Solitary Confinement?

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My brother and I have been discussing a very interesting quote made by the late Tennessee Williams which reads as follows:

“We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.”

He brought this quote to my attention because he said after speaking with me and understanding how a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder experiences the world, he could not agree with it. Our conversation got me thinking about this so I decided to write a short article on what I think is true.

What is it like to live as a multiple?

Many people have asked me this question, not out of malice, but out of an attempt to visualize what it must be like to have so many voices and parts of oneself to communicate with continually. I must confess that I have very little understanding of what it must be like to live in a mind with only one voice and no other opinions floating about or to live without the constant companionship of alters. I well remember one day when I was sitting with my therapist Paula and we were trying to understand one another’s world. I suddenly leaned forward and looked at her then asked, “Paula, don’t you get lonely in there?” to which she replied, “Shirley, isn’t it crowded in there?” We both laughed lightly, but the difference between our worlds was profound.

I know to those who are newly diagnosed and singletons it must seem very strange and disruptive to think of having sixty 6-year old children and a myriad of other alter egos running about in one’s head, and it can be. Oh yes. Going to sleep at night can be a real chore because it is like trying to rest in a room full of people all talking about different subjects at the same time. However, despite all the noise and organized chaos that goes on inside my mind all day and night, I would be lost without my others. We have learned through good therapeutic treatment to work together and to love one another. If I need to sleep, I can send the kids who are not interested in resting to the beach and tell them to have fun. It is a safe place in my mind where no one can get hurt, and they can have fun and just be kids. I pay $30 a month to my 18-year old self Bianca to watch them for me so that I can sleep. It isn’t much, but it is the best I can pay her right now. She understands and I trust her implicitly.

From early childhood, these alter ego states have worked hard to protect me and to keep us going when rightfully we should have just laid died or gone insane. Even when I tried to kill myself in 1995 one my alter, Bianca, saved all of us by calling for help. These parts are not monsters, they are not aliens, they are not demons, they are parts of me who became splintered off into their own little hells trying to help me survive. They are me and I am them. Their memories, thoughts and actions are mine and I honor and cherish every one of them, which means that unlike many, I honor and cherish myself.

Can I be lonely? Sure. I crave the companionship of others in the world outside my internal system, just as any other person, however I can never be alone because I live with a huge family of ego states that can never leave me, nor I them. Would I prefer not to be a multiple? That’s really a nonsense question since I have nothing to compare it with any more than you can answer the question would you prefer not to be a singleton. It is what it is, that’s all, there is no more.

If loneliness is defined as yearning for the comfort and presence of someone to interact with who cares for you, well then, I can never truly be lonely.

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