Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Self Harm, Suicide
Seven years of age. Memories formed from this age onward are said to be remembered. Maybe not always, but they remain stored and hidden away in your brain. I can’t say the same for me. I have a specific memory from when I was five years old about how I was in a car accident. However, from the age of seven and onward, my memories don’t feel like memories to me. They feel like short videos, informing me about what a person did, and somehow it’s identity was the same as mine. Don’t worry, though. After a point in time, I wouldn’t blank out when any of my alters were in control.
I thought that this was normal when I was ten. That everyone had random patches of memory loss and that I was normal. It was easy to be envious of people who were quickly able to make friends. I told myself that it was only happening because I was an introvert and that I would be alright if someone approached me. I never understood how to justify their looks, though. Filled with pity and guilt – wishing they could have helped me without even having to talk to me.
The teacher asked me to stay back in class one time. Once the students had left, she asked me things like “how’s your family life?” or “do you require any help?”. I saw that familiar look of pity in her eyes. I remember telling her that I lived with my dad and that mom left us, but we came to terms with it and that I didn’t require help. Her look changed, but I couldn’t quite figure this one. Before I could add another word, she asked me to go for my lunch. That day, I remember sitting on my bed as soon as I reached home and trying to recall the past week. I looked through my notebooks to find notes about a lesson that I didn’t even remember sitting in on. All it did was make me cry.
When I turned thirteen, I met my mom. Dad told me that she left us for her own happiness, and I used to blame her for that. Seeing her that day, however, changed that. She was happy, and I couldn’t even say the same about myself. When we talked, I could feel myself wanting to be with her more. Her happiness was radiating. I felt like this was the first time someone genuinely wanted to talk to me. Then, I had just blinked, but when I looked back up, she was asking me if I was alright. She could see the confusion on my face and told me that my mood changed in an instant, that I had gone from being silent and timid to loud and cheery in the matter of a second. I wanted to cry at that moment but my body was frozen.
That evening when I got back to my room and sat on my bed, I remember hearing a voice. A girl’s voice that I had never heard. I couldn’t quite place where it came from because it felt like a whisper but as if said by someone sitting right beside me. I looked around my room, in the washroom and the terrace. Confused, I walked back to my bed and laid down on it, only to hear the voice again. “You believe you’re alone, but you aren’t really.” It took me a minute to realise that this voice was coming from my brain and only I could hear it. For the first time, I didn’t feel like crying, instead I felt in control of myself.
I started attending therapy soon after I turned fourteen. My dad thought it would be for the best when he saw me standing in the washroom with a blade in my hand. I remember that moment as if it happened a second ago. I was screaming at the mirror that I wanted to be the one doing it. My dad didn’t understand who I was fighting with, and to be honest, neither did I. Sitting in on my first therapy session, talking felt like a huge task to me because I didn’t know how to tell her that I didn’t have a majority of my memories. Somehow, it happened. She asked me to tell her about myself, and I gave her an answer without having to think twice.
About a few sessions later, my therapist told me that I had dissociative identity disorder. She explained it to me thoroughly and told me that it is caused due to childhood abuse and proceeded to tell me about how she had observed three alters. She gave me the option of hypnosis, saying that I wouldn’t know the exact details but I would have a clearer idea. After that therapy session, I locked myself in my room. I didn’t know how to trust anyone around me. For the first time, I understood the pitiful glances I got from my classmates. I understood my teacher’s curiosity about whether I was okay. This was the moment I knew that I wasn’t okay, and maybe never would be unless I found out what happened.
Before I went for my next session, I knew I wanted to know my past. I’d called and told my therapist about it. I was scared of finding out about my history, but I realised I would have to face it some time or the other. When I walked into the now-familiar room, I had expected to see some equipment like a thread with a pendant or a coin at one end. Instead, the place looked just as it did every other time. She kept asking me, over and over again, if I was sure about it. All I could is nod. Then, before I knew it, I started feeling weightless, and I knew that that was the moment of truth.
My mom left me with dad a month before I turned four. She wasn’t happy in the marriage, and as a child, I don’t think I understood it. All I wanted was a happy family I didn’t have. My dad would take care of me by himself. Buy me sweets, cook me dinner, even read me a bedtime story. When I was five, my dad and I were on the way back home when he drove the car off the bridge. We survived. He told everyone it was an accident, but he would tell me it was because I reminded him of my mother, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. That night, he told me to behave. He told me I was supposed to be a good girl. He did something that I didn’t realise. It ended when I turned ten.
The night after my therapy session, I couldn’t look my dad in the eye. I couldn’t get myself even to answer simple questions of his. All I could do was try to form the words to confront him. Just like that, the night passed, another day passed, a week passed, but I couldn’t form sentences to say anything. I asked him if he remembered what he had done to me after what felt like forever. The guilt and anger were evident on his face. I felt like he would resort to his old methods, so I got up and left. I went back to my room and locked myself in.
At the age of sixteen, my dad decided to stop paying for my therapy. He told me that money was running low and having to pay for treatment was one of the reasons. I had the option to take up a job along with school to earn enough money to continue getting help but just educating myself was taking a toll on me. I had anxiety attacks on just seeing mathematical equations, and my mind couldn’t quite remember what I had read only a paragraph ago. Somehow, this was the most normal thing about me, which I found funny. Therapy was a luxury I couldn’t afford anymore.
Today, at eighteen years of age, I find myself with a total of 7 alters and in a mental hospital. My dad saw me in the washroom, sitting in the bathtub, with blood streaming down my arms from the numerous cuts I had made. My alters became louder day by day and cohabiting a body with seven of them pushed me to the edge. Having to hear them whisper promises to stay by my side when no one else would but they would felt like a burden to me. To watch it become a reality terrified me. I would have those thoughts cycling my mind regularly, and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I wished, day and night, that I could get back into therapy.
Till today, I wish I was healthy. Maybe I could’ve gotten the life I saw in movies – have friends, an enemy, perhaps even a boyfriend. Maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself. After all, the films are just ideas of different people, and life rarely matches what we see on the screens. I know I never got to be normal, but I didn’t choose to be like this either. Crazy, freak, absurd – call it what you want, I’ve thought of myself in that way already. But since the normal one never got to be, I don’t wish for the crazy one to stay either. At least, I’ll get to go out on my own will, and I bet it’ll be beautiful.
Written by Kaavya Azad
Edited by Siri Rajanahally
Featured Image by Shreya Bangar