"Have you every felt there was a fight going on inside you as to who you really are?"
|Flame Roses from the Red Nebula- by Stephanie Tihanyi |
(copyright held by artist)
I read this line somewhere and thought to myself, 'have I ever not!'.
Actually all the time, for years since I can remember. So whats it called?. Identity confusion. A couple of words that mean a whole lot more than these two mere words. An experience that is so difficult to describe to anyone else, even if one where motivated to do so, which nearly always is not the case. Why?, because instinctively you know others have no reference of experience to grasp this experience themselves. Most are unable to comprehend it. Also you know it sets you apart from others and so is shameful and to be kept hidden for fear of being thought crazy or a liar who is making it up. Neither is desirable. Especially when you feel you need people and fear social rejection like I do.
It is my aim to examine and put into words this life-time covering affliction that is so difficult to describe. I do so for the very first time.
I do so firstly for me, because if tomorrow I get hit by a bus, something that that's been real and hidden about me will be stated in the real world for once. I have lived with a denial about half my inner life for so long, I hear the arguments in my head that its not real ie:, "just forget ta 'bout it", but I have come to the conclusion that if my experiences are not real, then most of my life is not real and I am not real and I know that this is not so. So what the hell, here goes,
I have always felt divisions in myself, deep divisions, like fissures or chasms, from where up comes unnerving anxiety. The anxiety is the fear that the chasm will widen and I will fall apart and disintegrate into it or its simply the realization that the separations may actually exist inside. These divisions are more than an the odd changing thought or emotion. They are all of that and more, each is different, each thinks, while being experienced, that's the real me, the complete me, that this is all of who I am, all my thoughts, my feelings and ideas about things, dreams, what I find important in life, or not, how I experience life, the world, the people in it.
This goes on until its replaced. Its replaced by another set, another completely different way of being. I know people say, "yeah but we all go through different emotions and thoughts about life, as life changes so do we ". Yes but for me, these different sets, or ways of being, don't change!. They each stay the same and separate, never merging or joining into a unifying conclusion!. There is never any conclusions. Year after year out, always. some places in me remain changeless, regardless of what goes on outside in my life.
Fortunately somehow I have discoverd I have a somewhat separate flexible part of me that manages to evolve enough and "re-configure" but its not without a lot of hard inner work, anxiety and struggle, juggling, patching, paste-ing and re-configuring on the inside, and all without letting any of this show on the outside, even to those closest to me. The last thing I want is for people who don't understand to think me as the freak I feel inside I am.
These separate ways of being, as I call them, don't have names or ages. I don't believe I have Multiple Personality Disorder, I don't suddenly find myself in a bar, dancing on tables in fishnets and high heels, calling myself Shirley or come to, babbling baby talk and standing in a pond lol!. I have never found a wardrobe of clothes I don't remember buying... (though, that could be fun, ..wouldnt mind that). I don't believe people can have more than one personality, but I do believe they can have one that is experienced as divided in varying degrees.
What I do have is:
A persistent and ongoing battle and conflicts between the different ways of feeling and being, especially in regards the best way to handle things, ie my life. sometimes a different way of being will "descend" on me in reaction to something that frightens me and that's usually a reminder or trigger of something in the past, some very strong emotions will emerge from something happening externally or internally. The different ways of being can be very contrasting from one moment to another. sometimes I can experience it like an observer, sometimes I am unaware. It is never controlled or conscious but is fear driven, impulsive, sudden, like a knee jerk reaction. Its like feeling out of control, the last thought when changing from one state to another is, "Shit!, I got to get out of here". and then all the feelings and way I experienced up to that moment are gone, disappeared, receded and different ones are there. Different information, feelings, jokes, memories, and narratives, that was not there before. Sometimes I feel like, a rider, constantly jumping from one galloping horse to another.
Inner conflicts arise over what I am going to do today, how I will spend my day, I have several different "wants', goals , ambitions, needs. Each feels equally important, some are in opposition and I feel I cannot tell which is important, either or none of them. I constantly experience anxiety, because which ever one action or activity eventually gets done, instead of a sense of satisfaction or achievement, some parts of me feels cheated, ignored and sidelined. This results in feelings of self hate and self anger and identity confusion.
Since I have written this I have learnt about the effects traumatic experiences, PTSD, can have on emotional regulation from Dr Cheryl Arutt. Here is a link to an article on Douglas Ebys blog Creative Mind, with her discussing this issue and its effects on creative people.