Dissociation is our way of coping with experiences that overwhelm our capacity to manage ourselves, our needs and sense of selfhood in relation to the experiences. We are familiar with the idea of trauma being compartmentalised in the psyche; put away for another day when the experiences, emotions and needs can be addressed. In my view, dissociation and what we refer to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, are expressions of a state of affairs where incomplete resolution of experience is held in suspension. The resulting complication and problems for present functioning then manifest, becoming labelled ‘disorder’. In some ways, the word is wholly appropriate when we consider the literal truth that the patient’s task is, ultimately, to find order in the chaos of the original experience that left her fragmented.
Still Like A House
Fractured? No, curiously I feel fractured but I see myself in the mirror and I’m whole, standing still like a house. The mirror may be fractured, but my eyes still swivel like windows in this head, guided by a nose that acts as a weather vane. I open and close my mouth like a door and my ears sit like unoiled hinges. But I don’t feel like a house. I feel like a room: a room in a house divided against itself.
Whole Not Hole
If I am whole, how come there are holes in my experience? Not holes; they just feel like holes. They’re no more holes than my forgetting what I had for breakfast last Tuesday is a hole. If I decide, out of my indecision comes a need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs, walking backwards in flip-flop sandals: Shameday, Shatterday, Frightday, Thugsday, Whensday, Chewsday: vegetarian bacon that tasted like cardboard soaked in lapsang souchong.
Broken. Like a wine glass washed in a lapse of concentration, snapped stem in the sink? No, I just feel broken. I’m no more broken than my daydream in the bubbles is a symptom of a broken mind. I just went travelling for a second and broke a glass, not my hip.
A Name for Now
No fractures, no holes. Not broken, nor split. I am a house of rooms, not a room divided. The room I’m in is ordered, organised, geometric wallpaper, square like Kant; catalogued like a library run by a nunnery. My lamp has a name and a function. My telephone first rang in ’76. My sofa has a history, and I remember my happiness the day I bought it; how angry I was when I spilled wine on it; how annoyed at the bit of chocolate that fell between the cushions. I feel my weight on it. Feel the cold in my fingers. I am here. It is now. I am here and I am now.
The hall. A place for uninvited guests. I ran down it when I was 5, I’m-alive, scurried into the cupboard and was never seen again. The hall connects me to the rest of the house I have forgotten, but more importantly to the front door, which leads out into the garden; into the world. I never know if it’s locked. Instead of checking, I forget that it’s a hall, save the ticking of an old clock that I forget to hear whilst listening to the fizz of my ginger beer, age 7, pray to heaven. Instead I convince myself that the livingroom I’m in is all there is. Then, by switching off the light and locking the door, forget myself and my convincing. Until I need to pee, or eat. And then I find myself sock-sliding down the hall like a uterine ghost, so focussed on my empty belly or full bladder I forget to remember that I opened the door; forgetting which room I was in, until I am in the other room, floorboards creaking with the slightest shift in weight.
Another room, another name, another door, another age. Age 6, pick up sticks. Other shadow, other feeling. Cooling, cooler, cold and colder. The familiar unfamiliar. No lightbulb in, no switch to fumble for. In this room I forget to remember and remember to forget. Boxes stacked on boxes, dust and cobwebs. I pick a box in disarray and ginger ale my way in beneath the lifting lid. It contains hundreds of fizzing photographs, sepia toned, disorganised, random, full of Leica moments hastily shuffled away, forgetting to remember; each snap the snap of a twig in a dark damp wood; the snap of a little finger; the snap, crackle and pop of a nice crisp morning in December, and then a dread-filled evening; and all with felt feelings, felt, falling. The sea swell of a gut without words; the electric surge of anxious malady rising in my spine. Shapes without outlines. Tone without form. Colour without texture. Chaos without order. Things that happened before I had words to describe them.
I find myself in a drawer inside a mood inside a box inside a room. Another lapse. Like driving from the house to the store and realising I wasn’t conscious of driving at all. At all. At all. New room, new mood, new name, new world. A ball of string, a roll of tape, some false teeth, a paperclip, an old birthday card from a forgotten friend, a rubber band and some tic-tacs. There are reasons I don’t come in here. It’s a mess: deformed, unfinished. I’ve no energy for this: to clean it out, tidy it up, organise it. Too many memories. One day. Some day. Just not now.
The Unseen Tree
Hallway. Like the drive to the store I didn’t notice, or the tree I ignored on the street I’ve walked for a decade and suddenly appears out of nowhere one day, when the light hits its leaves and I awaken to its colours and the breeze, warm like Frankincense whispering through its branches, and my feet in my soft shoes, so soft I forget my feet. I want to say sorry to that tree. Sorry to my feet and to my shoes. Sorry I neglected you. A three hundred year old tree growing through twelve hundred seasons, existing for everyone else but me.
My hallway stays forgotten; conduit to my wholeness; pipeline to the world. Invisible as I close my eyes. It connects my rooms, my fears: it is the forgotten centre of my house: the house I forget to remember to forget. I prefer the known knowing of organised places to the unknown knawing of my silent spaces. Sunlight comes in through the south window, hot coffee in a comforting cup five inches from the table’s edge, precarious, but no spinning head. Here, I know my name, I have words for things and things for words, and syntax and paragraphs. I know my here and now, I know my differentiated place, I know my own familiar face. It is the face of a house of rooms, and rooms of boxes. Some are ordered, stacked and indexed, comprehendible by their stories, hand-written and clear as etched metal. Some are filled with a confusion of shadows, wordlessness, uncertainty, memories, darkness and a child’s trembling. Still the trembling, still the heart.
I am still like a house. But I feel like a room.
Photo credit: wikimedia commons