We Are Not Who We Think We Are

I just finished a most wonderful and surprising book about a woman who grew up in her early years believing the same-age chimpanzee her family was raising was her sister. It’s a complex story, as you can imagine. Her scientist parents, particularly her father and the ever-present post-doc students who observed the two children, primarily studied the chimp and overlooked the effect on the little girl who was twinned with her from infancy.

Many things happen and the family loses the chimp, who is technically university property—I don’t want to give everything away—and there is this inescapable, down-deep, shattering realization eventually that both the girl and the chimp experience: I am not who I thought I was.

I was not twinned with and raised from infancy with a chimp, but I know that moment.

You could be jumping up on desks in kindergarten and realize no one else does that, only chimps. Or you could be listening in to four or five voices in your head, maybe answering them, and realize no one else does that—you better keep quiet.

I say to myself that I need to learn to be vulnerable, that in Zen there are two doors, the door in and the door out. They both require vulnerability and you don’t get to choose the door in.

The moment of diagnosis, following unfathomable confusion, is the moment of vulnerability, a door in.

So when I accepted my alters, my Parts, and my diagnosis, I had already been through the crisis moments and learned that dissociative disorder could never define me, although it tried. When my Parts integrated and I learned I could speak of dissociative disorder and educate others, I wasn’t really sure how to define myself anymore. Recovered dissociative? Survivor? All I really knew was that I was not who I’d thought I was.

When I looked in my figurative mirror and identified six different people—and more—I thought, I am not who I thought I was.

When I look in my figurative mirror now, I no longer recognize six different people, I see only one and I think, I am not who I thought I was.

So it’s not very wise to get too attached to what we think.

When my leg stopped working last week, my rational assessing brain ruled out DVT (blood clot) before the docs confirmed that and I acknowledged I needed a wheelchair to leave the building downtown, and so on. I kept going back in my mind to Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Trust thyself…” and more importantly to Henry David Thoreau’s words, “…not till we have lost the whole world do we begin to find ourselves…” and I knew it had always been true before: there was a back door and I just had to stay present.