How To Plan For The Holidays When You Have Dissociative Identity Disorder | The Happy Headspace

How To Plan For The Holidays When You Have Dissociative Identity Disorder

This article is part of our series, Navigate The Holidays. If your system is looking to put more “happy” in their holidays this year, this series is here to help!

While I love singing Christmas tunes and drinking too much eggnog as much as the next person, I know that the holidays can be a very stressful time. This is especially true if you’re a system with Dissociative Identity Disorder! But I’m here to tell you that yes, your system can still have some very happy holidays with just a few tips and tricks. By working together, you and your headmates can map out a plan to stay safe and happy this holiday season.

Needs VS Wants

The first step to planning effectively for the holidays is to write up a big list of all the things that your system has to do and wants to do this holiday season. Go ahead and talk about this at a team meeting and encourage every alter to add to the list. When writing the list, make sure to include things that happen during the season weather-wise. Also, be sure to include any surprises that have happened in the past and could resurface again.

Once everyone has added to the list, divide the list up into wants and needs. I know that this can be super confusing to do sometimes but try to really separate the nonnegotiable things. Here are some examples from our system:

  • We HAVE to watch the leaves fall around us but we don’t HAVE to cook Thanksgiving dinner. But some alters in the system do WANT to cook something for Thanksgiving dinner.
  • We don’t HAVE to buy any adults Christmas presents but we do HAVE to spend some time with our daughter’s co-parents. Many alters in my system do WANT to buy and wrap presents.
  • We don’t HAVE to eat any particular foods for Christmas dinner but we do HAVE to be around those foods. Some of my alters do WANT to eat specific foods at Christmas dinner.

By having all of the nonnegotiable things on one list, your system will be able to focus on the most important things first. This will prevent everyone from being overwhelmed while also minimizing the risk of potential issues falling through the cracks.

Find Potential Obstacles

After your system has figured out what absolutely has to be done this holiday season, it’s time to find potential issues. With D.I.D., safety is always the top priority and the holiday season is no different. By finding potential obstacles, your system will be ensuring that you’re all ready for whatever comes your way. Write down everything your system can think of that will effect what has to be done. These things include:

  • Known trauma dates
  • Known trauma events
  • Known trauma triggers
  • Individuals that add extra stress

While I understand that this list may be really hard to write, it will give your system valuable information to keep your system safe during the holiday season. When writing this list, be sure to be loving and supportive with your alters. Check in with them before, during, and after to make sure they’re doing alright. Talking about triggers can be very hard so make sure to give them some extra TLC.

**Pro tip: Save the list of known triggers for next holiday season. This will save your system time and emotional stress. Make sure to modify the list as needed.

Plan For The Obstacles

Now that your system has a list of the things they have to do and a list of possible issues, it’s time to put those two things together. For each event or activity that your system has to do, write down all of the issues that your system will realistically face. This article goes more in depth about what your system can do if they’ll have to face their triggers.

In a nutshell, you want to make sure that whoever is fronting can safely front and do any necessary activates without being triggered. Your system also needs to have a back up plan in case something doesn’t go as planned.

Plan Team Meetings

With so much going on, it’s important that your system be checking in with each other regularly. This will help everyone to see potential issues and it will help make sure certain alters are getting to do their favorite holiday activities.

A good rule of thumb is to triple your team meetings. So if your system normally meets once a week, plan to meet three times that week. If your system normally meets once a day, expect to meet three times a day. They don’t need to be as long as a typical meeting but even just checking in is very helpful!

During your team meetings, make sure that everyone knows the gist of what is going on that day, the plan for any potential triggers, and that everyone is getting the internal self care they need.

Plan System Care

The holidays can be a hectic time for anyone which means you and your system will be needing extra system care. This is a critical step that is very easy to ignore. Don’t skip it! Even singletons are tempted to put off their self care in exchange for extra holiday activities. As tempting as it may be, remember that you and your system can’t operate at your best if you’re not getting routine maintenance.

The best way to make sure you and your alters are getting the care you all need is to schedule it. At a team meeting, look at your calendar and map out days for system care.

When finding time for your system care, treat these activities as if they’re as important as anything else on your calendar. Encourage all of your alters to avoid the temptation of putting other people and activities before the system’s needs.

When it comes to system care, it doesn’t need to be elaborate but it is important. We recommend a minimum of three things each week. Examples of system care are:

  • If your system has been eating a lot of fast food or heavy foods, a simple nutritious meal
  • If your system has been staying up later than normal, a morning sleeping in and/or a nap
  • If your system has been feeling cooped up and not getting much movement, a nice walk somewhere pretty
  • If your system has been overstimulated, a meditation and/or a coloring page
  • If your system has been spending a lot of time with other people, an hour or two of alone time

Every system is different and everyone’s holiday plans will be different. The goal with your system’s care is to offset what is draining your system the most. Start with the issue taxing your system the most and then go from there.

Take Things To The Next Level | The Happy Headspace

Add In Wants

The last step is to review the holiday plan with the system. Do they realistically think they have the resources to add in some wants? If they do, you’ll just repeat the last few steps for each want. When working with wants, it’s easiest if you start with trigger-free wants. Using this method, your system should be able to more easily handle all of your needs and even get in a few wants!

What Next?

Now that your system knows how to plan for the holidays, what else can you do to be ready for future triggers? Check out this article on how to prepare for a trauma trigger. This will help your system to be confident and ready!