Angel developed dissociative identity disorder during his early childhood. The abuse he endured was so horrific that when he was being abused, a separate personality was born so that he would not have to feel the abuse. Some are good, some are bad. Some are female (?), some are male. Some have aged with him, and at least 2 are still babies. This is not something I could invent. I am not making a big deal out of it. “It” just is a fact of every day life that we try to live with!
Today, Angel was at a friend’s party. He has one personality that is friendly, game show host upbeat, polite, thoughtful of others and the type of person who others adore. Andy indicated he used this personality every time he went to a new foster home in the hope that that family would not reject him. Unfortunately, this personality cannot maintain him for long periods of time, as other, more dangerous, personalities invarianly emerged. None of the foster families could handle this “quirk”, this change from, dare I even say it, Angel to Devil. Of course, it had not been diagnosed until he was in 3rd grade, so none of the families could have know what really caused his “severe mood swings”.
His “game show host personality” (as he calls it) was at the party today. He lasted 6 hours before he called me to pick him up. While I was at the party picking him up, 5 different people came over to me to tell me what a joy he is! That he is the best kid around! That he is so polite and helpful! And I thought to myself, “If they only knew…”
Once in the car, Angel’s smile vanished and a look of sheer anger appeared. He held his head an announced that his “parts” (which is what he calls “them”) were fighting. He cannot let one part out for so long without the rest fighting, he had explained a few years ago. It was excruciating for him to be so nice all day, he said. I knew the anger he displayed could be dangerous, and I encouraged him to come home and take a nap, which he did. He crawls into a fetal position and falls asleep. In the middle of the night, the “part” that is so emotionally needy will wake up and scour the kitchen for food. He will engulf anything edible, trying to feed his heart. Sometimes when he falls back asleep with his stomach full, he will fall asleep and his infant self will come out. Sometimes this self is so young that it does not yet know how to use the toilet, or it gags on regular cereal. (As an infant, it can only eat oatmeal.)
Angel knows about 10 of his parts. He knows there are several “mad” ones that he does not know. These are the parts that were abused, and if they become known to Angel, then the memories of the abuse would come flooding back. So they remain hidden as Angel could not psychologically survive the memories at this age. Slowly they have become known to him, and some of the angry parts have joined the rest of the parts he knows. Through them, he remembers foster mothers who left him lying on his back, crying for hours. (In reality, when he came to live with us at the age of 3 he had a flat back of his head from lying so long.) He remembers them coming in and yelling at him to shut up and not helping him. He had 4 foster moms reject him, and it physically damaged his young brain. The angry parts he does not know do bad things to him. They resent the fact that he is living a nice life and they had to endure the abuse. They have done things like destroy his homework, steal his cell phone, laptop computer, Ipod and other precious items. (We’ve never found these items, and once he is conscious that they are gone, the trash has been taken away, so we had nothing to search.) Once, after his second computer disappeared, I thought I had outsmarted the angry ones. I locked his computer on a cord to his bedstand. “There!” I thought. Let’s see THAT disappear!” It stayed fine for a week or two. Then, one morning I woke up to Angel screaming. “Someone” had stomped on his computer, breaking the keyboard and snapping the screen off.
Angel has been in therapy since the 4th grade, and he has made considerable progress. Previously, he would study for a test in school and I’d test him on the way to school and he would know the material 100%. A half hour later he would take the test and in handwriting of a 1st grader, he would flunk it wrong answers. Through therapy, his parts have learned to cooperate. Now only the “smart ones” go to school.
Angle has been to Baltimore and counseled by the leading expert in Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dr. Joy Silberg. He knows the goal of his therapy is integration of all of his parts. He has indicated he does not want that, that he would be lonely without them to keep him company. It looks, however, that it will be a long time before he is completely familiar with those angry parts. They are still protecting him because they are holding the memories of his abuse!