How does memory work within the system?
Since Roswell is the core (host) of the system, everyone else has access to most of their memories. We all have access to some of Maddie’s memories as well; however, one of the symptoms commonly associated with PTSD (and especially DID) is memory loss. Roswell and Maddie–and by extension, the rest of us–have very few memories of childhood. We have entire years’ worth of memories missing, and now that Maddie is largely dormant, we have no way to access them.
Our alters cannot typically access each others’ memories. When someone is fronting alone, everyone else experiences a blank in memory. Whoever was fronting may tell the others what occurred during that time. In systems with poorer internal communication than ours, alters may not choose to fill each other in during switches, which can cause a great deal of confusion. At this point, however, it’s almost impossible for Ros to not be at least co-conscious; they’re permanently stuck in front. We’ve had issues with other people we’ve trusted being uncomfortable interacting with the rest of us, so Ros has to be very, very distressed in order to be able to let go. This helps with losing time, but we still collectively have disordered memory, which is a common symptom of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and DID.
Again, in this particular respect we can only speak for our own experience with DID; other systems experience memory (or loss thereof) differently.
What’s dating like?
It depends on the system! Some systems only date other people with DID, in which case multiple alters may date each other between the two systems. In situations where a person with DID is dating someone without, the latter may choose to date just one alter, or multiple. Multiple alters within one system may each have one monogamous partner, or sometimes alters within the same system will date each other.
Currently, we all consider Ros’ boyfriend to be our partner. Each of us has a different relationship with him, not necessarily romantic (Sawyer, Percy, and Mal are all platonic) but he’s collectively our partner.
Determining early on what all involved parties need and are comfortable with is an important conversation to have with your partner(s).
Is Roswell transgender because they have DID?
Roswell is trans because the gender they and their body were assigned at birth does not match their actual internal gender.
The rest of us don’t consider ourselves trans, however; we see ourselves as living in a trans body. As an alter there is always a level of disconnect with your body, which is due to a combination of the trauma the body has experienced, and the fact that you’re living in a body that belongs to someone else (the host).
In short, with DID some alters may be trans, but DID does not make you trans.
How do alters talk to each other?
It isn’t hearing voices with your ears, but rather inside your head, the same way you hear your own thoughts. Each alter has a different, distinct voice and energy. We can distinguish each other by voice in much the same way you can recognize your friend’s voice from the other room; you don’t have to be looking at them to know what they sound like. That being said, we can also visualize each other as we’re holding conversations.
Communication within the system functions just the same as communication outside; the only difference is that when we’re talking to each other internally, it appears silent to the outside observer.
How do you treat or cure DID?
Most importantly, when looking to treat DID the focus should be on treating the PTSD that caused it.
Beyond that, treatment differs based on the system in question. A common assumption about treatment for DID is that the goal must be to eliminate alters altogether. DID is a coping mechanism–and can be a powerful one. Alters have different strengths, weaknesses, coping mechanisms, skill sets, etc., and the system can be utilized to help the host get through situations they can’t easily navigate on their own.
A number of therapists don’t take this into account, and push for integration: the process of combining the system back into one person. A very small number of systems do desire this course of action–particularly in situations where alters are antagonistic toward one another. Generally, though, most systems don’t seek integration. In these cases, it’s important for therapists to help alters work on intrasystem communication, which will enable all alters to cooperate, build relationships, and support each other. A system with strong internal communication operates much more smoothly: like a live-in support network.
I want to learn more! Can you recommend any other materials about DID?
Check out our Resources page!
How can I be a good friend / partner / ally to someone with DID?
Take a look at our Resources page as well! Learn what you can about DID so you’re not relying on your loved one to be your sole educator.
Learn what their triggers are — both your loved one’s and their alters’. Different alters often have different triggers, and this is a good way to get in the habit of keeping alters in mind, not just the host.
Be willing to engage with alters. This can take a lot of time and trust, and needs to happen on the alters’ time rather than yours, but express that you would like to get to know the others in the system. Learn their names, get in the habit of asking after them, and so forth. Get to know them the same way you got to know your loved one in the first place – however, and we can’t stress this enough – don’t expect the rest of the system to interact with you the same way the host does. Don’t ask for one alter to switch out so you can talk to another; don’t assume that the others have the same tastes or sense of humor as the host, etc. We can tell when you’re disappointed to see one of us versus another, and that makes it very, very difficult for us to feel comfortable being out openly.
Be critical of how you and others around you engage with conversations and material regarding abuse (especially of children) and sexual assault. When you hear or see people engaging with that kind of content in an inappropriate way, take the time to correct them. This takes the burden off the traumatized person, who has been put in the position of having to either confront the comment in the midst of being triggered, or to let it slide.
Additionally, be sure to have conversations with the people in your life about DID. Whether it’s hearing jokes about “multiple personalities,” praise for movies like Split, or remarks conflating mental illness with violence, when you step in you’re protecting us. You’re helping us chip away at the stigma that surrounds DID. You can direct people to this site if you find it helpful as well; we understand that most people who haven’t known someone with DID know very little about it, and that’s what we’re hoping to change.