Amelia Joubert, 18, is a typical teenager in many ways. She has all the same hopes, dreams, and fears as any other teenager. What sets her apart is her diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is often referred to as “Multiple Personality Disorder,” and is a condition in which there is a presence of two or more distinct identities within a single person. Amelia isn’t content to just deal with her diagnosis quietly. She’s speaking out and asking others to as well, in the form of a petition to filmmakers who will be releasing a movie called Split, a horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
In Amelia’s case, she has several distinct personalities to contend with. “Tina” is a 4-year-old child who loves horses and kittens and speaks with a Southern accent. “Snake,” 5, spreads joy to others. “Blossom,” 14, takes care of the children, and “Jax,” 18, is their protector. All of these personalities live inside Amelia’s mind. Now a high school graduate, Amelia was originally diagnosed with DID a few years ago when she was a young teenager, only 15.
“Finding out I had DID was bittersweet. It was a relief to know what was going on, but it was scary.”
The National Institute of Health says the independent identities are typically associated with the need to dissociate as a way of separating one’s self from childhood trauma. Before she spoke out and received her diagnosis, she had been hearing voices in her head. She thought they were ghosts.
“For the longest time, I had no idea what was going on with me. I thought it was normal until I realized it wasn’t as I got older.”
DID, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a condition characterized by an involuntary escape from reality with a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Patients with dissociative identity disorder will often hear voices inside their head they sometimes describe as conversations between their other personalities. It’s difficult to pinpoint a particular “type” of person who is likely to develop DID since it can affect people from all age groups and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Amelia says societal perception is one of the biggest challenges for those with DID, according to a report in the Herald. It’s the “stigma surrounding it,” she added. Now, she’s doing her part to spread awareness of dissociative identity disorder and to help do away with some of those stigmas. The film Split is scheduled for release in theaters in January, 2017. The film tells the story of Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities who is compelled to abduct three teenagers, according to the film’s IMDb site. The three girls meet Kevin’s various personalities while being held captive and soon learn they face danger from a final personality, “The Beast.”
Amelia has been quite vocal in her protest about the way individuals with DID are portrayed in films.
“We’re continually put as the villains in movies. That’s always hard. We want people to know that we aren’t scary.”
Amelia Joubert’s goal is to gain 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the actors from the film to make a public service announcement about the disorder. So far, she has more than 4,000 signatures.
Amelia said people assume that individuals with dissociative identity disorder are non-functional, while the truth is that DID is actually the way they function. “It’s a survivor mechanism to make us able to survive traumatic situations and continue surviving in life,” she said. “The only reason we have DID is to protect ourselves.”
Amelia discovered she had DID during therapy. During the process, she learned to communicate with the 12 main “alters,” — her alternate personalities — that make up what she calls her system. She considers each of her alters as a separate person, each of them contributing in a certain role.
“A lot of people with DID have another world inside of their head, their inner world.”
When one of her alters takes control, Amelia said she’s unable to remember what the alter has done or has experienced while in charge. In therapy, she has learned to communicate with the various alters and to fill in the gaps of what actually occurred. Since learning to do so, she said, she’s been able to function better in everyday life.
Amelia admits that when she was first diagnosed, she tried to ignore her alters. “That didn’t go well at all,” she said. “Embracing them actually helped with the communication and helped me to be able to function and us as a system.”
“Therapy has been a huge, really helpful thing,” Joubert went on to say. Even thought her alters are technically a part of her, she still views them as separate people, each with their own identities, names, and personalities. They even have different sexuality and physical characteristics. “We’re all part of the whole,” she said. “It can be really frustrating at times to have DID, but they are like my family.”
Amelia’s theory is that her alters are all so unique because DID comes from traumatic experiences. The individual’s mind wants to believe it’s a completely separate person, making it easier in some ways to accept what’s happened to them. They can allow themselves to believe it happened to someone else. Her desire is to see people in future generations able to cope without having to face the shame and stigma she has had to deal with.
“I don’t think anybody should have to feel ashamed for having a mental disorder, especially something that’s a survival mechanism. Unfortunately there is always going to be people with DID because there will always be trauma. I hope they won’t have to hide or be scared to tell people for the reasons of fear and stigma.”
Amelia Joubert’s story goes beyond that of a normal teenager with the stresses of surviving the most challenging years and maturing into an adult. She continues to circulate her petition in hopes that the actors involved will film a public service announcement. Awareness is key, and Amelia is one teenager who has made it her mission to reach as many people as possible. Click here to view and sign the petition: Have actors from the upcoming movie Split make a PSA about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Do you think her mission will be successful? Are those with mental disorders unfairly characterized in movies and on TV? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Photographee.eu/Shutterstock Images]