly intense feelings already faded to gray for me, but not all around me who I hurt.

Because I switched.

After two days, I noticed my mother was emailing me by another name. Not her nickname for me she always used, but my given name. It felt unnatural; foreign. When questioned, she had not realized she did it, but speculated because I felt better. But it isn’t me. I don’t know who I am.

What is switching?

As a sterile definition, switching is changing from one self to another. One alter to another. One personality to another. For most people, there is a range of amnesia among selves from complete to nearly transparent.

For the last many months, I would wake up every morning not sure, but based on my morning commute, I could tell who was here. Who I was. Simple things – how I hold the steering wheel, my posture in the seat, what radio station I tune in. How loud the music is. How much I talk to others or myself. If I am emotionally moved by the visual stimulation of the long stretch of white fence bordering the rolling green horse farms.

Often I switch at night; waking to whomever could handle the days events I knew I must face from the night before. Example – when Camigwen was completely overwhelmed, usually Jaime and Maggie would step in, working in tandem to get us through the day.

Why does switching occur?

Usually in response to some trigger. All based on the trauma and the disconnected traumatic emotional memories associated with the event(s). Once triggered, the self who originally split to deal with the situation comes back. Likely to deal with it again.

Sometimes it is due to a need that is not directly associated with something traumatic. Some alters do not hold the trauma, but are split to behave normally, to compensate, distract.

At work, I have to wear many hats. One in particular requires a switch – I teach at a university. I am well liked, a challenging instructor, and one self inside me lives to help others learn through my ability to communicate in front of an audience.

That self is not me.

She can hold a room spellbound, convey complicated concepts easily, speak clearly and with apparent ease for hours. Motivating and encouraging. Inspiring.

As I walk to the classroom every morning, I can feel the switch occur. A subtle shift like a transient dizziness. Before, I am nervous. Many students waiting to listen to ME for an hour – all eyes on ME! Where are you? I sometimes question inside me. We are nearly to the classroom, are you out of bed yet?

With regularity she is here in time, and when she is gone later I am aware that a good lecture took place but unable to describe exactly what I taught. Occasionally I struggle through a class myself. Seeing distraction among the students – I have not captured them. It will be a “boring” lecture.

How long does it take?

Depends. Sometimes in an instant, with rapid cycling. Other times, hours. The last switch was different than I have experienced in a while because it took so long, and the difference between who I was and who I am is so stark and apparent to not only those around me, but to me as well. A rapid ascent from nadir to apex, so steep a slope, so rapid a slew rate.

This is something new to me. Apparently, I have been switching for years, but only in the last 10 months have I become aware of it. So the strangeness of the feelings surprises me.

Many switches are more subtle and perhaps not even noticed. Or it appears I just change “moods.” This one was like a continental shift, and I wonder how long it will last. Two days so far. So tenuous.

What do you remember?

This time, I remember the some of the days. Things I did. A few short vacations we took. But reflecting back, mostly I picture myself from outside. I see my depression and despair as my husband would have, raising his anxiety. I did not see this then, I only felt the depression with little awareness of how it affected him. Then, I felt it. Today, is see it. But don’t feel it.

I can see myself in rage, hitting things, slamming things. Feeling the frustration that I was not heard; I was ignored. But the memory of the intensity of anger is not in me. It feels like it is behind a wall, separated from me. I am embarrassed at my displays, but realize I could not control them, so enmeshed as I was in them. My memories of that time are autobiographical, declarative, not emotional.

I also recall short periods of a few hours where I switched to a child in wonder on the water, at the zoo. Little periods of respite amid the despair. My husband saw them too and commented, “You see like a child sometimes.” Looking back, I can feel those pockets of joy in my heart, much more so than feeling the rage and depression around it. I am closer to that self; we can share more.

I feel sadness for the girl with that rage. It is really the first time I have shared those emotional memories and intense emotions with her for this many days in a row. My family and friends have seen her, and now so have I.

And I wonder when she comes back, will she remember me reflecting back on her time here with such detachment?

Next time, how long will she stay? Will have new ways to cope by then?



  Flower Child wrote @

Hey, girl ,what’s going on! I have seen eight counselors in the past ten years. If I didn’t feel like the therapy was going anywhere, I ended it. I felt like they were treating me with stupidity, out of a lack of intelligence or bad education. I had therapists who just didn’t “get it” (like yours) but DID IS real,, and I’m sure you will find a caring counselor! So don’t give up – you can find a counselor who will help you in your recovery!

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Flower Child

Wow, there are a lot of the same stories out there. I am in a phase of no-therapy right now, other stuff going on in my life. I probably need to get back at some point, but am trying to use what I learned while in therapy, rather than continuing to run ahead and forget what I learned.


  Jackie wrote @

Recently I have experienced the same intensity of switching, the depression, then “woke up” and reflected on what I had done during that period and how I communicated to others and my T. The very bottom of the pit for my one alter is incredible. How do you thank someone for taking that on and keeping it? I had never “felt” the emotions of that girl nor talked with her until now. The feelings she shared are good and not good, but I think it’s important that we shared them together. I do not know how you can maintain a husband. I am single been married unsuccessfully. I am curious how you do that.


[…] but not the rest • Myers Briggs and Keirsey Personality Tests in Dissociative Identity Disorder • Why do we often get worse after starting therapy? • Switching in DID • Review: Interview […]

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