Coming Out Multiple

Guest article by Bob King/Firewheel

Bob is a member of the FirewheelVortex system.
You can write to them at graphictruth at gmail d0t c0m.

1: Introduction to Coming Out

Coming out as Multiple is as difficult in its own way as coming out as queer, or coming out as being any of a dozen "things," ranging from radical feminist to radical pro-life. There comes a time, though, with all such "things," that you need to stand up and be counted for your beliefs, or your sexuality, or your very self in order for that self-definition to be meaningful.

One can't be a radical pro-lifer without getting public about it. One can't be a radical feminist without getting up the noses of oppressive patriarchs. One can't be a Republican without apologising for Rush... well, maybe you can, but you ought to feel bad about it.

The only difference between standing up and being counted as one of these other things and standing up and being counted as a Multiple is that it takes a little longer. And some would uncharitably suggest that the result is an irrational number.

2: What Multiplicity Is

I'm a Multiple. I'm not on the extreme end; cases like Sybil are thankfully rare. But the vast majority of Dissociative Identity Disorders (The new term for Multiple Personality Disorder) are caused by extreme early childhood abuse. In other words, while a person is not usually born multiple (although there seems to be a genetic factor), it's not a "lifestyle" one "chooses."

Dissociation is a spectrum, and most people are somewhere along that line. Just as there are few rigidly separated multiples, there are few "pure" singletons. Most everyone has the ability to dissociate at need, whether in combat or changing the litter box.

But when it goes beyond being a purely adaptive mechanism for dealing with things that would otherwise overwhelm us, when personalities hive off as a result of trauma, that's DID.

These personalities may or may not be in touch with one another, they may or may not like each other, they may or may not be pretty much anything a human can be.

Some personalities are more developed than others. It's common for multiples to have one or more "inner children" that are more than just a New Age Metaphor. Very often there are specialised personalities for dealing with particular situations, such as sex, public speaking, partying, or driving. Some handle stress better than others. Some are better at remembering things than others. It's usual for different alters to remember different people and things.

Finally, Multiplicity is not insanity. It's considered an adaptive response to trauma that otherwise would result in insanity.

Multiples can be insane, of course, but in exactly the same sense that Jamaicans can have warts.

Myself, I am also mentally ill; I suffer from clinical depression. Without medication, I'm dead. With medication, I'm normal. So to speak.

Generally speaking, insanity is a physical disease with physical cures. Disorders such as DID are "all in the head."

But that's like saying arthritis is "all in the joints."

The point, though, is that DID is much like Arthritis; there are things you can do to adapt to it, and you had best learn them because it's not going to go away. But we do learn to cope better and better, with the help of our friends.

3: What this means to you

. Ideally, nothing. If a friend of long standing comes out as being multiple, you have been "exposed" to their quirks and foibles for some time. You have thought it worthwhile to put up with them anyway, or even found their quirks to be endearing.

Multiples tend to be somewhat disorganised and scatter-brained. Or at least, I am. We tend not to have a really good grasp of time. Often we have great hunks of it that we simply can't account for. I don't seem to have this problem, but I do live on "Indian time." I reckon time in seasons; I've been known to forget my birthday and if I don't have a watch I don't know what time, day or month it is.

Often there will be an "alter" that compensates for these lapses. I personally wish I had one. Some are fortunate enough to have housekeeping alters and alters that like doing taxes.

(We will pause for a moment to let the envy sink in. :) )

But the thing you have to realise is that the person you know is likely not just the person you know. So don't be disturbed by them suddenly behaving "out of character," or startled because their hair or eyes change colour while you go for a cup of coffee. If you meet them on the street and they don't recognise you, you aren't talking to your friend. Introduce yourself as a friend of so and so, just as if you are meeting someone completely different, because you are.

You might even be doing them a favour - the two personalities might not know each other.

But now you have a greater basis for understanding. You should also realise that this is a confidence of great significance.

There are people who still deny the reality of DID, but for the people that are multiple, it's the reality they experience. If nothing else, it's rude to dismiss someone's internal reality. And how would you like it if someone told you to your face that you didn't really exist; that you were a delusion of someone else?

Even if you were a delusion of someone else, you would have every right to be offended, I'd think. Seeing that none of us can read minds, there's no way to be sure that any one of us is deluded about things that cannot be measured. To insist otherwise is clearly rigid, doctrinaire thought.

Let's leave religion to the seminarians, shall we?

Nevertheless, when someone comes out as being something - Gay, Republican, Multiple - that conflicts with the perceptions or beliefs of those close to them, there is the natural tendency to insist that they are no such thing.

And I'm here to say that is wrong, for a very simple reason that has nothing to do with psychology, sociology or politics. If we are not who we believe we are, if we cannot define our own reality, how can we really live?

Perhaps - for the sake of argument - I am not "really" multiple in some grand objective sense. Nevertheless, that's my internal reality. The fact that it's different from the "norm" is hardly surprising. Most people tend to keep the more bizarre aspects of themselves to themselves, so our guesses about what the "norm" is are just that; guesses. Even in the most professional sense.

I went to an NLP seminar once, and although I escaped with my pocketbook intact I came away with a wonderful phrase for my time.

"The person next to you is weirder than you can possibly imagine."

So don't worry about it. It ain't contagious. Just remember, if you are ever upset with me about something, you can always talk to me about it and I'll keep it in the strictest confidence.

Bob King

Created: Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 2:54:44 PM
Last Updated: Sunday, September 05, 2010 02:43 am

Copyright 1996, 1997 Bob King

Hondas' Guide to Coming Out
L.B. Lee: Guide to Coming Out

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