A poetry retreat got it all started. It was an emotionally intense retreat about finding our voice in response to the world’s brokenness. After we read a poem about the rocks crying out to us, I wrote a poem about my different selves crying out to me, and then losing myself within the multiplicity of them.

As I read the poem, tears welled up in my eyes. Through my tears, I stammered that I had multiple personalities. An old friend met my eyes from across the room. His voice cracked as he spoke of my deep empathy, and how he never knew about my internal struggle.

The next poetry prompt also triggered memories. As I wrote a poem to Anger, I was transported back to the halfway house of fifteen years ago. I was twenty again, trapped in a hostile environment so oppressive I was unable to speak.

All that week I kept reliving events that happened fifteen years ago, the most difficult year of my life. I kept discovering new memories. Dissociating and flipping between personalities, I struggled to stay present.

As the flashbacks overwhelmed me, I felt increasingly weakened. In each flashback I flipped to a different personality. After it ended, I struggled to regain control of my mind.

As I grew weaker, my other two personalities grew stronger. Trying to stay dominant became an everyday battle. I don’t trust either of them to make wise decisions to manage my life. I have to continue to excel in grad school and work, and maintain my relationships.

Through the flashbacks I was able to understand my personalities much better than before. I learned that my dissociative episodes started fifteen years ago, and several months later the personalities emerged, during my time in the halfway house. I began to link together my dissociative problems from the past fifteen years and understand the personalities better. My personality C. is my former self; myself at 8 years old. I was not allowed to have an inner child in the halfway house. I was forced to be adult, never allowed to be childlike. T. contains the emotions and thoughts I was not allowed to have in the halfway house: anger, selfishness, pride, meanness, and confidence, along with thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

Once I understood my personalities’ genesis, I began having conversations with them to better understand them. I had them each paint self-portraits and write poetry. I began to know each of them intimately. I met with my counselor to strategize how to integrate the personalities. After four months of increasing understanding, we are exploring the next step.

I know I don’t fit a typical dissociative disorder, since I’m co-conscious with the other personalities and I am usually able to stay dominant. I rarely lose time. Usually there are two other personalities, but sometimes it feels like four: three younger versions of myself plus T. On a weekend where I seemed to have four other selves, I asked them each to write a poem explaining who they are.

C., age 8:

No one understands me
I am cute and smart and fun
Why don’t you love me?

J., age 17:
I can do everything
But my depression
Means I’m falling apart

A., age 20:
I used to be someone
Now I am nothing
It’s not my fault

T.:
I am the strongest
But everyone thinks I’m bad
Maybe I’m trying to save us

I am still learning what my dissociative disorder contains. As I increase in understanding, I am hoping to be able to integrate my personalities and no longer feel like I am fighting multiple selves.