Alters Who Morph

It’s hard to explain what multiplicity looks like to people who aren’t multiple and don’t have friends who are multiple. I think many people imagine that all multiples are like Eve in “Three Faces of Eve” or Tara in “The United States of Tara.”

Some are, of course. Kim Noble, who I blogged about at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/kim-noble-activist-artist/, is an example. Her alters have very different personalities, she has no co-consciousness, and the switches are very obvious.  But there are many who are not cut from the same cookie cutter. Actually, there probably are hundreds and hundreds of cookie cutters!

It is hard to explain when alters are not that different in their demeanor and when they switch seamlessly. Or when there is one alter who is usually out and others speak and act through the “host.”  Or when there are a group of alters all the same age, or alters who are identical twins or triplets.

Most of the time people don’t even notice the subtle shifts and may believe you are just pretending to be multiple. Perhaps they suspect you are seeking attention, or believe you have been persuaded that you have DID by an unscrupulous therapist. If they are kinder, they may think that  you are now totally integrated.

A few years ago I came across a beautiful short video on Youtube called “500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.” Women’s faces morph into each other every two or three seconds. In just under three minutes, the video shows portraits by artists ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso.

I thought it was a great metaphor for subtle switching. I’ve shown it to several people who said, “Oh, now I get it!” And it is so lovely that I enjoy watching it over and over.

“500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art” is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDIoN-_Hxs. The music is Bach’s Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major performed by Yo Yo Ma. You can see a list of the artwork at http://www.maysstuff.com/womenid.htm.

Kim Noble, Activist Artist

I promised I would try and do a series on activist artists, and here I am keeping that promise. The first artist I profiled was Lynn Schirmer (https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/lynn-schirmer-activist-artist/) Now I am gong to introduce you to Kim Noble.

Kim is an fifty-three year old English woman who spent her teens and young adult life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Like many, she collected a variety of diagnoses until her DID was recognized in 1995.

She has, and always has had, strong amnestic barriers between her personalities. There is no co-consciousness, no internal communication, and only a few personalities reluctantly concede they share the body with others. She has two ways of finding out about her other personalities: what her therapist tells her, and what her artworks shows her. She can’t imagine it otherwise; co-consciousness, to her, would be a total invasion of privacy, as if somebody was constantly spying on her. And having to listen to alters talking inside! No thanks.

The person called Kim Noble in the art world is really Patricia, the third alter to manage daily life. (People who have known her a long time call her Patricia, but she introduces herself now as Kim.) Patricia is extremely  capable; she fought social services to be allowed to raise her daughter — and won. *1 She came though a horrible attack when acid was thrown in her face and her attacker tried to set her on fire while she was asleep in bed. Indomitable is the word that comes to my mind.

In the course of her therapy, she worked for a few months in 2004 with an support worker who was studying art therapy. The creative floodgates opened, and first one, then another personality took to painting like ducks to water. Each personality has a different style, ranging from abstract art to realism. Some depict the abuse they suffered as children, others do not paint of the abuse; and their paintings therefore show a wide range of content.

Kim told me: “The main reason for going public was our art. I was told ‘come back when your art has settled’ as galleries did not understand the different styles. After they accepted that the reason was being DID and our work was getting a lot of interest, I realised this was a great way for people to have an understanding of DID and help other people not so lucky to get help and support as we have.”

And go public she did. As of today, she has shown in over 30 galleries in England, the United States, Spain, and the Netherlands and has participated in 35 group exhibitions with other artists. And she is in a gallery in Second Life! Think of the number of people who have learned about DID from just one show, then multiply it by 65.

Several of her personalities allow themselves to be interviewed. Patricia even had the courage to appear on Oprah!!!!!  *2 And think of the number of people who saw her there!!!!!!

Let me show you a few of these paintings. All are acrylic on canvas. I feel bad because I have selected only five artists and neglected the other nine. You can see works by the others at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimnoble/sets/

1 desert

Here is “Green Desert” by Patricia, who now is responsible for everyday life — raising her daughter, paying the bills, going to therapy. She uses serene colors and is grounded in nature. I find her work exquisite and could easily live happily with any of her paintings on my wall.

2 world

“In his own World”

3 man

“Coming or Going Man”

These two paintings are by Abi, and are the most representational. To my eyes, the placement of the figures and the spaciousness evoke loneliness but also a sense of depth and meaning beyond the literal. I love the synergy between the color palette and the emotional content.

4 help

“Help Please”

5 training

“Training in Progress”

These two are by Ria Pratt, and are scenes of the abuse she endured. She often uses backwards writing and shows sketchy figures floating above the children being tortured, reminding me of out of body experiences. Her colors are vivid and the compositions striking.

6 game

“Game of Life”

Judy, who is fifteen, painted “Game of Life.” It is clearly about abuse, but is less literal, more symbolic, than Ria Pratt’s work.

7 box

This box is by Key. You can’t see all the words and symbols, but you may recognize the Kabala in the center. Key’s work haunts me because I resonate with what is being said, or perhaps not said.

Kim has written her autobiography, “All of Me.” There is a preview of it on Google Books and also on Amazon. She’s just finished  a foreword for a book for survivors, “Becoming Yourself: Overcoming Mind Control,” which will be published next year and is by the Canadian psychologist/author Alison Miller. Kim is looking forward to writing a more detailed book in the near future.

But art is still and always her first love. In March of 2014 there will be an exhibition at the Tavistock Clinic in London. This is a big step toward exhibiting in main-stream venues and moving away from having her work classified as Outsider Art. She hopes, in the near future, to be able to support herself and her daughter through the sale of her paintings.

Now, I want to make something abundantly clear. Nobody expects you (or me) to achieve half of what Kim has. Remember that we each have our own abilities and talents and that we use them as best we can to fight against ritual abuse. There is no point in comparing yourself to others: it only leads to putting yourself down and narrowing your options. Telling just one person is activism, working hard on yourself is activism, fighting to get free or stay free is the absolutely most powerful of all forms of activism. Do what you can, and rejoice in your accomplishments, for every day you disobey what you were taught in the cult is a triumph.

*1 “It is a testament to Kim’s strength that she is a mother at all as Aimee was taken away by social services at birth to be put up for adoption. Kim took her fight all the way to the High Court and was assessed by two independent psychiatrists in the process — they both confirmed she was no danger to her child.” from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/kim-noble-a-woman-divided-413223.html
*2 http://www.kimnoble.com/kim_noble%20on%20oprah%202.htm

Diagnosing Dissociation

Doctors and therapists have been trained to believe that DID (multiplicity) is very rare. They have also been trained that “when you hear hoof beats, look for horses, not zebras.” In other words, look first for the most common explanation of a set of symptoms. Once you have ruled out common diseases or conditions, start looking for the rarer ones. That’s common sense, but multiples are hardly zebras — they are far too numerous.

In the past, the most common misdiagnosis of multiplicity was schizophrenia. Why? Because both multiples and schizophrenics often hear voices. For multiples, it’s the voices of their alters or an auditory memory and the voices are usually heard inside the head. For schizophrenics, it’s auditory hallucinations and the voices usually seem to come from outside the head. This is not a hard and fast rule, because multiples sometimes hear the voices of their alters outside themselves, but it’s a good guideline.

Other things besides hallucinations – autism, flat affect and loose associations –  characterize schizophrenia and are not commonly associated with multiplicity (except if one particular alter has been made to be schizophrenic.) Autism in this context means extreme self-absorption, an inability to take other people into account, or not using words in the way other people do. Flat affect means that emotions are toned down to the point of seeming non-existent a lot of the time. And loose associations means being all over the place in one’s speech; rhyming, making up words, jumping from one thing to another. A description slang term is “word salad.”

Multiples are not misdiagnosed as schizophrenic as often these days, but it still happens. I believe that, today, the more common misdiagnoses are bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder (rapidly cycling mood changes), and borderline personality disorder. This is just my opinion and is not based on studies that I have read.

In this case, the therapist is not focusing on whether the client hears voices or not, but on mood changes. The main characteristic of bipolar and cyclothymic disorders is mood swings from elation, often to the point of mania, to depression. In borderline personality disorder, the mood changes are secondary to changes in perception and/or beliefs. Another person may be seen as all-good for a while and then suddenly seen as all-bad, with the emotions changing accordingly. (Look for a blog entry on borderlines on July, 2011.)

If somebody has DID, mood changes can be traced to switching alters.  Naturally, alters have different moods. Some are even created to ”hold” one emotion or another. Those that experienced the abuse tend to be depressed, hopeless, grieving, while those that dealt with the non-abusive world are more competent, social, and optimistic. So it makes sense that therapists, if they missed the multiplicity, would make these mood-based diagnoses.

PS. Andreas Laddis published “Dissociation and Psychosis in Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia” in the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp.397-413. I don’t have a citation for mood disorders and dissociation.