I have walked through this life beside a lost child, a little girl who existed in a world I never knew. Although I was unaware, she has visited many times. Times of terror, fear, of being out of control; of knowing what I was experiencing was not ‘normal’, of being unable to find the words to describe it. At the same time too terrified to tell anyone. ‘She‘ was screaming out to be heard, to be held, to be comforted. ‘I’ was fighting to conceal her from the world, terrified and ashamed to allow anyone to behold her weakness. Years elapsed between these ‘visits’ when she would overwhelm me for a year or more and then gradually disappear. ‘I’ would have little recollection of that time other than a horrendous sense of loss, of being different.
However, ‘she‘ had an overpowering, intense compulsion to write, each time making futile attempts to write what she could not speak. A few handwritten pages remained.
Years of being labeled negatively by mental health professionals, and my family, had at some level defeated me. By 2006 I had resigned myself to accepting I would never learn the truth of my life, or find a mental health practitioner capable of understanding. My childhood family had died; my sons were living their own lives. When finally I had secured permanent employment, and reached a point where I hoped I could begin to live a ‘normal’ life, ‘she‘ returned; more horrific and devastating than ever before.
‘She‘ wrote prolifically for months, recording the horror of what she was experiencing daily, as well as the past. ‘She‘ was determined to die this time but ‘I’ could not allow her too until ‘she’ had been able to leave the story for my sons, in the hope they would finally understand and forgive me for what I, or they, perceived as my inadequacies as a parent. ‘She‘ wrote daily, page after page, for almost two years and then stopped abruptly. The legacy was over 150,000 words of often repetitious distress. A cavernous pain however remained, for those words did not convey fully the terror or horror of her experience. But this time a permanent record of her visit remained; something that enabled me to ‘remember’ what I experienced in the previous eighteen months or so, and a life story.
I had been visiting a psychologist, Jan, who I admired and respected, for fifteen years. Yet ‘she’ still believed Jan had no concept of what I was experiencing. At the risk of being certified and/or receiving yet more negative labels, ‘we‘ fought Jan for answers. ‘She‘, because she desperately wanted someone to acknowledge what she had, and was suffering; and ‘me‘ because I was angry at all the ‘experts’ I had consulted for years who could not see it. Was I the only person in the world who experienced this? If not, I certainly did not want anyone else to endure this torment and have to fight so ferociously to be heard.
After almost forty years of fighting ‘she‘, and being misdiagnosed and mistreated by the mental health system, I now understand who ‘she‘ is. Finally, I have a diagnosis of Structural Dissociation. While for many years I did believe I experienced Multiple Personality Disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder), and ‘she’ once wrote of six personalities, I am now becoming comfortable with the possibility there are just two of us; ‘me‘ and ‘she‘. ‘Me’ is the Apparently Normal Personality (ANP) and ‘she’ is the Emotional Personality (EP) . ‘Me’ is the one who separated from ‘she‘ to survive and created an acceptable persona to present to the world. ‘She‘ is the bearer of my ‘implicit memory’ and apparently remains locked in a childhood of terror, abuse and neglect.
For ease of explanation I have decided to give ‘me’ my first name of Liz, and ‘she’ my second name of Mary.
I will endeavour to tell ‘our’ story, to give Mary a voice.