I’m writing this in a coffee shop. I was just thinking about therapy on Friday when a lady came up to me. “Are you one person or two?” she asked straight away. I had to smile – nope, I’m not currently in a dissociative episode but thanks for asking! (It turns out that what she meant was “is this seat taken?”)
It does feel like having to be two (or more) people sometimes. The socially acceptable me that has to cope at work and pretend to be fine, and the emotional mess underneath. The me that is vulnerable, scared and crying and still re-experiencing the traumatic events of my childhood and desperately wants a hug. The me that is angry and bitter and has lost all compassion or patience. The me who is hypervigilant and whose thoughts are spiralling, and bound to the voices and obsessional thoughts, and the me that is out of it, numb and disconnected, only watching the world outside, losing huge chunks of time.
Sometimes it isn’t a question of having to be two separate people because part of me is so unacceptable (for example, having to hide what’s really going on in order to function at work, or in social situations). To some extent I suppose having the other “me” that goes to work is some kind of a coping strategy. Otherwise I might be hidden at home under my blankets crying all the time. The problem is, sometimes it’s a question of flicking, uncontrolled, unstable and without wanting it, between the different “mes”, and being taken over by the different emotions and reactions to the emotions the different personalities experience. I think maybe, because my emotions are so all-consuming and take me over so much that I don’t seem to exist outside them, when I have such a surge of different emotions, going through them feels like being split into different people, all dissociated from each other. Another problem is losing memory around the time that I experience the strongest emotions, so feeling I have not been present at all. And whether switching people / personalities is wanted or not, it is shattering. When it’s unwanted, perhaps because it’s frightening. When it’s wanted, it is completely draining constantly trying to conceal what you’re really feeling and act against it, and it can make me feel that I am being very false, and that I am so bad really on the inside even if nobody else sees it yet. I guess because I think the emotions I label or experience as “bad” make me bad. That’s something I probably need to try to examine.
Now, particularly for fans of The Big Bang Theory, this could of course turn into a particular skill, a la Sheldon Cooper 😉 :
[Raj wants Sheldon to sign up to an online dating website.]
Sheldon: “Are you sure? I’ve heard that on those sites, often when you think you’re corresponding with someone, it’s actually a computer program pretending to be a real person.”
Raj: “And you’re afraid it’ll do a better job than you?”
Sheldon: “Excuse me. No one does a better job pretending to be a person than I do. Siri comes close, but I know more jokes.”
Certainly it can feel like pretending to be a person. Or pretending to be an “okay” person, at any rate! I’m trying to focus on the fact that even when we are in pain or turmoil or angry or whatever it may be inside that we feel is not okay, it’s what we do and how we act that is important in terms of good or bad. I’m not saying that I think it’s bad to express these difficult emotions, to get upset, sad, angry and so on. I’m learning that we need to do that. I mean that whatever we feel, and indeed whether we think it’s a bad feeling or not, we can still do good. Even if I’m angry and upset inside, I can still choose to be dedicated at work or to do some little thing to show kindness to a friend. Having the difficult feelings inside doesn’t mean we are worthless, or can’t do any good. Everything is harder, for sure. It costs us much more to smile, go out of the door, talk to people, go to work, etc etc, when we are having an awful day. If anything this increases the value of the good and the kindness we do because it is done with all the more effort and love.
Keep drinking the coffee 😉 and keep going!
[Photo from Gilmore Girls episode “Luke can see her face” (season 4 I think) …..The Big Bang Theory – directed by Mark Cendrowski, produced by Faye Oshima Belyeu ; Gilmore Girls directed by Amy Sherman Palladino. All rights belong to the respective artists.]