What it feels like to be multiple
Being multiple = being fractured into multiple holograms of oneself, each with very different approaches to life. Parts can been coordinated, but they’re not always graceful.
Only sometimes, now, do I think of being multiple as necessarily a disability. It can be that. But it also often feels like a super-ability, though not as comfortable, socially. But that’s okay. Being me is very interesting. It’s like having seven sets of eyes on the world, from a lot of perspectives.
I have lots of conversations with myself, about everything. In social settings, I’m often “slow,” because I had seven different responses to the last thing said hit my brain, and I was thinking about each, weighing their merits, comparing practicality versus economy, recognizing ironies, wondering which streams of thought might be interesting to share with others, and then the subject changed and I hadn’t weighed in. Or I was stunned to feel compelled to say something but wasn’t sure which part of my thoughts to share. Sometimes I try to summarize – to be brief – and it often doesn’t quite fit with where everyone else was going. I have pretty much gotten over my humiliation at times like those.
Other times, if I know I’m facing a social event that will be demanding, I get ready, I sleep well, I pray and do yoga regularly, I eat well, I go slow, I dedicate myself to the responsibility, I put in the work. And lately I’ve begun accomplishing my goals. Feeling very strong.
Off and on throughout my life, I’ve been very proud of my work. Off and on throughout my life, I’ve experienced the most pathetic failures, including the failure of the will to live.
But so have many people. We’re living in a time when personal crisis should happen to everyone.
Most people can’t hear the next person’s story. It’s too intense. And so we live in a culture where everyone is under stress, but no one can talk about it, further stressing ourselves with isolation. A huge percentage of Americans are medicating themselves. We can’t take our own stories.
But, with drugs, hope, news control, entertainment, and other forms of mind control, we compel ourselves to do what we hardly can believe sometimes that we have within us: we create beauty, we fight for just causes, we love and sacrifice. We create beauty. And so do I.
As a multiple, my sense of time is terribly fractured. I start out each day knowing what day it is, but when the days flow behind me, they are in a jumble. I have feelings about something being a few days ago, or longer or closer, but I’m often not sure if an event happened three days ago or seven, yesterday morning or the morning before.
There’s just no single flow. Different parts of my day are handled by different parts of me. One comes out in the morning to keep me slowed down so I can do yoga before I begin flying around being German-ly productive. The business woman gets on the phone. Someone else cooks, someone else socializes. They are all pretty aware of what each other does, but they don’t seem to have a system that allows any of the conscious me to know what order things happened in. And if the one who sees someone in the food coop isn’t the one who interacted with that person at a workshop, then I will be disappointingly awkward when we pass; the shopping part of me will remember vaguely. Within a minute or two, another part of me could be having pangs of regret that I didn’t remember soon enough because I’d had a deep conversation with the woman and had looked forward to seeing her again. That can be very disappointing.
I used to get depressed about myself, and embarrassed, but also confused. Why? Why? Why? Why did this happen? And what’s happening? I feel weird, but I can’t explain it. And for decades I didn’t know.
Then in 1994, at age 42, one year after I slid dramatically into a serious spiritual crisis of bigger Why’s?, essentially a nervous breakdown, I was reading Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe, and came upon a description of people with multiple personality disorder. The funny thing was: as soon as I read the sentence, I couldn’t remember what I’d read. The blankness in my mind was shocking. I read the sentence again and again, and every time I reached the period, I had no idea what I’d read. Then I had a bright idea and tried to trick myself, and succeeded: I read it aloud. Somehow, the extra perceptual input, both eyes and ears involved, got past some gate, and I realized I was reading symptoms that suddenly seemed to be a perfect description of me – but not what I wanted to consider. The description was of a person with multiple personality, or as they call it today dissociative identity disorder.
As usual, I had a range of responses: some children screaming No!, others dreading the humiliation of mental illness, others dreading the loss of pretending to feel normal, the defeat, the crushing defeat, the loss of dreams, the loss of respect, of self-respect, of my children’s respect, or anyone’s. And one part of me said, very practically, Or this could be the first step to healing – which you have been craving for a long time – the solution, the understanding, the answer. Accept it and get to work studying it first thing tomorrow. The whole of me said, Okay. There was nothing else to do.
We went to the medical library the next day, and within a week I had decided to leave the city and, using credit cards, build a small hermitage on some land I’d gotten in my recent divorce. My son had just recovered from cancer, and he and his sister didn’t need me and my breakdown emotions around any more, and they were barely or almost old enough to be left alone, so I moved – with apologies to them reasserted for years – to the desert and began to heal myself – with spiritual assistance.
I healed myself with the input of all my parts. Together, I have a lot of wisdom – that’s the up-side of multiple-ness. But it wasn’t fast.
And it’s been painful. I’ve fallen on the floor at home, unable to stand, and wept my heart empty on the cold, hard floor.
I’ve felt parts of me see each other, recognize each other, and come together.
I’ve heard parts of me speak brilliance from somewhere inside me that seems beyond this dimension of me.
I’ve sent healing, and received goodbye’s from friends and acquaintances just passing over.
I’ve read people’s vibes, accidentally, and know that they knew I’d read their vibes.
Steps forward and backward. Side trips. Or so it seems, and then I realize it was an amazing spiral upward. And I keep going.
Socializing is the most difficult. I prepare, and then take it in small doses. Otherwise, I hit the wall and am exhausted.
I’m like herding cats. Imagine at least seven of me inside (it seems), well-connected for some purposes, but not socializing so much. Sometimes I just have to go home.
I am less self-recriminatory, and more often philosophical. Life on planet Earth is crazy now. I’m what they call “a sensitive.” I have a lot of sensory organs when you multiply me in this one body.
But people seem to forget. And forgive. So I forgive myself too, and keep on keeping on. Creating beauty. Don’t know what else to do.
I trust it’s all for a good purpose: the beauty, the fights, even the multiple-ness and things that caused it, definitely the healing. I think we’re creating a new world, a new ourselves. It’s okay if it’s not always graceful. Birth can be messy.
At least that’s what it seems to this person who feels multiple.
How do I seem to you? I’d love knowing. It might help me check my perceptions, and get even better. …if it’s something we can talk about. Can we talk? Can we get past our isolating culture, and discuss what it feels like?
Next: healing events, and our Relations.