It is not about diagnostic labels. It is not so much about dissociation, parts, losing time – although all of those add to the constant sickening sense of being different. For me it is about being me. The reality of everyday living with myself. ME.
What is it like to be me? It’s the shame. The thick, red, oil-slick tar that suffocates and contaminates. The toxic badness that goads If they knew what you were really like. It’s the messages of pain and immune suppression from my body that I just don’t understand. It’s the sudden recoil and whole-body-fight-flight-freeze response to a bowl of soup or the meat aisle in Waitrose. It’s the constant minute-by-minute battle with the quicksand-like denial which yells This isn’t real, it didn’t happen, you are a liar. It’s being the me-who-is-always-bad me. The unwanted me who was never enough, who had to be not-me.
It’s the memory flashes of her, him, them, that pulls the carpet out from under your feet and hurls you back into the past so you don’t know where or who you are. It’s the not being able to make eye contact. It’s the hypervigilance in church and terror at the sight of the cross, when everyone else is joyfully worshipping before the symbol of God’s grace. It’s the not-knowing of gaps, blanks and doubts, and also the knowing, the just knowing. It’s the starved craving for closeness, for contact, like Harlow’s touch-deprived monkey, which elicits overwhelming shame and fear. It’s the watching others interacting, desperately trying to learn how to do relationships, because you were busy performing yucky degrading acts and fighting for survival, whilst others were learning the art of mirroring and attunement.
But hang on … me is also the me who cooks, cleans, washes, irons, traipses around Sainsbury’s wondering whether to go for the 2 for £5 or the 3 for £8. Me is the me who meets friends for coffee and debates the current crisis in Egypt, Libya, or another we-need-your-oil country. Me is the me who enjoys long walks along the beach, or an energetic (and rather competitive!) game of squash. Me is the me who studies, organises tutorials and LOVES flipcharts and to-do lists. Me is the me who cares for friends’ children – practices the spellings, cheers at the swimming gala, dances around the kitchen doing the cha-cha-slide and builds dens with old blankets behind the sofa.DID. A label that can be the stamp of validation that says YES, something bad (and invariably lots) did happen. And I crave and despise this validation with varying measure. But it is that – a stamp, a label, a collection of symptoms, the white chalk marks left over from a crime scene. It is the intense thirst and sugar cravings of diabetes. It is the shortness of breath and tight chest of asthma. Am I saying it is like an illness which can be cured with insulin treatment or a course of inhalers? Certainly not (although GOOD therapy definitely helps). But when you look at someone, don’t just see the symptoms. See the person. See ME. The good and the bad. The horror and the joys. The then and the now. ME. Not just DID. But me.