I don’t think I will ever forget the first time I was told to “just talk to them”.
I’d spent my whole life trying to ignore the voices in my head for fear that I was truly crazy. I semi-successfully blocked them out over the years with alcohol, loud music, being on the phone, singing… anything at all to dull the never-ending conversations going on in my mind. I sure didn’t tell anyone about them though! Not even my psychiatrist, husband, family, friends… no one knew.
I refused to listen to what any of the voices had to say even if they were funny or filled with information. It was exhausting to be honest.
Then I went to the hospital program and they figured out over time that I had Dissociative Identity Disorder. My nurse on this one particular day told me to try to find out how many their were and I was baffled. “How am I supposed to figure that out? I didn’t even know they existed until now!” His simple reply? “Just talk to them.”
So I went back to my room with a big sheet of Bristol board and started listening to the voices for the first time in my life. Actually actively hearing what they had to say. It was very unnerving to realize that the voices I had been blocking out all those years were not just random noises but rather “people” in their own right. They didn’t all talk to me and many still don’t but the few that did shocked me with the extent of their individual and robust personalities. Julie was first of course. She always is. In her exasperated tone of voice she was almost hissing “Finally you are listening!”. Tracey, Aggie, Robert, Ali and Polly all made sure to be heard as well.
I could not believe that these voices not only spoke to me but they listened and responded to me as well. It scared me in one way yet fascinated me in another.
I recall going back to this nurse and telling him what I had learned on that day. How many I thought there were (a number that grew rather quickly as I listened more). When I expressed that they actually spoke back to me I expected a look of disbelief but what I got instead was a “Of course they do.”
May I just say how amazing and yet totally mind bending that day was for me? That day and pretty much every day after that have been filled with more than I could have ever even imagined to be true. Not always good or easy but always fascinating.
I am not sure how other people experience their “Helpers”. I know most people use other names for them, (Troops, Others, Alters…) but I am always amazed by this phenomenon.
Something I have learned for sure is that these Helpers are not just figments of my imagination nor invisible playmates that I never grew out of. Hearing them does not make me crazy and trying to build a relationship with them does not set me back, thwart therapy or confuse me further.
I see the essence of my whole personality a bit like a beautiful, colourful vase that has been smashed on the floor. Red here, blue there, green half way across the room, purple slip under the fridge, several shades of pink clinging together, in a corner, yellow is split in to 3 pieces and I am stepping on orange… All these pieces of shattered glass strewn all around yet still having beautiful shades and colours of their own. To say that all these pieces can be put back together is true but that vase will never be the same. It will never truly be whole again.
Is that bad? I don’t think it is. Well, most days I don’t. I occasionally grieve for the loss of being “whole” and for the fact that those who should have loved me the most shattered my mind instead but as much as I want my Helpers to share with me, speak to me, allow me to help them and allow them to help me, I really have no interest in making them vanish. When doctors say we need to “integrate”, there is a full force panic that takes place. Ever fiber of my being feels this is wrong.
I do wish to know them. I do wish to be the one in control. I do wish to reassemble that shattered vase but I do not wish to say goodbye to any of them. Old, young, male, female, helpful, bossy, angry.. I am learning to love each one for who they are and accept they are the way that they are because I needed them to be that way and be created in that way in order to protect me. I am indebted to them all.
As for talking to them? Well, I do it all the time now. I am no longer freaked out by it or bothered by things that are said. When they share painful memories, I am always horrified yet thankful to them for trusting me with that piece of the vase that they have held to themselves all these years. Their individual strength is awe-inspiring.
I think my husband said it best when he said “You were so alone for most of your life but you’ll never be lonely in that head of yours ever again.” It was said as a bit of a joke but he’s right.
I will never be alone again and I am grateful for that.