Having Dissociative Identity Disorder is, ironically, a profoundly lonely experience. On the one hand, I am never truly alone. Now that I’m finally learning to communicate internally, that’s even more the case. On the other hand, the very fact that there is anyone internally with which to communicate makes real connection with people outside of my head difficult. There is a pervasive sense of separateness, otherness, humming in the background of my awareness at all times. Despite the kinship I feel with other people, I know that the way I am different creates gaps I cannot fully bridge.
In brief, I would describe myself as someone who tries not to stand out too much. I avoid confrontation to a degree that I now understand is unhealthy. I have enormous difficulty saying no, to even the smallest of requests. I am an introvert who needs lots of solitude to function at my best. I avoid being the center of attention even though I often dream about what it would be like to unabashedly revel in the spotlight from time to time.
But if you were to ask anyone who has spent a fair amount of time with me, they would never describe me the same way. In fact, I imagine they would laugh at the above representation of my character, claiming it ludicrous and woefully inaccurate. What sticks with people who know me are the parts of my system that demand attention. They know someone vivacious, lively and funny. Or they know someone assertive, perhaps even aggressive and hostile. Or someone cripplingly depressed, fragile and meek. In other words, they don’t know me.
No one feels entirely seen and understood for who they are all the time. In fact, I would wager that much of this is just part of the human condition. But I also know that DID complicates the matter of identity. And I know that because I have DID, who I am and how others perceive me are two (and many more) vastly different things. I am trying to make peace with that fact, and with the reality that in being more open about myself, I highlight the more glaring differences between who I say I am and who others see. In some ways, I’m making things worse. But I’ve decided there are at least two kinds of loneliness: the loneliness of being different, and the loneliness of trying not to be. The former seems unavoidable. The latter is a choice, one that doesn’t seem worth it anymore. After all, if I accept what’s different about me, I’m still lonely. But only one kind of lonely.