Faces of Recovery: Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Heather Pate is listening to a favorite song and writing like she often does. It is a form of expression for all of her personalities.

“When I think I’ve gotten to where I think they’re all there, somebody pops up,” she explains.

Pate is living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a shocking diagnosis her therapist made in 2002.

“She said it’s what was called Multiple Personality Disorder,” Pate remembers.  “And my immediate response was, ‘No I’m not Sybil.'”

Pate refers to the 1970’s book and movie about a young woman coming to grips with the condition. It develops from overwhelming childhood trauma. To cope, the patient’s personality splits.

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Pate estimates she has more than 30 personalities. Besides Heather, who she is most of the time, a teenager called ‘A’ frequently comes out, along with 8-year-old twins Little One and Tommy.

“Even with the voices, the personalities internally, you would think you wouldn’t be alone, but it does feel very alone.”

Pate says there is a stigma about DID even within the mental health community.  The condition is very rare, with only an estimated one-percent of all people living with it. She does not know anyone else in Central Virginia with it.

“Even with the voices, the personalities internally, you would think you wouldn’t be alone, but it does feel very alone.”

Treatment has helped Pate integrate her personalities. She even adjusted her outward appearance and habits, wearing cartoon t-shirts and keeping sugary drinks with her, to satisfy all the ages inside.

Pate has been so high-functioning that she worked full-time until 2007 and was married until 2014.  Now giving a face to the condition is her mission, and she hopes to become a peer counselor.

“There is a purpose and plan for my life,” she says.  “To be able to come alongside others is that much more healing and encouraging and helpful and a part of the wellness in and of itself.”

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