This week, Ginny Marie’s spin cycle prompt is “masks”. I saw this topic being announced a few weeks ago already, and immediately knew I wanted to participate. Now that I’m sitting in front of the computer, a thousand thoughts spin through my mind.
Throughout my life, masks have played an important role. Not literal masks, but the figurative masks people put on, or are made to put on, to appear like something they are not. In all honesty, I’ve worn and been made to wear so many masks that I don’t know whether at a given moment I was being sincerely me or was wearing a mask.
I have many alter personalities. They’ve come to play less of an important role now that I no longer carry the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, as I did from 2010 until 2013, but they’re still there. These alter personalities represent aspects of my life I feel forced to disown, either by some internal or external force. Two of them have always played the most important role.
The first one is Jane. She is a strong, independent young woman. She doesn’t need much help from others. She is intelliigent and she knows it. Her only negative characteristic is that she’s a bit distant and she would rather live alone than for example with my husband. Maybe it’s because she was formed when the least of my priorities was finding friends, let alone a partner. Independence was much more important. I mostly acted like her when in high school, doing overall well. If anything, I asked for help too little.
The other is Carol. She is a young woman too, but pretty severely disabled. She has trouble with self-care, engages in self-injurious behavior, has meltdown after meltdown. She can speak, but barely communicatively so.
There are others, too. Teens, like Elena, the cheerful one, or Brenda, the angry teenager. There are young ones too, like Milou, the curious eight-year-old, and Suzanne, the seven-year-old with too many responsibilities. Some represent hopes for my future, like Esther, who is a mother. Carol and Jane, however, are the most important in shaping my current self-image.
Many people, in today’s rehabilitation-based society, expect me to disown Carol and embrace Jane. She may be a bit schizoid, but she is intelligent and independent and that’s what matters. Many people not involved in my care see her as the authentic me, not realizing she is as much a mask as Carol is, and as much a mask as all the others are.
The thing is, all these parts or masks or alters make up me. I have learned over the years to stop having to put an alter’s name to my every action. That is improvement, but it doesn’t mean the alters weren’t there when I still dissociated significantly, and it doesn’t mean they’re not there now. When I go into a welcoming Mommy community, I’m still Esther. When I craft, I’m Annemiek. When I play with Barbie dolls, I’m Little. Yet I don’t show it openly or even covertly all the time.
I still have a very unstable sense of self. That may be why I wear all these diagnostic labels that I talked about in previous posts – they help me understand myself. So do all the alter parts. I may not be putting them on like a mask to the outside world anymore, which means I’m no logner diagnosable with a dissociative disorder, but I do still inwardly experience them.