Most people are familiar with the concept of their ‘inner child’and everyone uses vernacular such as ” a part of me” etc; but for those of us who have distinct parts that under stress have acted independently from our own knowledge (if this confuses you, see dissociative identity disorder), our ‘parts’ are very real; not a metaphor. And the recovery process for those with DID involves learning how to manage internal communication between your parts and tending to their issues and needs. The concept of working with one’s parts however, is the same for someone without DID and someone with DID. What differs is the thoroughness and the vital role that that plays in one’s life.
Lately I’ve been appreciating a perk about doing work with my parts. Because it is of absolute importance to address the needs of my parts (that developed to cope with trauma) so that they do not act out, I am tending to my life in healthier ways in general. I notice that I am taking better care of my body and environment now that I am living my life accepting and caring for all parts of me. I find it easer to treat myself with kindness and self acceptance when I have a mental picture of a specific part, or identity if you will, of me. Not all my parts (or alters as they are also called) acted out in amnestic episodes. some blended with me but moved to my mental forefront because I could not cope anymore. Then that part ran the show with their unique set of thoughts, values and skills. This was the case with a part of me that I often used to refer to just as “lost one’.
Lost One developed when I ran away – literally as well as internally – when I was around 15. Even when I returned to my parents home, I was changed. I was checked out. Lost One was a quiet, downtrodden and confused young girl that simply gave up. She did a lot of drugs, was promiscuous, and went with just anybody that was more authoritative or could help her. She was passive and only did enough to survive; she was totally overwhelmed. She did not act out in amnestic episodes but rather brought a disempowered worldview to my life. Lost One did not care for herself well; she did not learn to cook, did not take care of life responsibilities, she was aimless. She escaped the trauma of young pregnancies, sexual assaults and emotional abuse by running away and adopting an affect of helplessness and denial.
Now a days, Lost One has a proper name and I coach her in life skills and give her the proper attention my traumatized young teen needed. I have a picture of me as a teen, high as a kite, smoking a cigarette with another girl. I use that image as her avatar in my mind’s eye. But I am going to lengths to replace her old acquaintances with wholesome friends and bad habits with healthier ones. And as I bring her into my life, fully loving and caring for her, I get to upgrade my life skills as well. For example, I realized my block to cooking for myself was rooted in her helplessness with self care. So today, when I teach her the basics of maintaining a kitchen and cooking for myself, I am not just helping a metaphorical part of myself; I am actually learning to cook for myself! Healing my parts brings good things to my actual life. They may be internal but they affect my life in concrete ways.
I am reminded of something I have heard often in the rooms of different twelve step programs. Many recovering people have referred to their addiction as the best thing that happened to them. They say this because it was the resultant need for and adoption of recovery (and in their case, the twelve step program) that has given them the life they now enjoy, full of health and emotional prosperity. I feel the same appreciation for the positive influence working with my parts has brought to my life. While initially finding and addressing the issues that lie at the core of why we may have fragmented is hard, befriending and caring for your parts brings so many gifts to your life.