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She thought she was haunted by ghosts before she learned what was really going on

Four-year-old Tina has a Southern accent and loves horses and kittens, while Snake, 5, is the one focused on spreading joy.

It’s 14-year-old Blossom’s job to care for the children and Jax, 18, is the protector. These individuals are actually all a part of Amelia Joubert.

Joubert, an 18-year-old Fort Mill High School graduate, was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, when she was 15.

DID, formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a condition characterized by the presence of two or more distinct, independent identities typically associated with the need to dissociate from childhood trauma, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For years, Joubert has been hearing voices in her head and at one time thought they were ghosts.

“For the longest time, I had no idea what was going on with me,” she said. “I thought it was normal until I realized it wasn’t as I got older.”

With DID, individuals will often hear voices inside their mind from their other personalities, the opposite of what happens with schizophrenia, according to An Infinite Mind, a support group for those with dissociative disorders.

Through therapy, Joubert was able to get the formal diagnosis.

“Finding out I had DID was bittersweet,” she said. “It was a relief to know what was going on, but it was scary.”

Joubert said societal perception is one of the biggest challenges facing people with the disorder.

“One of the scariest things is the stigma surrounding it,” she said.

Joubert is working to spread awareness of DID and has a petition going asking the actors from the upcoming film “Split” to make a public service announcement about the disorder. So far, the petition has more than 4,000 signatures Joubert’s 5,000-signature goal.

“We’re continually put as the villains in movies,” she said. “That’s always hard. We want people to know that we aren’t scary.”

Dr. Bilal Ghandour of Southeast Psychology, who has five years of experience helping those with DID, said the fear is unjustified.

“There’s nothing about the disorder itself that makes them dangerous,” he said. “People see something they don’t understand and tend to be afraid of it.”

Joubert said people assume those with DID are non-functional, but it is actually a way to 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.”

DID is almost always formed as a protection from some sort of trauma, Ghandour said.

“The mind has the ability to shut down certain parts of your consciousness and adapt something different to detach yourself from the experience,” he said.

Joubert discovered her trauma through therapy, learning to communicate with the 12 main “alters” – alternate personalities – that make up what she terms her system. Each identity is viewed as a separate person who plays a role.

“A lot of people with DID have another world inside of their head, their inner world,” she said.

When one of her alters is out, Joubert said she is unable to remember what he or she experienced or did, but through therapy is able to communicate with the alter and fill in the gaps. This has improved her grades in school and helped her function in everyday life.

“Therapy has been a huge, really helpful thing,” Joubert said.

When she was first diagnosed, Joubert said she tried to ignore her alters.

“That did not go well at all,” she said. “Embracing them actually helped with the communication and helped me be able to function and us as a system.”

While her alters are technically a part of her, Joubert said she views them as completely different people, each with their own name and personality. They even differ in sexuality and physical traits.

“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.”

Joubert said she believes her alters are so different because DID stems from a place of trauma.

“Our mind wants us to believe they are not us, but completely different people,” she said.

Joubert is hoping the next generation of those with DID will not have to experience what she has.

“I don’t think anybody should have to feel ashamed for having a mental disorder, especially something that’s a survival mechanism,” she said.

“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.

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