This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
When I was deciding whether or not to date Javier, I wondered if even considering it meant I was blinded by love—dating someone with multiple personalities couldn’t be easy. And yet, I had been pining over him forever, unaware of his condition. Ultimately, I went for it; I was so drawn to him, I couldn’t turn away.
I was just 20. I could have started my dating career in the shallow end with Tinder, with someone easier to figure out. But I’ve always been heart-over-head and intrigued by complexity. I was pulled in by Javier’s mystery, as well as his genius intellect, good looks and relentless enthusiasm. Yes, I was naive to the difficulties of a relationship with someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder—formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder—but I also learned more about love than in any other romance I’ve had since.
Getting to know Javier’s personalities was like learning a foreign language. He has 31 “alters” (alternative personalities), all named after numbers. Some identify as a different gender or age to his physical body, and some don’t identify as human at all; they are gods, demons or ghosts.
Some of his alters have different sexualities from each other, and crushes on different people, which added several more layers of complexity to things. Eventually, through many conversations and a lot of time spent together, I became so familiar with Javier’s personalities that I’d know instantly when one had been replaced by another. To get to know his alters, I had to form a bond with them separately. That was unsettling: I could only communicate with one at a time, but all 31 could observe me whenever they wanted.
Unsurprisingly, there was never a dull moment with Javier. Sometimes this was thrilling, but other times, like on our first date at a French restaurant, it was frustrating. Mid-way through dinner, Javier switched to a child-like personality named “Two”, and my hope of kissing him that night vanished.
“Two” absolutely adored me, so he would emerge often. When Javier later told me that out of all 31 of his alters, only Two had a crush on me, I made extra sure our interactions were platonic; I didn’t want to be romantic with someone who literally acted like a two-year-old.
This inability to form a romantic bond with his numerous personalities was ultimately the demise of our one-month long relationship. Javier’s darker personalities saw me in a negative light, one day even sending me expletive-ridden texts. While I’d usually cut contact with anyone who spoke to me in such a way, I felt under the exceptional circumstances that I should try to build trust with them instead. My attempts involved telling them secrets about myself, which only made me feel disappointed in myself for violating my own boundaries. I had learned the hard way not to disregard my values for another’s approval.
What caused Javier’s condition? No one really knows. Dissociative disorders are often formed through extreme trauma or abuse, with the newly formed personalities acting as a coping mechanism. I always hoped Javier would be cured of his condition, but there is no cure. The only treatment is talk therapy (which can help alters cooperate), and medication.
Javier’s parents racked their brains tirelessly to understand how and why their son developed DID. It had come on suddenly, only a few months before we started dating. His parents are both very loving and there was no abuse, so his remains a mysterious case. Although one night, his mum had the epiphany that Javier’s DID might have stemmed from medical-related trauma experienced in childhood. Though rare, people can develop DID this way.
Javier copes with it better than many others. He has a whole political system set up in his mind whereby the personalities come together and convene about decisions, in a “conference room”. It’s similar to how emotions meet in the Pixar movie Inside Out.
Despite these coping mechanisms, he battled with suicidal ideation during our relationship. His alters did too; some were perpetually suicidal, and others weren’t—one side would create a whole political campaign in Javier’s mind in order to get the opposing personalities on their side. I had to talk him off the edge a couple of times. Suicidal ideation is one of the most common symptoms of DID, and around 70 percent of people with DID attempt suicide at least once. Ultimately, it felt impossible to truly fathom the emotional pain Javier was in.
Our romantic relationship was short, but I’m grateful I took the leap. It taught me the true meaning of self-acceptance, for a start. Society doesn’t accept Javier, but he carries himself—and his personalities—with more confidence than most people I know. Acceptance, I learned from him, is simply allowing yourself to be who you are, even when society says you’re broken.