Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder: Theresa

Welcome to the first installment of our new blog series- Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder! We're thrilled so many wonderful people agreed to join us in this venture. Since we started our Living with DID Talks last year, many systems have continued reaching out (Hundreds at this point) and some have expressed a desire to figure out a way to join in on our journey to combat stigma and introduce real world information in regards to Dissociative Disorders, specifically Dissociative Identity Disorder. They've told us countless times now, they wish they could do what we do--in regards to public speaking-- and use their own voices to show people who we are as individuals and as a community.

Our hope with this series is to bring about change and give insight into what everyone living with DID can experience in their daily lives. Not just myself and The We In Me but those who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder and their collective systems. These wonderful people have been sharing their day to day lives with us and how they all, respectively, deal with life. Throughout this series you will gain insights into their lives, how each system can define things differently, and live life by finding what works for them. We all share a similar diagnosis but we all experience trauma and life in differing degrees.

Everyone involved has expressed hope that this series can help end the stigma and common misconceptions of who we --those of us living with DID-- are as people. We all are people. We want and deal with the same things you do...perhaps just in a different way at times.

Here is our very first Featured System of the Month...We hope you enjoy and can appreciate the amount of dedication and effort from all the systems we'll be bringing to you, as this series grows. This is a struggle for many systems as speaking about these things goes against the very nature of what Dissociative Identity is; for many of the parts/alters  it is incredibly difficult and takes some tact and logistics to make them comfortable through this process. A great deal goes into something like this for each of them. Living a dissociated life takes it's toll...

NOTE: Some of the images in this post may be triggering. Please practice self care and do not continue reading if this concerns you. The most triggering images are at the very end. Take care!

Name: We voted on our name and chose, Theresa Dutcher.
Twitter: @DIS-SOS
System Name: We all use the name Theresa externally. Internally, yes we have individual names.

Age/Body Age: 30
Parts Age Ranges: Infant-43yrs old
System: There are 15+ parts

Diagnosis: They were officially diagnosed in 2009, but didn't have a therapist until 2014. Initially, they had a doctor that was trauma informed but unfortunately had minimal, at best, information about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Before the diagnosis one had studied psychology. "We are aware of an internal therapist." This part studied psychology to help the system when she studying and gaining an understanding of DID. She knows some of their individual struggles and helps. She studied Psychology at university and another part gained a degree in another trade through a job program.

Work & School: Theresa and her system did work off and on over the years but for right now, they cannot. When they're more stabilized and able to work again they will likely go back to the previous trade that one part within the system studied. Theresa had expressed this could become problematic because the part who originally studied this trade hasn't been around at all and is dormant according to the system. If this part were to remain back within the system and not "front" [take over/go to work] it will prove difficult as the others did not study the trade course(s).

They began to focus more on teaching over the last few months due largely to their achieving part. This achieving part is the main reason they began teaching tools to benefit people's mental health. Something we've seen discussed on Theresa's twitter account.

Religion: As for religious beliefs they cannot agree on a religion. Christianity was what Theresa identified with but they've had disagreements about this as many feel it to be unsafe. More specifically in the church they had attended and worked, to several in the system it became more unsafe.

Relationships: "We don't interact with people often. We did have a boyfriend, but things ended. We remained friends." -Theresa

As for their day to day life, it looks like most peoples; perhaps with a few alterations. Theresa has a strict structure and rules set in place for her system. An example of this is a teenage part who enjoys high action stories, but these are only allowed in the afternoon.

Reading something with violence or that is over stimulating too late into the evening can cause unnecessary sleep issues. So they decided this needed to be restructured and agreed upon in order to better the wellbeing and daily life of the collective group. Some afternoons are spent exercising or outside enjoying a beautiful day.

"We run errands and do every day things or another part may want to work on an art project. Nothing big is going on in our life but there are often internal things happening."

Before they had a sleep routine things were falling apart. Theresa shared with me some of the discussions they had together and one of the main things they say to each other before they had a stricter regime in place is "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

Now they have time set aside for everyone during the day. Upon waking they do the mundane morning things most people do, then it's two hours of writing and research. Followed by their afternoon's of reading, art work, or one episode of a television show. Their meals are scheduled as is their sleep. The strict structure is something that works quite well for them.

"If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

Every system we've been chatting with for the "Living with DID" series has been given similar questions, but as this series progresses you'll come to find that the answers differ greatly in some instances. Some systems are in therapy, some are past it at this point, while others are terrified to try again after several awful and harmful experiences. We were half way through our conversation at this point when we asked:

"Since, we've [The We In Me] been doing our Living with DID Talks with the psychology students, we've wondered...If you could tell a doctor anything about you, DID, or otherwise what would that be?"

Theresa stated it may seem weird to some people but the thing that sticks out is the use of DBT programs for self harm recovery. It isn't something that worked for her system because they are a system of several individuals. One thing may not work for another person and that is beyond true for someone(s) living with DID. When one of the parts would self harm someone else would come back and if this were to come up in therapy it was difficult to express how certain things weren't helpful.

System self harming behavior is a situation that can become incredibly difficult to help. It is not an uncommon occurrence within a DID system, but that doesn't make it any easier. It is a tricky thing to determine... The who's and why's when someone is self harming in a system is beyond difficult. When a doctor had asked Theresa, "Why did you do this?" It wasn't a question she could answer. Additionally, working through self injury can be an immense struggle for anyone, but how can you answer a question if you weren't the one exhibiting the behavior? Simply put, you can.

Common Myths: The big one Theresa wanted to address was the switching... It is not obvious. She used herself and the achieving part as an example here; she does an excellent job of imitating Theresa and even if you knew them very well you could still miss the switch. It's a very subtle thing and you will miss it. She went on to add that certain parts switch differently which was an excellent point as that's not often something people discuss.

Final Thoughts: It took them time to get the strict routine they have in place. They're a system of over achievers, she says and fear has no place in their system. They work together and find compassion. Most of the adults within the system are high achieving and through finding mutual respect and compassion things began to change for the better.

One Basic Goal- Connection
One Rule- Fear does not have room in our system.-Theresa

We wanted to quickly state again how grateful we are too all the systems that have been working with us to create this series. We currently have dozens wanting to partake and for now, we will be producing one (probably two) Featured System every month here on The We In Me. So stay tuned...


  1. Thank you so much for your candor and bravery. We need tons more real information out there about DID.

  2. Awesome series. Thanks Erika. Thank you Theresa!
    We appreciate the work all do to raise awareness and brings conversation about DID.
    Cheers to no fear! End stigma!