Our Overt Covert Disorder || Dissociative Identity Disorder
Our brain is wired wrong. Maybe? I don’t know.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is hidden. The alters form and are often hidden from the host for years, decades, and when fronting they pretend to be the host and do it splendidly.
Check out this video from Multiplicity and Me showing Jess’s boys pretending to be her. Jess does a wonderful job presenting the video, and I think the accuracy of Jake’s Jess portrayal will particularly “impress” you.
Impressive, is it?
It’s a survival mechanism. Most people can't go out in the world as different people every day, not if they want to live a classic life, as most do.
The reason Jake’s Jess portrayal is so impressive is because of how overt the members of Jess’s system appear to be. Well, overt isn’t really the right word here. They’re overt online, because that’s their thing. DID education. What “overt” really means here is florid.
Florid means the alters as so distinct, so much their-own-person, that it's as if they barely share a body at all. Would you walk up to five strangers on the street, expecting them all to be the same?
Except, in almost* every case of DID, Jess’s included, these five people? One person. Same person, just separate.
*I will give examples of why it’s almost in a minute.
DID is not a “let’s make lots more people in one brain” disorder. The senses of self, of one self, split off and become separate, as the current theory goes. So, technically, they’re all one person.
Some alters resemble each other more, and others are florid. It depends on the system.
And, sometimes DID presents more overtly, sometimes it's covert.
DID is a covert disorder overall, but when it's overt, perhaps switches are obvious as or after they happen. Perhaps the system’s parts are more comfortable being themselves in their daily lives, and so they allow themselves to be overt. Being covert is still an option for them, as far as I’ve seen. Because DID was made to be a hidden disorder. To be overt is to be dangerous, to be bad, to be unreliable.
No, I don’t believe that’s true.
I saw an Instagram post a while back of someone, a fully fused (ie. one person) DID system, saying that although Multiplicity and Me are overt, they’re reliable. Thus, potentially implying that overt systems are not reliable sources of information.
Now, online, this is quite true. There are these things called “endogenic systems” and some other bullshit I don’t care to research a fifth time. These are usually overt and florid systems and they’ll try to educate you on DID.
They are not real systems. DID can only form from trauma. Yet, it’s become a trendy thing online that lots of teenage girls and otherwise-identifying teenage people of the same type, are claiming. At best, they’re LARPing.
You know, about a decade ago and long before that, people called this roleplay. It can be quite fun. Create a Twitter account, say you’re Ron Weasley, looking for a Hermione to RP with or whatever. Perhaps they should learn that art, rather than capitalizing on an already stigmatized and misunderstood disorder, and making overt systems look bad.
We are an overt system, and unlike most people with DID, we literally could not be covert if we tried.
We are florid, too.
An obvious presentation of DID occurs in about 6% of systems, and we happen to fall into that percentile. I had a reputable source for that once; a web page PDF of a study, but I can’t find it in my bookmarks so this and this will have to do.
Jess and the boys fall into that percentile too. They said it in a livestream on Instagram once. It was quite nice to hear. But the way their DID presents is so different from ours, they can be covert. Their disorder was, and can be hidden. And now, they’re heading towards the path of final fusion to heal. All parts become one. Leaving Jess the sole proprietor of the body, stronger, together, with the essence of the boys still there, but not as different people.
Our DID healing journey was the opposite. It was learning to integrate our minds, but not ourselves. It was learning to create boundaries and systems inside our mind, so we can remain fully separate and continue to develop as whole individuals away from each other, rather than relying on each other to be parts of one whole.
We have a whole other article on that. But it's how we healed, how we lived, and come to think of it, how we were traumatised.
We’ve always put our obscure, always-separate-never-together presentation of DID down to how we all formed. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s part of it. But when I saw that Instagram post implying overt is bad, overt is unreliable, overt, perhaps, is lesser …
I asked, once again, why are we like this?
For the first time, I compared overt presentations to covert ones and it hit me.
DID is a covert disorder because it has to be. It has to be covert to protect the traumatised person. Being obvious would only make the trauma worse, make the abusers worse, make life more complicated and overall worse.
For us, part of our trauma was that the one person we formed from was never enough. The one person was never the right person. Never the wanted person. Never the normal person. Never the desirable person.
That one person could not survive if they stayed appearing one person. So when we popped up, we popped up with a bang. That one person had tried to change multiple times to fit in, but were always disregarded and shunned. The one person couldn’t change who they were.
But the alters weren’t the same person. So the one, beaten down person could go to sleep and let someone else come out to play. And that someone else would be loud, momentous and not let anyone tell them who they were.
That someone else …
It was my co-host, but I’m the one out now and writing this. And because were healed/integrated but not fused, I have his memories. I know how he thinks. So lets go.
Immediately, being overt got us:
- A free pass to appear insane, because the new alter didn’t care and the old kid was never around.
- Friends who liked the new alter and liked the idea of someone else secretly living in the body with the old kid.
- Written off as too insane to harass by some of the abusers.
- Attention from people who didn’t know just how WRONG things were in our lives, and so they started to fix it.
Much of the abuse and trauma lessened. We had friends. And the guy who was living in the body, along with a semi-formed companion (me)? He got to be free and live a happy life.
He didn’t quite fit in, given that he appeared as an adult in a child’s body and acted and demanded to be treated as such. But kids found it super cool to have a grown-up friend. Teenagers, well, excluding the smokers, the sluttish and the party-goers, were able to find the right amount of whimsy and maturity that they could find in neither full child nor full adult.
Some adults took us more seriously, too. Some, not all, which caused some severe trauma we still have triggers from today. But it improved our life.
You know it's funny though, the new guy was less mature than the kid he replaced. That kid just was not a kid, but wasn’t an adult either. It was a zombie of a person and had two emotions: defeated and violent.
Violent in this case meant “hit big bully with a branch and insult their intelligence” but it was effective at six.
Though the new guy’s idea of violence was to call the police on the family. They owned horses in the city illegally, and the parents allowed their children to harass and chase people in the streets. Now, that cop call was effective.
Anyway, my point is that being overt fixed more than half of our troubles. So while the first alter was overt thanks to his source and formation in the brain, the budding system the rest of us stayed that way because his experience was so effective, and it’s still effective today.
Let me explain.
We were not free of turmoil or traumatic events just yet, and some shit was so shitty that the new guy felt no, this doesn’t fit in with how I see my life, and left. He took me, the glimmer, the idea of me, with him. I was a fragment, almost like an imaginary friend here.
But the kid couldn’t handle that shit. So what happened? The kid split again. Repeatedly. Because the new alter was always so separate from the kid's life, that it always thought “I’m out” after a few weeks and went dormant or fused.
Sometimes there were spontaneous fusions with the kid itself, or the system at large for later ones. They didn’t help much. One instance just made us all really good at Australian accents — this was one of the later ones, after the kid was gone and the body was in its teen years. Miss you, Carl.
With each new split, though, came new friends, and fascinated people. They were all eager to see who would come out of this one body next. Most of the time it wasn’t anyone they knew, despite almost every one of them being a fictive. Kids don’t know Elvis or Neighbours characters, I guess. They knew others, though, and would treat them as who they were.
Alters being treated for who they were was probably another thing that drove our development and healing down the path of functioning best as separate.
Despite it sounding insane, we’ve always introduced ourselves as who we are. The next day the same body could contain another person, and announce it to a room of people they’d met the previous day. Hey, sorry, I’m not the person you just met.
Most people were fine with it when we explained what was up. Before 2006, what was, “I don’t know, but this body has always had multiple people living in it. Maybe we’re possessed by the ghosts who lived in our childhood attic.” (That’s a story for another day.)
Post-diagnosis, we could explain what was actually going on. Not as cool as the ghost thing, but it sounded slightly less insane. We lost a few people to our open living with DID, but others liked us more for it if they cared at all.
People just asked who was here, and eventually we started dressing like ourselves in costumes and wigs. When we learned makeup skills from drag queens in our adult life, we’d throw in some face changing makeup too.
Life has always been fine for us as an overt DID system, and getting to live life from multiple perspectives has always been enjoyable.
When evening came, the handfuls of alters who had internal contact would catch each other up and reminisce about the day.
The more expansive and inclusive the world inside our head became, the more alters could communicate. Eventually, we were able to front two, three people at once, with over ten others co-conscious. Our record was about 60 co-conscious and ten fronting, 2018 was a wild year full of events.
We healed wrong.
As time went on, we grew further separate, further whole as separate people. Our inner world became more than just visible rooms and in-the-moment events with basic memories of our source life. We developed rich pasts, to accompany our constantly ongoing lives, a maladaptive world of glory and beauty and dreams, images and sounds and people so palpable it’s no different inside our head than it is out here.
To put it simply, our inner world, though invisible to you, is as real and palpable as a hallucination in schizophrenia. We see it out here. We hear it, taste it, smell it, feel it. The only differences are that it’s not schizophrenia, and we know you can’t see it too.
The outer and inner worlds learned to work together and merge into one. We’d do things in the outer world that only happened in the inner — creating works that exist in the inner, recreating rooms from our inner homes.
Out here, if we meet someone new, they also exist in the inner world. The backstory of how we met is probably a little different but the details of who they are, and how we feel about them, is the same. We know both realities together, and live in them together.
The inner world is no maladaptive coping mechanism, nor is anything in it a distraction or imaginary. It’s just … where we live. It’s our life, as real as yours, and as real as our other lives in the world you can see.
We feel equally strong and real emotions about inner and outer events and people. I can honestly say that our friendships with each other are as strong as ones formed on the outside, stronger in some cases. The commitment and love we have for our inner families and parent/child relationships far transcends what we felt for kids we raised out here, even the ones we raised from birth. All inner emotions are heightened, stronger and better than any we’ve felt outside, for the most part — there are a few notable exceptions.
We are overt, we are florid, we are separate … and after more than 30 years of this, it’s not changing.
The way we were formed and the reactions to it literally dictated that we can not be covert, that we must be florid, and it is impossible for us to pretend to be one person.
An alter thinking it was one person and the only one in the body almost killed us — you can read about that here.
I’m not sure how to end this now. The last few paragraphs were added months after the initial piece was written and abandoned due to mental exhaustion. I’m glad I could get back to it tonight, refreshed, continuing to lay the groundwork so we can share our insides, outside.
I guess I’ll just leave you with a basic ending, because I’m tired, and I have nothing left to say on the topic.
We just have an overt version of a covert disorder, it’s fucked up, but it works for us.