When I look in the mirror at night, in the dark, I see myself, but I also see my younger self superimposed over my true self. I know it’s an illusion or delusion, but it’s always been that way for as long and far back as I can remember. I could always see my various personalities layered over each other like paper dolls that were just not quite perfectly aligned. I would rub my eyes and that illusion would fade away.
When I was very little, I did not understand what I was seeing. I would try to touch the mirror, to understand why I couldn’t focus. As an adult, I understand now that my mind was simply trying to make sense of my mental illness, of the fact that I was broken into pieces already, even as young as 2 years old.
My first personality break was somewhere around 18 months old. I am not sure why it happened or what caused it, only that it did occur. I slowly figured out when I was older, what age these memories were. I asked my mom and grandmother about certain memories, and was told “That was X place,” or “That was when you were a baby, not even two.” I also gleaned from stories and listening to adults that I lived in X or Y place in various specific years, in order to understand just where I was when certain things happened to me. I wanted to understand.
The flashes of memory began when I was very young, and I remember having them my entire life. They would take my breath away and sometimes I would walk into walls or fall over, because they would take over my whole being. As I got older, I got control of them, and learned how to shuffle them “to the side” of my mind so that I could continue to act normally. I never could completely get rid of some of the “tells” such as rapid blinking, a slight stutter, or body twitches, but most were not observant enough to catch them or notice.
These memories were typically black and white flashes of events; I would have a blazing headache afterward and could not remember what I had just seen. Sometimes I could remember a tiny snippet of it, but often it was just a sensation or an aftertaste of something bitter was all that would remain. The snippets were generally a sound or a brief image; the rest was washed or scrubbed away completely. I came to understand later that my other alter known as “Tower” was taking them as fast as they would happen. She was (and is) determined never to allow me to remember.
By the time I was 12, the flashes had stopped or became extremely rare occurrences. However, I began walking in my sleep having deep, brilliantly colorful, and often violent dreams. My home life was also incredibly violent, both physically and emotionally, as my mother fought for control against two young pre-teens who were starting to understand that she could not control either of us forever. My brother and I were also violent toward each other, left alone far too much and having no other target but each other for the growing frustrations and virulent rage that was increasing in us both. It was a terrible recipe and the outcome was not going to be good no matter how you looked at it.
I struggled with mental illness my entire life. I lived in a self-made alternate reality most of the time. I wasn’t safe at school. I wasn’t safe at home. Dissociative fugues were my only respite. My mother moved us back to her hometown when I was 10 years old – a place that had tortured her for her entire childhood. I will never understand why. She drop-kicked my brother and I into the shark infested water and left us there to drown. And drown we did. Whatever was left of my sanity was destroyed. The teachers and the students participated in mental and physical torture. My brother became violent physically. I turned in on myself. Mom threw herself into her work. It isn’t a surprise how it all ended.
We’ll get to that.
I survived that horror. I ran away from school, from religion, from my family, from my mother. At first I was a purple-haired rebel, running with drug dealers and violent, party-hungry angry people but eventually surrounded myself with workaholics and weekenders. I raged against the world until I was exhausted. I was on a path that ended with me in an early grave until that moment I was rear-ended by a car. And my entire path changed.
The mirror shattered.
Without my memory, I couldn’t keep track of my stories. Without my memory, I couldn’t remember where I had been, or what I had done. I had to be truthful, and I had to honest. Everything that I was before, died. I barely remembered what I ate for breakfast, let alone what I had done ten years ago, or last week. Nothing resets your priorities like losing your ability to remember simple things. Trust me on that.
I came home to Iowa from Florida where the accident happened. I began the long journey to healing. I got married (to the Worthless-Idiot). I got my heart destroyed (by the Worthless-Idiot). I learned that just because someone (my “best friend”) says they love you, they don’t necessarily love you. And if they tell other people bad things “because it’s easier than arguing with them” then they probably don’t really love you. Finding out that my “best friend” had been fucking my husband for YEARS was not an easy thing to stomach. That she looked me in my face for years and lied to me. That he did. That they BOTH DID. That level of making someone a fool, of then telling other people lies so that you can feel good about YOURSELF to justify your own sins? That level of gymnastics? The karma there is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and I know both of them will pay eventually. I had to leave it at that, and walk away. It still stings, though, because I still love them both.
Love doesn’t stop when someone betrays you. It just sits there and bleeds forever, as a reminder to never be that big of a fool ever, ever again.
I learned some important lessons. Love should -always- be mutual. Don’t cross an ocean for someone that wouldn’t jump over a puddle for you. Don’t bend yourself into pretzels for someone who can’t be truthful to you. Don’t ever give so much of yourself when they can’t come up with ONE nice thing to say about you, ever. These are red flags. Never, ever ignore them.
So here I was, freshly minted me, working on being a good person, struggling to stay in ONE personality and not dissociate, recently graduated from therapy, and all this SHITSTORM hit me at once. Husband cheating on me with my best friend. He abandoned me and his son to run off with a DIFFERENT woman (jokes on my ex-best-friend, I guess). Stopped paying all the bills months ago and didn’t tell me – everything was ruined and being foreclosed on. There was a host of stuff that happened, worse than that, but you get the picture. It was a big, orchestrated, nightmare of drama. I didn’t break. I just balled up my fists, straightened my back, and stepped into the wind. I had to take care of my son.
And I did.
In all of this, I had J. He was a friend. I had my other friends too, people that I never realized WERE my friends, who proved themselves to me. Stood there in the storm and held my hand and cheered me on. People who I never realized even really cared about me. They got me through this as the people that I loved turned against me. It was not a fun time. It was harrowing. It was painful.
But as Gram would say, birth is painful – but necessary. I gave birth to a new life and I have no regrets.
My shrink and I have debated over the years if I simply slipped into a new personality or not. I don’t think so. I think I slipped into an old one. I know who my personalities are. I found my original personality and decided that it was time I stopped running. I shrugged into my true life and just… walked into the storm. It was hard. It was terrifying. But it was time. We’ll talk more about that, I’m sure. In the end of it, I simply decided that it was time to get better, and I did.
Is it that simple? The professionals say it isn’t but my shrink, he disagrees. The mind, he says, is an amazing thing. You decided you were ready, and you did what you had to do.
I like to think that I simply did what I had to do, for my son, and eventually, for the baby in my belly. I am a Mama Bear for my children. I will walk through fire for them, and I guess, well….
That’s what I did.
More later, Taters.