My mom brought me a stack of photos yesterday, that she found while cleaning her room. She was bringing them to me in general because they were pictures of me, or me with my Dad, that she knew I would want; but there was one picture in particular that seemed to drive her to show them to me.
I’m about 5 or 6 years old in the picture (it’s not dated, so I’m guessing age based off the haircut and clothes). Maybe 7 at the oldest. I’m sitting in my Dad’s old lazy-boy chair, and I am looking into the camera with my head resting on one hand. I have seen other photos from that series before: same sweater, same chair, similar angles, and none of the other photos had particularly struck either Mom or I as odd when we had seen them before. This picture had either not been in with the others at all, or we both never noticed the oddness before, because it was striking in a “How the heck did we miss this?” kind of way.
(Pronouns are going to get a little weird from here on out, and if you aren’t familiar with Dissociative Identity Disorder, or my personal experiences with it as explained in this entry: On Dissociation and Multiple Identities, this might be the time to get caught up before proceeding.)
The little girl in this picture is not me. Mom was struck by it and brought it to my attention because she couldn’t believe she had never noticed the incredibly blatant sadness and despair in my eyes and my expression. I had never noticed it either, but it was undeniably present when I looked at the picture.
Now, I’ve had the occasional strange experience of finding a picture here and there of Paige and Emily, as opposed to me (“Anon”, for lack of a decent pseudonym for the me that is speaking now and who I consider my “core” self). Every time it’s happened it has been surprising, because I can look at these pictures now and see, plain as day, Paige or Emily peering out through my eyes instead of me. There were quite a few times in my young childhood that they metaphorically poked their heads out, but the adults around me didn’t see the difference and I was too young to even describe what felt, to me, like a very organic and natural process. Time and retrospect gave me the words and the knowledge, and I’ve seen the occasional photo from my youth that was of one of them. It’s never frightened me, though it has been incredibly intriguing. I’ve never seen a photo of Anise or Nadia, but they both almost never came out (a pattern that continues today), so I doubt I ever will see a picture of either of them, statistically speaking. Still, I believe I would recognize either of them if I did see such a photo, as they are very distinct parts of me, separated, and yet still enough “me” that I feel I would know them when I see them.
I keep looking into this lost girl’s eyes, and she is not me (Anon), nor is she Nadia, Paige, Emily, or Anise. She is not Anton or Jezebel, the two alters that have already fully integrated into “me” (again, Anon. Explaining this is a grammatical nightmare.). I’m typing this with her photo propped up against the side of my screen. I recognize my features, my hair, my body; this is not the symptom (whose name I can’t remember at the moment) that some psych patients experience of not recognizing themselves in pictures or mirrors. It’s not that. That is my body. But it is not me looking out from behind those eyes.
This lost girl is someone else. I am retroactively astonished at the confidence I had, prior to yesterday, that I had found and identified all the splinters of myself. What possible evidence could I have based that on? After all, I had spent years believing that there were no fractures at all, followed by years of believing that the pieces of me that I had found were figments of my imagination. I believed those facts to be true at the time, only to later learn that I had been woefully unaware of the reality of how mentally ill I truly was. It feels much like the Momentary Confidence post I made the other day, ironically. I was so certain that I knew this illness, somehow forgetting all those times in the past that it has proven itself elusive, bordering on illusory, after having seemed concrete previously.
So, who is this lost girl? What have I been missing? What did my overconfidence in the completeness of my knowledge cause me to overlook? Who is she and where is she now? What caused the despair in her eyes, where did it come from, and where have I buried it for all these years? After all the horrific memories that I have remembered, faced, and accepted, what could possibly be buried deeper than that? What could have scared me more than what I have already remembered, that would warrant being buried so much deeper?
I keep calling her ‘The Lost Girl’ because for now, that is the most apt name I have for her. I know that she is rattling around in here somewhere. Now, I just have to find her, and give her the voice that she has been denied. Regardless of what returns with her, she is a little girl and she’s lost, and she is no one’s responsibility but mine. She is still, somehow, me.
Wherever you are in here, Lost Girl, I love you, and you don’t have to be afraid anymore. I don’t even know if you can even see this, if I buried you so deep that you don’t even share my perceptions like the others’ can. If I did, I’m so sorry to have caused you any more pain because of my own weakness and fear. But I choose to live in hope, so I truly hope that wherever you are in here, you can see these words and know that you are loved and beautiful and welcomed.
You can come home now, Little Girl Lost. You will be accepted no matter who you are and why you hid. We can do this and face it all together. You don’t have to be alone anymore.