Three Years of Freedom

My three year freedom anniversary was three days ago. I wish I could say that I celebrated it in some way, but I didn’t.

And that is not the normal for me. Ever since I ran away, I have celebrated every milestone — one year, 500 days, two years, 1,000 days. I’ve always done something symbolic, something meaningful to celebrate the day. The celebrations helped remind me of where I was, and where I came from. I know some people thought it was a bit much, but you never really understand just how important these days are unless you’ve escaped from hell. And I know many of you, unfortunately, can understand that.

But as my three year anniversary rolled around, I didn’t feel like there was anything to celebrate. Over the last few months, my life has fallen apart. I found myself homeless. And even though I found a bed in a shelter, that stay ended up damaging me even more. I wandered the streets. I slept on friends’ couches. And out of desperation, with no options left, I found myself on a bus traveling west to stay with someone I never actually met other than through online conversation.

How did I end up here? Why did I end up here? I still don’t understand what happened. I still don’t understand how, despite everything, I am ineligible for any type of assistance. If I was an alcoholic, or a drug addict, I could get help right away. In the midst of my desperation, I actually considered breaking my sobriety because I knew it was the only way I could get help. But why should I have to? It makes no sense.

I’m angry. And not just because I am homeless. Not just because my only option was to leave the state where I had everything, including my medical care, in place. I’m angry because I’m sick.

It’s not like being sick is anything new to me. I’ve been sick for awhile. But I think, in that time, there was a part of me that didn’t think it was a really big deal. Until I started getting really sick. Until that hospital stay back in May when everything took a turn for the serious. Pulmonologists, infectious disease specialists, doctors in and out of my hospital room telling me that I was very sick. This wasn’t just a cold. This wasn’t something that was going to go away. I must have answered a hundred questions as the doctors tried to figure out just how I ended up this way. It doesn’t make any sense, they’d say. Little did they know, nothing in my life has ever made much sense.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was (and still am) scared. A part of me wanted to run away from my medical problems. If I just left my doctors, left the hospital, that somehow my issues would just disappear. Until five days into my stay in another state, when I passed out at lunch and found myself at the hospital once again.

The hospital did chest x-rays just to be sure everything was okay and there was no pneumonia (as I had a massive thrush infection — completely unrelated to me passing out). The doctor walked into my room and I could see the confusion and concern on his face. There’s no pneumonia, so that’s the good news, but — before he could finish his sentence, I told him it was okay, that I knew I was sick. I realized I’m going to have to have this conversation every time I end up in the hospital. A consistent reminder that I’m sick, no matter how hard I try to pretend like I’m okay.

How is this fair? How is any of it fair? I fought so hard to get out alive and this is where I end up after three years. My mother is free. She is healthy. She doesn’t struggle.

And I am nowhere, sick and struggling.

All of the things I learned along the way have left me with nothing. The people that said they would support me have turned their backs on me. The system that says it helps those in need has left me stranded.

So what’s left to celebrate?

1,000 Days of Freedom, Part 3: Truths

In all this time, I’ve learned a lot of things. While I buried what I learned to be lies in the ocean, I needed to hold on to the truths that I learned.

I didn’t want to do stones; I wanted to do something different. I wanted something symbolic, something that reminded me of the place I was in. I thought about the beach. I remembered how, when I first planned out my escape, I walked along the beach and looked for sea shells. I was looking for certain ones, which were hard to find among the seemingly endless amount of shells that had washed up.

I eventually found them. I also found some really beautiful shells, completely by accident. I didn’t look for them, I just stumbled upon them in the search for my special shells. It made me think of the truths I’ve come to learn in these last 1,000 days. Some of them I went looking for; others I just stumbled upon on the way.

So I got sea shells, and wrote six of the most important truths I came to learn inside them.

I deserved to be loved and nurtured.

There is nothing — NOTHING — a child could ever do to deserve to be abused, tortured, raped, or assaulted. I didn’t do anything to warrant that. I was a child who deserved to be nurtured and taken care of, not abused and neglected. I deserved love and care, hugs and kisses, kindness and warmth. I didn’t get any of that. But I deserved to get that. I deserved to have a childhood without fear and pain. I deserved a home I could feel safe in.

I can speak the truth. She can no longer silence me.

I had no voice for years. I grew up in fear of telling people who my mother was, and telling people what was going on. I thought I was lying to protect myself, but I was really lying to protect her. I know that now. Now I can use my voice, because I am free. I will continue to speak the truth because it’s my truth to speak. I am no longer afraid to speak. I am no longer shamed to admit what has happened to me. I will not be silent.

I am a good person who deserves good things.

Even after I ran away, I lived my life for others more than I did for myself, because I still believed that I was somehow less deserving than others. I deflected compliments as if they were poison, because I believed I didn’t deserve them. I understated my achievements because I believed I didn’t truly earn them. But I’ve come to realize that I do deserve the good things — whether they be compliments, promotions, awards — even food. I am a human being. I am a good, kind, genuine person who deserves some good, as hard as that may be for me to acknowledge.

Family isn’t biological. You can make your own family, and I have.

Despite what people have said to me, even recently, my family is not the people who are genetically linked to me. My father may have been my sperm donor, but he was not my family. My mother may have given birth to me, but she is not my family. The others who never intervened, they are not my family. My family is made up of the people who support me and care for me and love me for who I am. They are there for me no matter if it’s a good day or a bad day. My family is unconditional.

I am nothing like my mother.

I’m not a sociopath. I’m not a predator. I’m not an abuser. I’m not who my mother is. I used to think that if I liked the same things as her, if I ate the same food as her, that meant that I was her. She used to change her hair to match mine. She used to take my clothes to wear them herself. People used to say how much I looked like her because she made herself to look like me. I could never separate any aspect of myself from my mother. But now I realize that physical appearance means nothing, and that shared blood doesn’t make for shared behaviors.

I can ask for help. It doesn’t mean I’m weak. It won’t get me in trouble.

I grew up never asking for anything. I never wanted to be a burden. I never wanted to be punished. I could never reach out because I knew, in the end, it would only end up getting me into more trouble. That fear carried over into my adulthood, and even after I ran away, I struggled with reaching out. There were times I needed someone to talk to, but I was too afraid to be a bother. There were times I was dissociating and needed help grounding, but I thought asking for help meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own.

It’s no surprise that one of my main goals in every treatment I’ve been in — from PHP to IOP to individual therapy — has been to learn how to reach out for help. I don’t have to wait until I’m at a breaking point. I don’t have to refuse help when someone offers it. I can ask because people are willing to help me.

These truths will stay with me, as a reminder of how much I’ve learned and grown.

To know what safe is

I don’t wanna be afraid
I don’t wanna run away
I don’t wanna be here fading
It’s more that I can take
I’m never gonna be the same
I threw it all away
I don’t wanna be here fading
Just let go

This song played today (Red – Let Go). And even though I’ve heard it dozens of times before, today it stuck with me in a way it hadn’t before.

I am in fear. Every day of my life, I am scared. And it’s frustrating, because I believed that once I got away, I would be safe. But I don’t feel safe.

I don’t think it matters where I live. I’ll still be afraid. Even though I have been in the safest place I have ever been in my life, I’m still just existing here, waiting for her to find me again. My heart still drops any time I get a handwritten letter in the mail. I still get anxious any time someone new follows my blog, wondering if it’s really her. Because why would she stop? She’s already done it before. She’ll do it all again and more.

I told myself I would lead a hidden life when I got out, but I didn’t. I wasn’t cautious enough. I took a job that put my name out there. Anyone who googles my name will find a plethora of work I’ve done and articles I’ve written. I’m not a nobody. I’m not hidden. I am exposed. And that scares me. If I had just stayed silent, if I had just blended in with society instead of writing and speaking out, maybe I would feel safe. Maybe.

I haven’t been writing like I used to. I haven’t published an article in over a month.  All I can think about is her reading it and finding her way back to me. All I can think about is her reading it and knowing how much she has ruined me.

I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m often awake for two or three days at a time. Severe insomnia, they say. I’ve tried everything short of a self-induced coma. But I don’t think it’s anything Medical keeping me awake. I can’t go to sleep, because I’m afraid. I keep having the same bad dream with her in it. I’m standing in line at the grocery store and there she is, in the line next to me. And I freeze. That’s as far as I get before I wake up shaking.

I don’t want to sleep, because I’m afraid to know what happens next. I don’t want to sleep, because I don’t want her to find me in my dreams. I don’t want to sleep, because I don’t want to relive her terror in my nightmares.

I can’t tell the difference between the past and the present. I know she’s not here with me, but I feel like she is. I spend my days in fear of punishment that will never come, because she’s not even here to hurt me. I hide under my bed some nights in fear that she will come into my room, yet I’m in a house that she doesn’t, has not, and will never live in. I tell myself I can’t do things, because I’m still living in a time when she makes all the rules and I need to oblige.

I am living my life in fear, wondering when I will have to run again. Wondering what threat will come next. Wondering where my mother is, because as long as she is alive, I will always be in danger.

My therapist asked me today what I thought feeling safe was like. I couldn’t answer. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it. I’ve only known varying degrees of unsafety. 

I am tired of being afraid. I am tired of running. I am tired of this kind of life. A life ruled by fear. A life with me fading. A life being ruined by a woman who doesn’t deserve to have that power.

I just want to know what safe is.

High School

My high school shut down permanently the other day. I knew it was coming. It was a Catholic high school in the midst of severe financial misappropriation and scandal. Nothing could have saved it, despite the efforts of alumni donating money to keep the school open.

I didn’t donate anything. Mostly because I was poor, but also because I had such mixed emotions about that high school. As much as it was an outlet for me, a safe place for 8 or so hours a day, it was also another institution, another group of people who seriously missed the mark in getting me help.

I have nothing left from high school. No yearbooks. No memorabilia. Nothing but distant memories and bottled up emotions. I can count on my hands the number of people from that I still talk to from there, and that is only thanks to connecting with them through Facebook (oddly enough, most of them I reconnected with last year when they announced our school was in crisis).

There’s a lot of high school I don’t remember. I know that’s common with dissociation. I know it was a time of transition for me, and not just the typical adolescent transitions. High school was the start of my health problems. It was the start of a life in and out of emergency rooms and hospital beds.

It was also the time when the abuse I was experiencing became more physical and psychological. My mother could no longer overpower me enough to sexually abuse me as regularly as she had been, so she changed her ways. And it wasn’t any better or any easier. In many ways, it was worse. It was a change for me, and one I didn’t know how to cope with.

I turned to drugs and alcohol, because I knew no other way to cope beyond the ways I was already coping. And no one suspected a thing, because I was still functioning, I was still getting As. But I was drowning my feelings in alcohol, forgetting about life with every line of coke I snorted, popping any pill I could get my hands on because I didn’t care. I wanted out of the pain. I wanted out of my life.

I didn’t understand why no one helped me. There were many efforts, both mine and those of my teachers, but they all ended up in failure. I remember my health teacher pulling me aside after class one day. She knew something was wrong. It was the day after my mother had taken all of my clothes, threw them in garbage bags, and tossed them away, because I had no longer deserved them. I’m not even sure what I did or didn’t do to deem myself unworthy. I’m not sure I ever knew. But I ended up breaking down and telling my teacher what happened. She asked questions I couldn’t answer, questions I was trained not to answer honestly. I hesitated, and she knew something wasn’t right.

It didn’t matter, though. She went to the head guidance counselor, who questioned me and ending up calling my mother, who of course would never admit to anything that made her look at all bad, and it was all deemed a misunderstanding. But that was my fault. I could have spoken up. I could have told them both what else was happening, and I didn’t. I stayed silent. I stayed voiceless.

But my actions continued to speak; my actions screamed out loud something’s not right here. All the times I ended up in my guidance counselor’s office breaking down in tears, but unable to tell them why. The bursts of anger I had taken out on other classmates, both verbally and physically. The bruises, the unexplained wounds, the self-inflicted injuries, all getting worse, all getting (for the most part) ignored.

And I say for the most part because there was action. It was just the wrong kind of action. Any attempt I made to tell my counselor how I felt was met with a call to my parents, even after I begged, through tears, for them not to call. They didn’t understand why I was so desperate for them not to call. They didn’t understand that each phone call led to another beating, another punishment, another break to my heart. But I couldn’t tell them the real reason I didn’t want them to call. So whose fault was it?

I blamed myself for the longest time. If I had just spoken up. If I had just done more than cry, and push people, and bury everything down with shit I should have never been doing, maybe they would have noticed.

But they did notice something, enough to tell my parents I needed outside help immediately. But that was it. No calls to CPS. No further investigations. Why? Because private school tuition pays for silence. If they cause a commotion, they lose their money. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I got older, I met more people with similar experiences. Obvious child abuse, but no action taken by private schools. Because money buys silence.

And that’s what angers me. I know times have changed. I know schools have started to take more action. But what we know now is not any different from what we knew then. Abuse doesn’t just happen in poor families; abuse happens in all kinds of families. It’s just easier to cover up when you have money and hide under the guise of the Lord.

I’m not sad to see my high school shut down. The corruption that was uncovered wasn’t new, it was just bad actions in a different form. It needed to be closed.

What I am sad about is the loss of those four years of my life, the let down I experienced, the screams left unheard, the questions left unanswered.

And the fact that I will never know how my life could have been different if someone had just spoken up for me, if someone had just listened to the truth in my silence.

Through the Eyes of DID

Yesterday, Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of DID was published.

I was fortunate enough to be able to share part of my story, as I was one of the contributing writers for this book.

I had a lot of mixed emotions about being a part of this book. I actually changed my mind a few times before finally deciding to go through with it.

I still carry a lot of shame and guilt for what happened to me. I still believe, in some ways, that my childhood was my fault. I thought, if anyone reads this, they are going to think I was a horrible child. They are going to believe I am a horrible person. How bad a child I must have been for my own mother to treat me like that. How weak of a woman I must have been for allowing the abuse to keep happening. How crazy I am with this diagnosis.

It’s not like I haven’t spoken about it all before. I’ve been vocal about my trauma in social media. I write publicly about my disorder on my professional blog, under my real name. I write about everything on here, under not-so-anonymous anonymity. But this was something different. This was my life, attached to my real name, printed in a book, available across the world for anyone to read.

And then there was the issue of protecting the people who hurt me. I felt bad for labeling my abusers. I could have just said someone abused me. I didn’t have to name names. But who was that helping? Who was that protecting? It wasn’t helping me. It wasn’t protecting me. It was helping and protecting my mother. It was helping and protecting my father. And I didn’t owe them help or protection. I didn’t owe them anything.

I’ve held so much anger against the people who failed to protect me from my mother, and here I was doing that same exact thing — protecting her. The woman who stole my childhood. The woman who took away my innocence. The woman who broke me again and again. It’s bad enough to be abused, but to be abused by your own mother, the one person who is supposed to nurture, love, and care for you — that is a whole other level of pain. It’s a pain I want people to know about, because I want them to realize that it can happen to anyone. I want people to know that mothers can hurt their children, just like anyone else can.

So I did it. I admitted my mother abused me.

My biological mother was my main abuser. I call her my biological mother because it’s difficult to call her mother sometimes. I acknowledge that she gave birth to me, but her motherly qualities stopped there. For simplicity, I will refer to her as my mother, but I’d like to believe that real mothers don’t abuse their own children.

But that was not my only struggle in writing for this book.

In collaborating with the other writers who also had DID, I realized that I am just not at that level of acceptance yet. The other writers were so okay with announcing how many parts they had. They knew all their parts’ names and what purpose they had in the system.

And then there was me. How many parts do I have? Too many to count right now. What are their names? I don’t know. I know a few. But not all of them have names. I don’t keep a tally. I don’t keep an attendance sheet. Just the other night, I was kept awake by a voice inside that kept saying Sadie wants to color and all I could think was who the FUCK is Sadie? Because I just don’t know. I don’t know my parts. I don’t know me. I am a failure here, among all of these perfectly organized and knowledgeable people with DID.

I’m not going to lie. Seeing what others wrote made me feel like shit. I thought maybe I shouldn’t be writing for this book, because my DID is as chaotic as my life is, and that’s not the image that anyone else was portraying.

But then I remembered that I’m not supposed to be perfect, and my DID sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect, either.

So I wrote my reality. I wrote of my shame in having more parts than I cared to admit. I admitted I didn’t know everything that was going on, inside and outside my head. I told of my struggles with drugs and alcohol, my suicide attempts, my fears about turning into an abuser. I wrote about how afraid I was of losing control and of losing my life. I opened myself up in a way I hadn’t before.

And now it’s all out there. The life I hid for so long. The parts of my life that I am still hiding. The denial. The failure. The fear. The struggle.

I don’t want to hide anymore. I shouldn’t have to.

You know me as Kyra Jack, but I’m also Crystalie.

I have DID.

I am a human being.

I tell them I’m fine

They say I look sad. They ask if I’m okay.

I tell them I’m fine. I tell them I’m just tired.

I can’t tell them the truth. I can’t tell them I’m not okay. I can’t explain that I’m tired of living.

So I lie. I lie to push them away. I lie so they don’t have to share the burden of my pain. I lie to protect them. I lie to protect me.

I don’t even understand what’s going on inside my own head. My thoughts don’t make any sense. All I can hear is noise. Loud noise.

I can’t find my words. I try to write, but nothing comes out right. I can’t talk about what’s inside. So I suffer in silence.

I just want them to stop. The memories. The flashbacks. I just don’t know anymore. I can’t tell if I’m 30 or 3. I can’t tell if I’m home or if I’m free.

Because I’m both. I’m living in two worlds at the very same time.

She’ll tell me I’m safe there, but she just doesn’t understand. I know my body is there, but my mind is somewhere else. A different place. A different time. A different me.

I dance on the line. One foot in, one foot out. It’s a line that only I can dance on, because it’s a line that only I can see. No one else sees it. No one else understands it. Only me.

They see me sitting on the couch, safe and fully clothed. That is my present. That is what everyone sees. But they don’t see what I see in my mind. They don’t see me standing in the bathtub of my childhood home, naked and afraid, awaiting my punishment. They can’t see that. Only me.

They see me working hard. They hear me crack a joke and laugh. But they don’t see what I see in my mind. They don’t see me burning in the flames, with every last bit of evil inside of my soulless body turning into a pile of ashes to be stomped upon and smashed into the dirt. They can’t see that. Only me.

I’m dancing the line. The line between past and present. The line between life and death. And I’m dancing alone.

I tell them I’m fine. But I’m not really fine. I never was. I’m not now. And I’m not sure I ever will be.

She stole the night from me.

I wonder what it must be like to crawl into bed at night and just fall asleep.

I could never do that. Not as a child, and not now as an adult. I crawl into bed and lay there for hours, tired, exhausted, yet unable to sleep.

I check the closets. I lock the door. I wrap myself up in my layers and I crawl in bed and wait.

Some days, I wait for sleep. I try to quiet the increasingly loud noise in my head. I think about a million things I don’t even need to think about. After a few hours, I finally fall asleep.

On other, more difficult days, I wait my mother. I lay still in my bed and wait for her to come through my bedroom door, just like I waited for her when I was back home.

So many nights of my childhood were spent laying in bed and waiting. Not waiting for sleep. Not waiting for dreams. Not waiting for the tooth fairy. I was waiting for my mother. I was waiting for her to come in and tear me apart. I was waiting for the pain to be over so I could just go to sleep.

I learned to expect it. I stopped asking questions. I stopped fighting back. I stopped wondering why. I couldn’t do it any more. I knew it wasn’t going to change. So I gave up. And I gave in.

Sometimes, I would stare at the ceiling. I’d talk to Superman, hoping he would hear my thoughts, and asked him to come and save me. I waited for him to fly in through the window, but he never did find me.

Sometimes, I would think about being in a different family. I imagined being adopted. I dreamed I was sitting in a cage at the shelter, waiting for a new family to pick me up and love me, but no new family ever came.

Sometimes, I watched my spirit float away from me, and I followed her. We would sit on the big branch of the tree right outside my window, waiting for the hurt to end so I could come back to me.

It would always end.. If there was one thing I could count on, it was that the pain was only temporary. She’d leave, and I’d come back. I could finally go to sleep, because I knew she wasn’t going to hurt me again. I found solace in that, in knowing that when it was over, it was over.

I wanted a normal night. I wanted someone to read me a story. I wanted someone to check for monsters underneath my bed, and tell me everything was safe. I wanted someone to tuck me in and tell me they loved me. I got none of that. There were no bedtime stories. There was no love or safety. And there were never any monsters under my bed, because the monster was standing right beside it.

Anxiety. Fear. Dread. It all became my nighttime normal. And even though she stopped as I got older, the fear anxiety, fear, and dread never left. They continued to be my nighttime normal. I continued to spend every night waiting for my mother to come back. And I am still spending my nights waiting for her to come back.

I try to remember that she is not here. I know the doors are locked, I know we are miles and miles away from her. She is not coming for us. She can’t hurt us anymore.

But sometimes I forget all that. Sometimes I can’t remember. I am still anticipating something that hasn’t happened for 20 years, but my mind doesn’t always know that.Sometimes it feels like something is missing; I feel like I need her to come in and get it over with just so I can sleep.

I find comfort in familiarity, and all of those nights that my mother hurt me became my familiar. Any deviation from the pattern only creates more panic, and that was true in my childhood and still true in my adulthood.

I feel frustrated, because I don’t know how else to convince myself that my mother cannot hurt me any more. I don’t know how to believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I feel sad, because adult me knows that no child should have had to endure the things my mother did to me. Bed is supposed to calming and relaxing, not a place of panic.

I feel ashamed, because some nights, the only way I can fall asleep is to hurt myself in the very same way she hurt me. And then I feel disgusted.

I feel angry, because I want to be able to crawl in bed and night and go to sleep, and have good dreams. I don’t want the fear. I don’t want the panic and anxiety. I just want comfort and peace, and the ability to sleep without a struggle.

My mother stole the night from me. I want it back.

She wants to say no

Little girl lies awake. She knows what’s coming.

Her mother comes in, and now she is crying.

She tries to yell out, but no one can hear her.

She shows all the hurt, but no one can see her.

She can’t take more pain, and she wants it to end.

She tries to fight back, but she just cannot fend.

She tells them please no, but they just don’t listen.

She wants it to stop, but no one will listen.

She stands there afraid. She can’t stop the shaking.

She yells out stop, no, but now she stands burning.

She can’t hold the tears; she wants them to drown her.

She tried to say no, but no one would hear her.

He tells her to sit. She knows what is coming.

She begs him to stop, but he just keeps going.

She tries to say no, but he doesn’t listen.

So she shuts down, because no one will listen.

She hides all the hurt, but can’t get very far.

So she shows them her pain in each little scar.

She hopes they will notice, hopes they will see her.

She needs their help, she needs someone to hear her.

She wants to be free, she wants to say good-bye.

But she is still trapped, and can’t figure out why.

She’s tired of the pain, but they just won’t listen.

She stops saying no, ’cause no one will listen.

She cries so much. They ask are you okay now.

She wants to speak out, but she doesn’t know how.

She can’t tell them no, ’cause her voice has left her.

So she tells them she’s fine, then they can’t help her.

She’s a big girl now, but she knows no better.

She tries to be grown, but they just won’t let her.

She follows commands, because they don’t listen.

She loses herself, ’cause no one will listen.

She swallows each pill, and hopes it will kill her.

The pills they don’t work, but that doesn’t stop her.

She lives with the pain, ’cause no one can see her.

She keeps it inside, ’cause no one can hear her.

She longs for a friend, wants someone to help her.

She wants to find trust, wants someone to love her.

He says he’ll be there. He says he will listen.

She lets him in. She needs someone to listen.

She can be who she is, won’t need to hide now.

He gives her that hope, and she feels the love now.

But then it all disappears. It all leaves her.

He takes that away. He takes it all from her.

She clenches her teeth. He pries them back open.

She closes her legs, but he pulls them unopen.

She asks him to stop, but he just won’t listen.

She can’t tell him no, ’cause no one will listen.

She can’t find her voice. So she takes all the blame.

She didn’t say no. Now she carries the shame.

She just wants to hide, wants no one to see her.

She just wants to cry, wants no one to hear her.

She’s scared to connect, so she just pulls away.

She’s lost enough now that she can’t find her way.

She can’t understand why no one would listen.

All she had wanted was someone to listen.

She finds a way out, and she finds her way back.

She’s no longer hurt, never under attack.

She wants to come out. She wants them to see her.

She wants her voice back. She wants them to hear her.

Now she struggles to trust, and she struggles to speak.

But with strength in her heart, she is no longer weak.

She longs for respect. She needs someone to listen.

She wants to say no and have somebody listen.

Who am I? I don’t know.

In many ways, I am an open person. I’ve shared my life. I’ve shared my experiences. I’ve shared my diagnosis with the world. But there are still aspects of my DID that I am just not that open about.

I’m a member of quite a few online DID groups. I don’t participate very much on a personal level; I tend to stick with answering questions, diffusing conflicts, and offering support. I think some of that is because I don’t feel like I belong, I don’t feel like my experiences are close to most other people’s.

People talk about their systems like they are a well-oiled machine. Everyone communicates, everyone loves each other, everyone has a purpose. Hell, everyone even has a name. It seems so perfect. It seems like the exact opposite of what I have. No one wants to hear oh yea, I am pretty oblivious to many of my parts, and there’s a lot of anger and sadness and stress and my parts are existing in chaos.

And then there’s the numbers. It’s so common for people to introduce themselves and include a number. My name is Bobby, I have five alters. There is so much focus on how many parts each person has. While I was contributing my writing to the book on living with DID, I was asked to state how many parts I had. I was the only writer that did not include a number, and that genuinely surprised me.

How many parts do I have? Way too fucking many. I don’t count. I don’t keep track. That seems like the most daunting task in the world. Why do people need a number? Why do they need a list?

My parts don’t all have names. I may have a K and a Charlie and an Anna, but I’ve also got a whole lot of KJs and even more than that who are nameless. And some of them aren’t whole; some are pieces and pieces of pieces. I’m not Bobby with five alters. I’m KJ, and I’m a broken mess.

I go through life on autopilot. Who is running the show? I don’t really know, but it’s probably not me. I may wake up in the morning as KJ, but I can guarantee by the time I get to work, I’ve already dissociated at least twice, five more times by lunchtime, and a dozen times more by dinner. I may start a conversation with you, but 9 times out of 10, I’m not the one there when the conversation ends.

It’s my name on the paycheck, but it’s not always me doing the work. But as long as the work gets done, right? I play it off when my boss notices things. “Hey, your voice changed again!” I respond, “Oh, it’s because I’m not from here.” But I know that’s not the reason at all.

I don’t remember things. What I did last week. What I did yesterday. What I did ten minutes earlier. I try to fill in the gaps when I can, but it’s not always easy. People get frustrated. I just tell them I have a bad memory. How can I explain to them that I’m not always me? Hell, I don’t even know who me is to begin with.

I don’t know where I end and another part begins, or where I begin and another part ends. I don’t even know if I am someone, or maybe just a part. I know I exist, in the physical sense. But I don’t know who I am any more than I know who my neighbor is.

I’m so ashamed. I fear that if people really knew just how out of it I am so much of the time, they would know how broken and how out of control I am. They would know how much I have failed at my own life. I am too broken, literally and emotionally. To know that side of me is to know how much of a failure I am. So I try to hide it. I can admit I have DID, but I damn sure can’t tell you how broken I am. Let’s just keep pretending, please.

Who am I? I don’t know.

Who am I? Ask me again in five minutes or so. Maybe then I will know.

changed

Clean

I had to have a stress echocardiogram yesterday. I’ve been having chest pains, and my primary doctor wanted me to see a cardiologist to rule out anything heart-related (my lung issues put me at a higher risk for certain heart conditions). My PCP is aware of my PTSD and my issues with medical stuff and warned me that it wasn’t going to be easy for me to do. She even said that I may have to be sedated to get through it. I thought she was joking. Now I don’t think she was joking at all.

When I went to my cardiology appointment a few weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting anything major to happen. I thought the cardiologist was going to tell me I was okay and send me on my way. I think he may have thought that, too, when he looked at my record. A 30 year-old with no high blood pressure, no diabetes, and no high cholesterol. No risks. But then he started asking me questions, and by the end of the medical interrogation, he told me I had a lot working against me. Smoking, drug use, medications, family history, and past overdoses were all fucking me over in that moment. There was enough concern to schedule more testing.

I didn’t really know what was going to happen aside from getting hooked up to wires and running on a treadmill. It didn’t seem like much, so I tried not to stress about it. I didn’t even bring it up in therapy the day before because I wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen. I thought I had it all under control.

I didn’t even make it to the first part of the test before breaking down and crying.

A nurse took me to the room and gave me a gown to change into. I knew I had to do it, but it was difficult. My layers of clothes help me feel safe, and now I had to let them go. I stood there, completely naked from the waist up, trying to wrap myself in the gown and holding it closed. But the nurse had to get in. She had to put patches on my skin so I had to uncover.

I stood there, completely vulnerable, trying to hold myself together. I felt the skin of her hands touching the skin on my chest. I wanted to tell her to stop but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I froze. Then she reached her arms around me. I felt her against my body just like I had felt my mother just years ago. And I lost it.

I felt so sick. I couldn’t say a word. I just cried. All I could think about was my mother. All those times I would stand there and let her touch me and I never said a word. I never told her to stop. I never made her stop. I must have wanted it. 

How sick am I to have let this happen. Does she think I wanted this? I wonder if she know. Does she see how disgusting I am? Does she know what I’ve done? 

I don’t even really know all that went on during the test. I was so lost in my mind that my body became automatic. I know I stopped crying after a while. I finished the test. My heart was okay. My cardiologist was happy. I remember him asking me if I was excited to have a perfectly healthy heart, and I couldn’t answer. All I wanted to do was run to the nearest bathroom to throw up. And I did.

I needed to wash the filth off. All I wanted to do was scald my skin in the hottest water. But I was afraid to go home, because I knew I wouldn’t be safe being alone with my memories. So I took the bus to clear my mind. I fiddled around on my phone. I went to the movie theater to distract myself, only to end up crying in the bathroom stall for half an hour instead.

I wandered and cried for hours until I finally ended up at home before dark. I got in the shower and cried even more. I washed myself a dozen times but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to rip off all of my skin and scrub away all of the filth hidden underneath. I felt it everywhere. I just wanted it to go away. But it wasn’t going away.

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I needed clean. I couldn’t clean my body anymore, so I started cleaning my surroundings. I washed everything down with vinegar. I scrubbed the baseboard. I spent hours wiping every surface. I got a garbage bag and threw away everything that was dirty. Dirty clothes. Dirty shoes. Dirty knick-knacks. I needed everything to be clean. I rid myself of everything dirty because I couldn’t get rid of the dirtiest thing of all: me.

I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking. I can’t eat because my stomach feels so sick. I’ve taken four showers today and I still feel so disgusting.

I don’t think any amount of showers in the world would make me feel clean right now. I just want to feel clean.