Today I find myself in a beautiful room in ‘The Chimney House’, a gentrified old-
I hope you’re not feeling too disappointed in me. If you are, may I gently point out that I at least have a genuine excuse for such wasteful self-
With all that action to look forward to you might imagine that I have been feeling rather optimistic recently. Not so. It all started in the staffroom at work the first day back after the Christmas holidays. I was merrily chatting away to my colleagues, gamely pretending to be devastated by the dreary January return to work, when I heard Gill Grant, Deputy Head and official Le Roux Manager, casually mention that she was going to retire this Summer. People all around clamoured to say how much she would be missed and what would we do without her, blah blah. Fighting down the rising nausea, all I was capable of saying was a desperate, internal, “Not here, not now!” to my younger parts who immediately began to panic noisily. With a sinking feeling in my stomach I dreaded what I knew would be the consequences of their overhearing this conversation. I prepared myself for a hard time.
Thankfully the following week brought a semi-
Well, there was never going to be a good time to confront this. Gill and I had muddled through together for almost three years, and although the relationship was far from perfect, most of my parts had eventually come to trust her and to feel safe knowing that she was around. Despite its potentially lethal “good-
So, bracing myself for a trip to the dreaded Senior Management Team corridor, I began to consider the likely possibilities, and was distinctly uninspired. As I expected, Gill said it would have to be somebody on the SMT, so I kissed goodbye to my fantasies that maybe Georgia or Will or one of my other mates could do it – and to all the fun we could have had in the process. Still with more Heads in this school than your average DID client, there would be plenty more to choose from. Gill had three suggestions: firstly the Headteacher; secondly Mrs Maloney, Assistant Head in charge of Teaching and Learning; and thirdly, the most obvious person, Mr Huntley, Deputy Head in Charge of Pastoral Care. I immediately ruled out the Head, as I needed him to be perfect and to stay onthat pedestal as part of the overall Game Plan. I knew instantly that it couldn’t be Mrs Maloney as everything she had ever said made me laugh out loud, and that would be disrespectful and inappropriate. That left Mr Huntley. Gill looked at me expectantly. I asked if I could think about it.
Mr Huntley is the perfect man for the job, I told myself. He gets it: trauma, abuse, all that stuff that makes kids tricky. He wouldn’t be fazed by my parts – he was familiar with all those sorts of dysfunctional behaviour. Indeed it is part of his job to oversee courses in Affect Regulation and Anger Management. He’s gentle, approachable, funny even, and my younger parts quite like him. So why the hesitation, why the uneasy feeling deep in my stomach? “Trust your guts,” Sheila, my therapist, used to say, and there I was, three years on, listening to them. So I decided to contact her to seek the hard-
Naturally Sheila sussed it out early into the fifty minutes: “She’d run rings round him, Cathy, and you know it,” was her straightforward response.
I have never felt so enraged by being saddled with these blasted ‘parts’. FFS! Why the hell couldn’t I just conform for once and take the sensible, straightforward, grateful route through life instead of having to make ludicrous decisions on behalf of that bloody invisible rabble I drag around with me? Arrrggghhhhh! Sheila asked if there was anybody else I could think of. Could she read my mind or what? You see, there was another possibility, but I just couldn’t face it, so guess what? I’d kind of shoved it out of sight, you know, done that thing we do. It was almost unbearable.
Gill’s replacement as Deputy Headteacher was an internal candidate who has been Assistant Headteacher with specific responsibility for ‘Progress Management’. He sits in his office playing with lots of data, and holds teachers to ransom if their students aren’t hitting their targets. He’s an ex-
Carl Jenkins isn’t a people-
When the information about my DID was first circulated around the SMT three years ago, Carl had been the only one to mention it. He’d approached me during Dismissal Duty and thanked me for it, saying that he’d found it useful and would act on its suggestions. This memory, combined with Sheila’s inimitable seal of approval, made the course of action clear, so I ignored the vehement outrage of my dearest part and went to see Gill. She was taken aback. “Are you sure?” she asked. “He’s not very insightful or intuitive. He’s really not very … well, you know … good when people get upset.” I pointed out to her that since I would rather die than cry in any workplace situation, tears were extremely unlikely and I explained the strength agenda. She asked once again if I was sure he was the right person for the job before agreeing to ask him. I knew he wouldn’t say no.
A date was set up for a joint meeting between the three of us. The thought of this filled me with sickening anxiety and shame. To comfort myself I tried to focus on how he might be feeling. And then I had what seemed like a good idea at the time. Carl Jenkins is a man who likes to follow procedures and to run around making sure everybody else follows them too, so I decided to write him a manual about how to manage the different ‘parts’ and the ‘unusual behaviours’ that occur in the school setting. I even went as far as noting down the specific thoughts and feelings associated with each part, in a bid to get him to fully understand. In my enthusiasm I fired off my e-
I’d really gone and done it now. I’d let the cat out of the bag – how could I have been so stupid as to tell them what my different parts are thinking when they appear? Now they’d be in no doubt whatsoever as to exactly how crazy I am: they had the hard evidence right there in front of their eyes. I was counting the hours until the meeting would be over so that I could lay low and be perfect in every way so as to avoid giving them reason to get rid of me.
The night before the meeting I over-
I saw that they both had my manual in front of them, and, in an attempt to lighten the mood, turned to Gill and asked, “Recognise anyone?”
She smiled and nodded. Then Carl said that he thought he did. Whenever there’s a Parents’ Evening, the ‘Information Desk’, manned by the Headteacher and other important people like Carl, is temporarily placed at the end of my corridor, meaning that when I leave at the end, I have to walk right past them. He said that they often wondered why I always looked so shifty and like I’d been up to no good. So I told him it was for the simple reason that he was there.
“So, Cathy,” he said, looking at the manual. “I don’t get it. You want us to be there, but you don’t want us to be there.”
“No,” I replied. “No offense, but I absolutely never want you to be there. I just need you to be there sometimes, to be safe.”
I can see now that I maybe wasn’t helping myself at this point. They were both curious about the extent to which I’m aware of what’s happening when I ‘switch’, so I used my train metaphor to explain it. I said that when I switch to being 12, it’s as if I get on board a train which is heading in a really bad direction. At first, as the train pulls away slowly I can see everybody on the platform, behaving normally, getting on with their lives, and they can see me clearly too, and they smile and wave. But as the train leaves the station, the people become more and more blurred, and they seem to be staring at me, looking worried. I really want to get off the train, but I can’t: it’s going too fast, and gaining speed. And then suddenly I’m all alone in the carriage, miles away from the rest of the world, being taken somewhere I don’t want to go. I know that I absolutely must get off, but it’s out of my control. I can’t until …
I can’t until somebody else leaps onto the train. It may feel a bit drastic, and they may worry about the £200 fine if it’s a false alarm, but somebody has to have the bottle to actually pull the emergency stop-
It’s not a nice thing to do for either of us. In all likelihood I will leap a few feet into the air and feel a sharp jolt and be a bit jittery and even winded. You might feel terrible for frightening me, or worried that you’ve made things worse. But the fact of the matter is, I’ll get over it. I’ll need time to calm down and recover from the shock, but I’ll be safe again and usually ready to teach within an hour or two.
I looked Carl in the eye and told him that that’s why I’d asked him to be my link person: because I think he’s got the bottle to do it, just like Gill.
The rest of the meeting went fine then, although I felt all closed-