Dissociative Identity Disorder, Splitting and Marmite

SailorWhen I joined Canvas I had just “come out” as having other personalities.  I’ve been researching them a lot, because I don’t understand why I do this, and research is helping me understand, so I would like to share, especially as there isn’t a lot of first hand experience out there.

I have two others who I consider different personalities to my own. One is called Charlotte, the other is Jack.  I also have the real me.  The real me who you might know as Sailor, but everyone in the “real world” knows as Carrie.

You might think I could have some sort of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder.  I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but then again I don’t think that’s entirely what it is.  I wonder if I show some signs of DID and some form of psychological “splitting“, providing me with a fun mash-up of the mind!

DID is defined by good old Wikipedia as the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of behaviour.

The diagnosis of DID requires two or more personalities to be present, one is the “host”, but there can be more than one “other”.  The “others” routinely take control of the host’s behaviours and there is also an associated memory loss.

Diagnosis of DID is often difficult, as with many other mental illnesses, there is a considerable amount of co-morbidity with other conditions.

Aside from the other clinical signs manifested with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), individuals often show “black or white” thinking patterns.  This is often shown as idealisation or devaluation episodes.  For example I am a Veterinary Nurse I love my job and I am very passionate about it. Sometimes I hate it and want to quit right there and never see that green uniform again.  It sounds relatively normal after a bad day at work, but when you do this with your friends and other people around you, it makes life very difficult.  People with BPD don’t seem to have a grey area.  I can concur with this because I very much like something or someone, or I very much hate them.  I like to call this the Marmite effect.  As in you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground.


Because of the black and white thinking patterns, people with BPD find it very difficult to integrate both the “good” and “bad” sides of their personalities.  They can either see themselves as “all good“, or “all bad“, there is no in between.  They split into separate parts of themselves and find it very hard to see their personality as a whole.  When this happens to the extreme it can result in fragmentation of the self through Dissociative or Multiple Personality formation.  All of these strategies are used as a coping mechanism.

Because I can only see the good and the bad, I split the bad off into Charlotte.

Poor old Charlotte is the one who all the bad stuff happened to.  She is the one who carries it with her every day.  She is the one who gets angry and confused about it.  She is the one who hates being a nurse and hates herself and everyone else more than you could ever know.  I also think she is very childlike, because she has never had the chance to grow up.

I’m not sure where the line is drawn between DID and BPD/splitting in this behaviour, and I’m not sure Charlotte is either because there are aspects of both at play.  Charlotte has a complete different personality, she enjoys different things, but for the most part I am in control of the body. Charlotte does not get to do things unless it gets really bad.  When Charlotte does take over completely, that is when I dissociate and I’m only vaguely aware of what she is doing.  For example, sometimes I come across blog posts or Facebook statuses that I don’t remember writing, or I have self harmed, although I know it could only have been me physically performing these actions.  But sometimes I can have conversations with Charlotte.  If I had true DID I wouldn’t be able to have conversations with her.

Before I finish talking about Charlotte, I just want you to know I am trying not to consider her as an entirely bad person.  She is just in pain and she is in pain for me, so I don’t have to be.  Charlotte is more creative than I am, so I’ve been allowing her some freedom to draw and paint.  I often wish I could meet Charlotte in her physical form so I could give her a hug.  I have spoken with my psychologist about “getting rid” of Charlotte, but this is a whole other post, because right now it seems impossible.

As for Jack.  Maybe Jack is just my/Charlotte’s imaginary friend.  If Charlotte is all bad, then Jack is her opposite.  He never takes over my body, but I can always find him to talk to in my head when I am feeling bad or indecisive.

I found a nice little book about developmental psychology about splitting and the “good” and “bad” aspects. This is also makes sense to me in my situation and I hope that it can make sense for others too.

When we were young and developing, “good” and “bad” should have become integrated.  I guess you could call this the grey area that I, and many other people, seem to be lacking.  Ideally there is more “good” than “bad”, so the bad slowly diminishes because there is enough good” for protection.

In the theoretical Stage Three of child development (between ages 3 and 5 of life), if the “bad” does not diminish, and the child is unable to integrate the two, a vicious circle develops.  I guess this is where the difference between a classic borderline and quite borderline comes in – if the “bad” is projected outwards, it is done so with increasing force, if it is introverted it becomes more and more frightening.

At this point in development we start to idolise seemingly “powerful” objects so they can protect us from the “bad“.

This part particularly struck a chord with me.  When I was around 10 years old I had a small brass elephant that I would take with me everywhere because I was sure it protected me and I’d die if I didn’t have it.  I still do this now and have a whole little treasure box of things that I can’t go anywhere without because they make me feel “safe”, even though I know they are inanimate objects and are not magic in any way!

At this point in life, along with idolising powerful objects, the “good” has to become better and better, but it never quite diminishes the “bad“.

I think this is why I feel the need to be better and better as a person, because if I can be better, than maybe Charlotte will be better, but it never works that way.

In conclusion the author expressed that the child’s developing personality gets caught up in a world that feels dangerous and the sense of self is unstable and intense.  This interrupts the natural process of ego strengthening and integration of the self.

The author provides no suggestion of how to re-integrate the two, so maybe I’m stuck.  Perhaps the CBT is helping, Charlotte isn’t appearing quite as often, or to the degree that as she was, but I think I am also consciously playing a part in this by trying to understand her better and allowing her a bit of freedom, because she is a part of me, so she can’t be all bad.

But I still ask –  Is this DID or psychological splitting. I think maybe it is a bit of both and I don’t think it really matters the name which is given to it.  I’m still me, slightly damaged but learning to live with myself and my others, and that is what is important.


Love from Hello Sailor (and Charlotte 😉 )

Further reading –

Understanding Splitting

Borderline Personality Disorder – Mind

Dissociative Disorders – Mind

Developmental Psychology – Jacki Watts et al.

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21 thoughts on “Dissociative Identity Disorder, Splitting and Marmite

  1. This is a really wonderful and informative post. I had no idea that there was an actual psychological term “splitting”, or, more properly, I didn’t really know what it referred to. So much of what you write about makes a lot of sense. I wonder if something similar can happen as a result of severe trauma as an adult.

    More research for me!

    • Some of the literature you read, explains that the context of splitting has changed over the years. A lot of people use it to mean the black and white thinking, but it originally meant splitting the good and bad sides of the self (from what I’ve read on the internet anyway!).
      I can imagine it could happen with a severe trauma as an adult.
      The bit that got me the most when researching this was about there ideally being more good than bad, but if there is more bad than good, the good slowly diminishes. That’s how I feel. So much bad has happened, I can’t see the good now because it’s clouded by all the bad and I always expect bad things.

      • Oh, that’s heartrending, and maybe it isn’t a good thing for you to think about. I don’t believe the good will diminish like that, I truly believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, and most especially in the resiliency of your spirit. There’s a light up ahead, and I promise it isn’t a train. xx

  2. So much of this makes so much sense but it’s something I haven’t yet been able to write about myself, so I really appreciate that you have. Thank you.

    • When I opened up on my personal blog, a few people felt they experience something similar and by me opening up it helped them too, so I am glad to be of service. It seems it is more common than people admit.
      I think the Marmite effect sums up black and white thinking completely! You never get a person who sort of likes Marmite, they either love it or hate it. For me I have the same effect, I can bounce between loving or loathing something. There is no middle ground.
      That is really sad about the nationwide shortage of Marmite (and the earthquake as well I mean). I love marmite, I can imagine all these Marmite addicts trying to get it on the black market.
      I don’t know what happens when you can’t access the good side. Maybe that is a trait of narcissistic personailty dissorder, however according to wikipedia, they have the ability to split too. So I’d imagine everyone has a good and a bad side, it is just how the two are integrated and which on is predominent maybe?

  3. I also have to say I love the marmite affect. Actually in NZ where I live we have a nationwide shortage of marmite right now (because earthquakes damaged the factory) and people are going crazy trying to find marmite. I know this has nothing to do with your post but I just had to mention it. What does one do when they can’t access the good side?

  4. Great post, thank you! I have not been diagnosed with BPD, but I do experience total black-and-white thinking. It is very annoying and interferes with my relationships to the point where I isolate myself rather than deal with the emotional rollercoaster and constant rounds of misunderstandings that arise from it. Good job that you are working so hard to understand yourself/selves, and thank you for sharing, it’s helped me.

    • I really love reading these comments and finding that other people have similar behaviours. It makes me feel so much less alone! Not that I like to hear that people are suffering too, but you know what I mean 😉
      I struggle with relationships all the time and I think it is because my black and white thinking gets me into trouble and then I isolate myself too, because it all becomes too difficult to deal with and ignoring it seems easier!!
      I wonder if we start to understand ourselves better, this probelm can be resolved?

  5. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about DID and BPD. I have been diagnosed with both, but as you mentioned, the symptoms overlap so much that it is often difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.
    I do want to point out a statement you made that doesn’t always apply:
    “If I had true DID I wouldn’t be able to have conversations with her.”
    It’s true that many people don’t have contact between the personalities, at least not before therapy, but some do. Therapy helped me learn to “meet” with my inside parts (I have 11) on a regular basis so that I can know what they are thinking and feeling. If I don’t pay attention to them, they begin to act out and cause trouble for me. Certain parts are in charge of specific feelings, like one of them feels depression the most. I have to stay in touch with her because she’s the one who tries to harm me/herself/us.
    I don’t know if this makes any sense! In any case, I wish you the best.

    • Thanks for sharing your point of view on things. I’m glad that you can recogise too that they overlap.
      I think it is also interesting what you say about not paying attention to your inside parts. If I don’t pay attention to Charlotte, then she acts out more. If I give her freedom to do the things she likes doing, which differ from what I like doing, then it gives her a space to express herself. If I talk to her, and don’t ignor her, her anger remains at a level I can deal with (most of the time).
      I used to ignor her a lot, because I thought having conversations with her gave her more power.
      It’s really interesting reading your experience and it did make sense!!
      Thank you, all the best too!!!

      • I was going to bring up the exact two points as AnitaS did here. I’m not an expert, but some of the literature that I’ve read suggests that BPD and DID may be on the same spectrum.

        Also, there seems to be some sort of misconception that:
        – personalities aren’t aware of one another, and therefore they can’t interact and communicate between one another; and,
        – all personalities “come out”/switching is obvious
        which, to my knowledge, are both not *entirely* true… And by that I mean, this is not the experience for all of those with DID, or for all personalities within someone with DID.

        Obviously I’m not suggesting what you may or may not “be” in terms of diagnosis here. I just wanted to point that out.

        Awesome, informative post though- Thank you! I especially love the Marmite effect analogy! I’m an Aussie, and I LOVE my vegemite 😛

        • I think there is misconception out there for most mental illnesses to be honest, but by talking about it, being open and sharing our experience we can help get rid of those myths!
          I think the problem is trying to categorise something like this. We are all individual, experience effects us in different ways, and so does mental illness. I guess, for some one who likes everything to be black and white, there is a lot of grey area in these diseases because they can all over lap. Frustratingly they aren’t always one or the other.
          Mmmm Marmite 😀
          Thanks for the feed back!

          • I think what you say just here is so right, categories and labels can only ever be a guide, not a hard and fast definition. All illnesses fall into a spectrum, all human condition.
            And, I have to agree with my fellow country woman above, dear Tulip, the ‘Marmite effect’ is a great analogy, but only a small spread of Vegemite for me please! 😉

  6. Thank you, the developmental theories are particularly interesting. Only BPD here, but many similar emotional features, ‘splitting’ as part of BPD being the black/white or good/bad aspects, at 38 I still sleep with a stuffed rabbit. And with that, it is 11pm in the States, gotta find that rabbit…goodnight Sailor, goodnight Canvas, goodnight Bloggers-all

    • I’ll have to post a picture of my stuffed rabbit. I think that’s why I was intreagued by your bunny, because I have one too. Only he doesn’t have a name, he is just Bunny 🙂

      • Oh, George is my mental rabbit, my sleepy bunny is, I think my kids got this from a movie or maybe this was on his tag when we got him, Runny Babbit. Instead of Bunny Rabbit (yes, I know you’re smart enough to have figured that one out on your own). Hooray for therapeutic rabbits!!!

  7. I always thought that DID was the new name for MPD. This post is a lot to digest but I admire the way you shared your personal experience, to help others understand the difference between MPD and DID. The one note that resonates from this post is, you are at peace with yourself. You have accepted the personalities and never once condemned or felt ashamed of them. That is truly remarkable Sailor! Thank you for sharing this post!

    • Yes, Dissociative Identity Disorder is the new name for Multiple Personality Disorder, but I think they are interchangable.
      I’m trying to be at peace with myself. I don’t think I can change it, I’ll just have to learn to live and function better with it!

  8. It’s interesting to think of DID and BPD as part of a spectrum. Very informative post!

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