It’s time for the big reveal. Since Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac has been out and in the hands of the public for about a month now, I feel as though there is an aspect of the memoir that I need to talk about in an open manner.
And I gave away exactly what it is in the title of this blog.
But first, for those who haven’t picked up a copy yet, a bit of shameless self-promotion. Follow the links!
Amazon trade/paper: http://amzn.to/2xS7HO2
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2eYQLBV
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2xwi370
Now, for some honesty, which is something I promised in my memoir if you’ve read it. And if you haven’t, then I want to be honest about a very real, very prominent, very confusing part of my life. This is something I’ve been dealing with since the age of three, and forgot about when the amnesia took hold on August 24, 2010.
Shattered is, indeed, the story of how I have retrograde amnesia and learn to cope with the limitations that accompany such a traumatic diagnosis. Throughout the story, I also mention that I hear a voice. This voice – her voice – has been with me since I was a toddler. I know her as though I know myself.
And I know her that well because she is me – or, more precisely, an aspect of me, created to save my brain from the trauma that it experienced.
I have DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder, which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder.
Does this mean I don’t have amnesia? Absolutely not. In fact, it makes the amnesia more complicated: I don’t recall most of my life from birth to age twenty-eight. But when I have breakthrough memories, they don’t feel like mine. I don’t know why they happen, and I have to turn to friends, family, or journal entries to find out if they are real.
The memories are always real. But the reason I don’t remember them, on top of retrograde amnesia, is because the memory isn’t mine. The memory belongs to another personality within my system, a personality created from abuse and trauma, a personality that allowed me to function as a whole despite the fact that I was, indeed, shattered.
I wasn’t officially diagnosed with DID until 2005, when the voice – and she has a name and her own distinct personality – came forth to reveal herself. In 2010, post-amnesia, other personalities began to come out to help me cope with the trauma from amnesia, as well as the odd, breakthrough memories I’d begin to experience. Without DID, I probably wouldn’t have lived, coped, or functioned for as long as I have.
Sharing this isn’t really a spoiler, and doesn’t ruin any aspect of the memoir itself – it’s the truth, and a useful thing to know before reading. It’s an integral part of the memoir, because it deals with two forms of amnesia: retrograde amnesia, due to a brain injury, and dissociative amnesia, due to my system’s ability to block traumatic memories. While I may not remember being kidnapped in 2000, someone in my system – another personality – most certainly does. Can these personalities be trusted? Yes. I only included things in the memoir that I could back up with facts. Can I prove I was kidnapped? Yes. Can I prove the times I was raped? Absolutely. Can I prove I was at a rave in 1997? No (and I never was, so, there you have it). My mission was to tell the truth about the two conditions that have defined me and who have made me the person I am today – a person who will always fight, and will always stand up for those in need.
A lot of people believe that movies like Split and Fight Club accurately portray life with more than one personality. I’d like to come forth and say that they do not. Life with DID isn’t like a movie at all. It’s more than a soap opera plot. It’s more than a shoddy horror movie or an underground club. It’s a human condition, made real by intense childhood trauma. It doesn’t have a medicinal cure. Therapy and hospitalization can help, but unless an alter (or other personality) is ready to leave the system, or integrate, DID is for life.
I have more than thirty personalities in my system. I mention about seven of them in the memoir. Why did I exclude some? It wasn’t for lack of desire. It was mostly lack of space – and, perhaps, because a more lighthearted sequel MAY be in the works. Maybe. It depends on how much people like and learn from Shattered.
I am still myself: a writer, a singer, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a cancer fighter, a person who has dealt with some very bizarre things. But every now and then, if a lilt comes into my voice and you see my eyes light up while asking for “coffee drinks?” I may be a thirteen-year-old card shark named Carmen. If I put on a wig, seductively tilt my head, and ask to model for you? I may be twenty-eight-year-old Ruby – the personality, and voice, who has been with me since I was three. Those who know me in person know how quickly these changes may come and go. Some people may not notice at all.
But I’m in touch with my alters. I hear them using something called co-consciousness. They are aware of me, just as I am aware of them. Some are still not ready for that, or don’t come around often, but it’s a process. And I learn more about this process every day.
I am not a beast, as Split would have you believe. I’m not out to ruin the world, as Fight Club would have you believe. I am a girl, living her life, dealing with her trauma, and doing the best that she can.
And that is the truth.
Below is a passage from Shattered that talks about my diagnosis and how I came to find out about it after my brain injury in 2010. If anyone has any questions, I’d love to hear them. The comments are open to them. My email is open to them.
And I’m grateful for the support, as well as for the understanding. Thank you all.
During the first frigid week of December—nearly one month after saying goodbye to Starlight Boy—I disappeared.
Nobody, including me, had known where I was.
But when I came back, I told Toby that my name was Shilo, and that a girl named Ruby had sent me. Petrified I had been injured, or that another form of amnesia had seized my brain, Toby took me to the county hospital, and within hours, they deemed my situation an emergency and transported me back to Brook Lane.
I could not recall that I had been in Brook Lane before. I was no longer myself. Whoever I had been, whoever I had been trying to recover, was gone. I was a complete stranger.
It took a team of doctors a full week to convince Shilo that she was not actually real, but was a manifestation of my brain’s desire to help me cope with reality. Apparently, through the meticulous journal entries Shilo kept during that week, she believed herself to be a real person, inhabiting a body that both did and didn’t feel like hers. And during my absence, she had poured the contents of an open glow stick into the wounds on my wrist in an effort to “feel better.”
When I came to as myself, and realized where I was and what had happened to me, I collapsed in shock. There were journals, pictures, and notes that Shilo had left for me. The handwriting was vastly different from my normal, illegible scrawl. There were three different names listed in that journal, and none of them were mine.
And that was when the doctors told me.
“Children of trauma often create alternate personalities to cope with the things that happened to them. Their brains rely on creativity to survive, so different personalities are brought to life to help deal with the trauma. You needed them, and apparently, you still do. They may be with you for the rest of your life. And in the past, you probably knew they were there in some form. However, the brain injury from your fall and seizures made you forget. But these personalities are coming through to tell you that you’re not alone. They’re trying to help. That voice you have always claimed to hear? That is one of them.”
In 2005, I had been officially diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder—or DID, as it was more commonly known after the change from the previous name, Multiple Personality Disorder. I didn’t remember that diagnosis, and I assumed I hadn’t told anyone. But that explained the voice. It wasn’t just a voice—it was a separate personality living inside me, telling me how to deal with my life.
Now, the diagnosis was confirmed. I wasn’t just myself. I was also Ruby, a twenty-eight-year-old model and rock star who knew how to handle the men who had raped and abused her. I was Madeleine, a twenty-three-year-old mother figure who kept the peace and who was, apparently, the good girl. And I was seventeen-year-old Shilo, who came out when I felt sick or weak and needed extra help to get through the day. She was the one who had been sneaking out into the woods at night.
I looked up at the doctors standing by my bedside, and then looked at the journal with the different handwriting. I examined my hands and studied the wounds and scars on my wrists.
And then, I threw up all over the bed.