Who am I? – Questions of identity in dissociative identity disorder
My therapist seems confused with that question. She wants to look for a deeper meaning, the question behind the question, but for me it really is that simple. What – who – am I? I don’t know. I have no sense of a core, an inside-
Sometimes there is just a blank in the missing time, like one of those exam papers or forms that say: Page left intentionally blank. There is a sense of emptiness, a gap, a pause, a missingness. And other times I remember myself as if watching a film, the words that I said frayed at the edges and out of context, perhaps with no surroundings, no face on the person I was talking to, no sense of hot or cold or happy or sad, no sense of physically having been in a body, no sense of time or the passing of time or the reference of a fixed point in time. Then I am watching myself from the inside, unthinking, uncritically observing as if detached and floating outside of time, without any sense of where I am or who this person is who is speaking – words that I know are coming out of my mouth, words that I know in some sense have something to do with me and my life, but words that I am surprised to hear. And just occasionally there is a thought passing across the front of my mind: why did I say that? But even then the ‘I’ is uncertain, and perhaps it would be more accurate to say:why was that said?
Such is the experience, some of the time, for me. At least, I think it is me and I am never altogether sure. I have realised that it is easier, more efficient, not to question if it is me or not, to shrug my mental shoulders and accept it, and agree that it is, to go along with the ruse or the game or the ploy or whatever it is that everyone else is playing, to act like it’s normal, to act like it’s okay, and not to question.
When I question it, my mind tumbles over into knots and I stagger like a toddler taking their first steps. Did this happen? Is this me? I hear words describing events of hurt and hurting, of abuses and terrors and night-
I don’t know if this is me now, sitting in a copycat franchised coffee shop: I could be anywhere in the country. Around me are young mothers with designer watches and impossibly straightened hair. Is that real? Do their lives have anything to do with mine? This arcade of shops, all plastic, shiny, buy-
I look up and I am in my therapist’s room. I look up and I am in the cafe area of the shopping mall. I look up and I am in bed in the dark. I look up and I don’t know if I am I. There is no thread of continuity between these places, these experiences. Who am I now, writing this, re-
That is the problem with dissociation, with being DID. It is not a diagnosis of a state of mind, a state of being. It is a diagnosis of a whole multipack of states of minds and states of being that I cannot put into words. Am I DID? I don’t know. I am, but the other I is not. I was abused, and the other I was not. I can remember trauma and torture and horror, but I cannot. And all day, we merge, we swim, we roll together like waves breaking on my mind. Who am I?
Confusion in therapy. I know that’s true. No I don’t. I’m looking forward to going away. I’m terrified about going away. It’s not as clear cut as we’d like it to be. It’s not a case of one part of me is ok and I’m not. It’s more fluid, more viscerally in-
But gradually, over time, I have begun to find an inside me, a core me, a me that is still me even when time flutters around and I have been in-
And I realised: I haven’t known who I am because I haven’t wanted to. I haven’t wanted it to be true. But I am all of me. The parts who were abused. The parts who were taunted. The parts who were shamed. The parts who were unwanted. The parts who perpetrated.
I am all of me. I am all these parts of me. That is who I am.