Sonja Karels, Netherlands
When did you start exhibiting alternate personalities (alters), and what do you think caused them?
My GP started to treat me [for a nervous breakdown], but after a while he referred me to a Christian psychologist. A young man, just from school and we just couldn’t stand each other. He was trying to put all the blame on my parents and I insisted I needed to get my own life in order, without blaming others. Back then he already believed my father did abuse me. (I found that out during an intake in a Christian center for abused women). We had a fight on the phone and I left.
Years later, I was married, with 2 small children I became depressed and anxious again, I also suffered from anorexia nervosa again… and I went to a conference to ‘receive’ healing from God. I really wanted to get better, to serve God better. And then I saw this psychologist and I thought I had to apologize to him, because otherwise God could not bless me (I don’t believe that anymore, but back then I was theologically challenged and superstitious).
I apologized and he accepted my apologies and followed me everyday during that conference. After every meeting he wanted to pray with me, to ask God what was wrong with me. I felt cared for and loved and special. It was a very special treatment. And then on the 5th day I heard myself talk with a small childish voice and tell him that daddy did something when I was 3 months.
He should have said, “No, you can not possibly remember that”, but he was happy, finally the truth showed up. I was confused. Is that really true. He said, “Did you make it up?” No, it just happened I had no control.
He said “We prayed, and God does not give stones when you ask for bread.” So I felt I had to believe it.
He told me he could help me and I started therapy with him. Twice a week, 3 hours per session; I had to pay for it myself. After a few weeks I couldn’t remember anything that happened in therapy. We taped the sessions and I had to listen to them during the week and write them down, word by word. DID was never mentioned; I found out months later what my diagnosis was. I was unaware of alters and lost a lot of time.
How many alters did you have?
At first 25, but they kept coming. The 25 remained, they were the strongest. But later we ‘discovered’ circles within circles and there would be 7×7 circles of witches behind every strong alter and a lot of others. The end count was more than 1000. But 42-45 with names.
I’ve heard people with “MPD/DID” say they have blackouts or periods of memory loss when being different alters. Did you? If so, can you explain the cause of the blackouts?
Yes, a lot. Sometimes even for weeks and once 3 months. But most of the time it was just a few minutes or an hour. One cause is medication. I was heavily medicated. The other is – I think – stress and preoccupation with the false memories, like daydreaming about bad stuff. Sometimes I couldn’t remember being to the therapist. I would ‘wake’ up in my car not knowing if I’d been to therapy. The 3 months, I’m not sure I really lost 3 months. It felt like that, is it summer already? Yesterday it was February. I have no explanation for that.
Did your friends and family believe you had different personalities? If so, why do you think they believed you?
Yes, they did. My husband would recognize the alters and speak with them. Some friends did too. My children could call forward the ‘fun’ alters and embarrass me. I remember rolling over the floor in church with a bunch of children. Something I would never do. But they called a boy alter. I have been told I looked different, spoke differently, wore different clothes.
Would you say you were acting? Did it feel like acting?
No, I wasn’t acting. I wish I was, because then I could have stopped doing it. I’ve been confused by all of this for 9 years. Sometimes it did feel like acting, especially in therapy. Like I was a puppet on a string, acting, but involuntary.
If you could say one thing to yourself at that time, what would it be?
It is not true, you are not abused. Stop believing that nonsense. Make a list, make a timeline. (And if I just could say one word, it would be TIMELINE).
What made you stop believing you had multiple personalities?
In 2002 I was fed up with all the medication and I decided to taper off. The psychiatrist warned me against it, but I wanted to have a clear head. It took me one year. I had help from an online group. It was a long and slow process, but after 9 months I felt better. During that time I didn’t have therapy and I broke off all contact with other ‘survivors’. Suddenly I realized I didn’t lose time, I didn’t hear alters talking, something had changed. I told my husband to call me by my real name and nothing else. Doesn’t matter if he thought he saw an alter, just my real name. It was a miracle and I loved it. But then I got depressed again and I remembered reading about integration that you need to get help to live as an integrated person. So I found another therapist. During the intake, 15 minutes in, he had a very angry alter talking and that brought me back in the multiple world.
I started doubting again, couldn’t sleep, refused to take sleeping pills. Then I decided to make a list. A timeline. Stuff I knew that happened. First time to school at age 4; Little brother at age 5; Graduation at age 18. And another list with the new found memories. First baby at age 13; first rape at 3 months, etc. And full term twins born at age 18.
And then it hit me… graduation and full term twins? During that year I became a Christian and made a lot new friends, we would sport together, go to the beach together, have fun. We were also serious together, We did Bible study and talked a lot. Those people were between the ages 15-25. And no one saw my pregnancy? So that memory couldn’t be true, but that was one of the most painful memories. I had more pain than delivering my 2 real children (without drugs). And if that wasn’t true, how could the rest be true? And once I realized everything was false, I stopped believing I had multiple personalities. They told the stories, the stories weren’t true, so they weren’t true either. It was one big deceiving fictional mess.
Are multiple personalities real?
No! I’ve met too many people like myself. They claim to be multiple, they believe they are multiple, but when they are honest they all say they have doubts. I believe it is learned behavior. You act different and the therapist asks what your name is. You learn quickly to just give a name. And then you have an alter. This sounds like making up a name, but it doesn’t work that way. At least not with me. When the therapist asked a name, some name popped up in my head and that had to be it.