Trying to Be Who I Already Am
People tell me I am arrogant and pigheaded,
narrow-minded and vain
because I won’t follow this week’s guru into his
seventeen steps for improving my life.
Well, I’m over here in a different place–
with T’ao Ch’ien who says,
My nature comes of itself. It isn’t something
you can force into line.
So, please, leave me alone.
I don’t want your advice.
I’m just trying to be
who I already am.
–David Budbill, from Moment to Moment
I’m trying to learn to be who I already am. It’s not an easy task. There’s a lot of the time that I honestly have no idea who I am–I guess that comes with the territory when you have DID.
Even when I do know who I am, it’s not easy to figure out exactly what that means. Am I-Sara just the vessel for the other people, a shell they can use to interact with the outside world? That’s often how it works; I’m there and not-there, simultaneously. Or am I just a shared delusion or creation of the people inside so that they can present to the world as a singleton? Or is it possible that I can be both a vessel for the others and my own person/self?
I don’t know. I can’t find a conceptual framework or a dialectic for figuring this out. I can’t even find a language for it.
It gets confusing because even when I-Sara am present, I can often feel the influences of others, of selves that are part of me but not me. I feel suddenly taller or shorter. My hearing gets worse. I want to chop off my breasts and scoop out my uterus. My body seems the wrong size and shape, so I want to starve and purge it back to its “proper” size. I want to get a pair of scissors and cut all my hair off. These are not impulses that come from me-Sara, but they still feel very real in the moment, probably based on who’s closest to the front. When those feelings of my body being wrong subside, they feel totally alien to me. They are not my experience of being in my body.
I like the idea of being able to be able to be in my body without self-judgment and without feeling the need to change my body, but in practical reality, I can’t pull it off. I have too many people inside me with drastically different experiences of being present in this body. For many of us, the experience of the body is inextricably linked with memories of abuse. Some don’t want to have a body, or to have as little a body as possible, because that might minimize the pain. Some of us want an androgynous body because the female body was subjected to so much abuse. Some of us want to cause the body pain ourselves because it numbs us to the pain outside people can cause us.
But for better or for worse, this is the body we have. I’m making an effort to do little things that move me/us in the direction of greater acceptance of this body.
Last week, I bought new kung fu pants. For two and a half months, I’d been wearing karate pants from 5 years ago that don’t really fit me anymore. It seems like such a trivial gesture, buying new pants, but it was a difficult step for me. For two months, I kept insisting to myself that I could shrink myself down enough to fit comfortably into the old pants. That involved restricting so heavily that I nearly passed out during a kung fu class and did pass out at home later, on my living room floor. I’ve been down that eating-disordered path before, and waking up on my living room floor with one of the cats sniffing at my face was a much-needed kick in the pants. I started eating, and I bought myself new pants.
I’ve been formally trained as a poet, so indulge me for a minute while I wander into the Mystical Kingdom of Metaphor. It’s not a far trip, really–the metaphor (of buying clothes that fit who I am now rather than trying to be less than I am to fit into something that no longer fits who I am) kind of makes itself. But I was remarkably oblivious to that symbolism while I was busy starving myself. Seeing the symbolism and then translating into the real world (i.e., buying some pants that actually fit) seems like a small step, but it still counts.
I’m learning to be who I already am.