My partner, DeviantSuccubus, a.k.a. Puppet, was courageous enough to write about DID and Relationships, despite knowing that very few people would be able to truly relate. So I figured I’d write about the same topic, but from the opposite perspective, as someone who is in a relationship with a… system. “Complicated” does not begin to touch what is going on.
I knew that Puppet had been through some unimaginable shit through most of her life as soon as we started chatting online. But neither of us realized how much growing up in emotional, physical and sexual abuse really affected her brain. Ironically, we both knew what Dissociative Identity Disorder was, through our common work on an online mental heath and emotional support site where we met. We both had supported those who had been struggling with DID, listening to their feelings, doubts, concerns and struggles to get through the day. Some of them each of us got to know quite intimately, in some ways better than they knew themselves. When Puppet and I got involved in a more than professional or friendly way, still online, and I gave her the nickname, which she gleefully adopted as her own, the depth of her struggles was still quite latent. That changed, however, almost a year later, after several traumatic events in a row finally proved too much. One not-so-wonderful night, we were in a call, as was our nightly ritual, she was struggling worse than usual, going from one flashback into another, alternating between being passively and actively suicidal, when her face suddenly turned absolutely emotionless and her voice turned flat. All hints of struggles just a moment ago vanishing. This was not overly surprising, I had seen her before dissociating into an emotionless state after an episode of extreme anguish. This kind of emotional dissociation is not an uncommon reaction to trauma in general. When something is too much, human brain can protects itself by shutting down the extreme feelings. Only this time it was different. The person talking to me was not Puppet. It was dissociation personified, one of her inner protectors. He (yes, this protector gave an unmistakably masculine vibe) calmly explain that he could no longer do his job while hiding from the “host”, and from me. We were both stunned. Well, Puppet herself was buried inside her mind, listening to the same words in disbelief, unable to express anything while the protector was fronting. And so nothing was ever the same since.
Imagine a couple of dozen people of various ages, genders, personalities, maturity levels, and so on. All stuck in one body. All having lived through severe trauma, or most likely several traumas. Having trouble communicating with each other. Sometimes hating each other. Often verbally and/or physically abusive toward each other. But also protective. Imagine a big dysfunctional family. Now imagine being in a relationship with ALL of them at once. One or two of them even resenting being stuck in this relationship and missing their life from before. Or not even remembering much from the last couple of years, because they were, so to speak, “asleep”, in some cases for years or even decades. Not really asleep, more like frozen. Lost in time when another trauma happened and they were replaced by someone else. Until something triggered them again, and they were out, the protectors feeling safe in my presence enough to let them out. Some at first not knowing who I am, some not knowing who they are, or where they are, some already having names, some not. Most not understanding much or anything at all about DID, especially the little ones. Some fully formed personalities, others just fragments, more like coping strategies preserved from the times they were useful to survive severe abuse. Personified responses to stress: Fight, Flee, Freeze, Fawn. There is more, but hopefully you get the picture. So I am “dating” for the lack of a better word, every single person in Puppet’s mind and body. Does it sound complicated enough yet? No? Let’s see.
A relationship with a trauma survivor is never trouble-free. When someone has C-PTSD, it is guaranteed to be quite challenging. When someone has DID, one of the better descriptions would be “extreme”. There are ups and downs daily. Hourly. Sometimes within the same minute. Or from one second to another. Now, add other mental and physical illnesses into the mix. Yeah. This is our life daily. Ever tried to physically restrain a suicidal person from jumping from the balcony, then talking them down to the point where you can trust them to stay safe for the next little while, or at least get them to take a sedative? We call it a Tuesday. Puppet sometimes half-jokes that she and I have a trauma bond. There might be something to that.
But enough about the struggles. There is always the flip side. Laughing together, having crazy sex, chilling, hugging, cuddling, feeling close. Right, sex. This is a sex blog, at least at times, so. Owing to Puppet having so many different headmates, we get to do all kinds of things sexually. Some dynamics are more DD/lg, some are Sadist/masochist, some are brat/brat tamer, some are degrader/degradee. You name it, odds are, we have it, at least at times. I absolutely love physically torturing Puppet into subspace. Turns me on so much. Of course, have to start slowly, it takes some work to get her to handle more and more pain. And if I overdo it too quickly, she switches into someone angry and fighting back, without holding back. Which can be fun, since I always have some tools in my arsenal to get her where I want her. Submitting and helpless. And coming uncontrollably. Some of these tools are physical and some are verbal. She needs to know her place, after all. When our D/s dynamics work, our relationship is at its best: we both feel safe and secure. When it doesn’t work, life is full of frustration, exasperation and roller coasters of emotions. We have been trying to codify our relationship into rules in the last little while, mostly by Puppet’s suggestion. Did I mention she is smart? I should have. She is. Plus she has the emotional intelligence I cannot hope to match. She is also super reflective.
Now, you might think by now that I am pulling your leg. Or maybe that she is pulling mine. After all I have been referring to her as a singular “she” more often than not in this post. Doesn’t it mean that she is “truly” a single person, and all those others are just figments of her rich imagination? Funnily enough, if you were to ask her, she would immediately switch into the alter that denies having others and trying to convince me that she is “playing” or “faking” and finds a million reasons to justify this assertion. Ironically this self-denial and self-invalidation is one of the hallmarks of DID. An actual faker would try to convince you that they have multiple personalities and exaggeratedly “switch” between them right in front of you to prove their point.
Puppet’s relationship with her diagnosis is, well, complicated! She doesn’t want it. She denies it. She accepts it. She definitely hates it. But if you ask her if she wants to be “one person” again, there is panic. Because to some of her personalities it means disappearing, and they don’t want to disappear. But sometimes they do. But not being forced to. Only on their own terms. Because the trauma they have all experienced meant not heaving control over the situation, and so they crave control. But, paradoxically, being put in the situation where they voluntarily relinquish control and still feel safe, is one of the reasons so many trauma survivors are into D/s, being dominant, submissive, or switches. Puppet is mostly submissive and bratty with me, but definitely has a dominant streak that took her months to acknowledge. Event longer that it took her to acknowledge that she is a sub through and through. Funny how things work out sometimes. Well, some parts of her acknowledge it readily, because that is who they are. While others are unable to come to terms with the reality.
So, there you are. Complicated enough yet? And this is only the broad strokes. Our days are anything but ordinary. And so we have learned to be thankful for the good ones. And are still working on getting through moments when things are not so good. And we are determined to keep at it.