Yesterday’s post actually started out as “The Year of Sadness”. I wanted to preface it by explaining how last year had been The Year of Anger, but then I had so much to say about anger that I quickly realized I’d written a whole post already! But I do want to talk about the sadness…
Friday’s session went something like this: I suddenly “came to” and realized I was sitting on the hardwood floor of the therapist’s office in a black dress I didn’t remember putting on. In fact, when I fumbled through my memory to recall that last time I distinctly remembered being “me”, I had to go all the way to Tuesday evening. I know I’ve been out on and off since then, but at that moment – nothing was registering.
The therapist immediately noted my confusion. She said, “Hi. I have been talking to Anna for this session, but I asked for you. We only have a few minutes left. I wanted to check in with you…I’m worried.”
I tried to speak and stumbled over my words like some kind of drunk toddler. I was struggling to orient myself to time and place and everything felt weird. I wasn’t sure why Anna had been out – that seemed odd and unsettling to me. The therapist reassured me everything was okay, but I wasn’t so sure.
Regardless, I had to leave so I did, but she said she could call me later that evening. When she did call, Wife wasn’t home yet and I was still an incoherent mess. It’s hard to remember what I said or what she said, but I know it was somehow a productive (albeit frustrating) conversation, wrought with helplessness for both of us.
When Wife eventually got home, she walked into the bedroom where I was buried under blankets in darkness, letting my iPhone play Sia’s “I’m in Here” on repeat. Wife said hello and when I responded, she seemed a little taken aback. She later reflected that she thought for sure that I was River when she walked in.
Which got us talking about how River and I seem to be getting more and more blended. The word Wife used to describe the room as she walked in was “mournful”. I thought that was a perfect word. It reminded me that when the therapist and I first started talking about River, she told me she felt something change in the room – as if it was filling with a heavy sadness. She wondered if I had noticed that, too.
In the same way that Julia and Scooter hold onto our anger, River seems to hold onto our sadness. But it’s an extraordinary sadness. I told the therapist that I feel this darkness lurking in my periphery, as if it’s waiting to consume me. Sometimes I am drawn to it and I just want to fall back into it. It seems comforting in a strange, morbid way. I often want to surrender to that comfort and just let go of everything.
She said that was probably not the best idea.
I compared Scooter to the Hulk in yesterday’s post, which made me think about that line where Bruce Banner says that his secret to not switching into the Hulk isn’t to avoid being angry, but rather to always be angry. Similarly, I think River combats sadness by completely immersing herself in melancholia. She has a generally macabre aesthetic – made apparent by her tag on tumblr or her instructions for Julia’s design of her internal safe room:
I do not like this emotion. It feels so weighted – like the brick that slowly drags you beneath the surface. The therapist has mentioned on more than one occasion that she believes River’s eating disorder is rooted in emotion. I don’t quite understand what she means, but being pulled closer into River’s experience is making me ponder the importance of that statement.
However, having this perspective (that we seem to be blending) is also useful. I’ve been feeling something very different in my body for the past few months, particularly over the last couple weeks. I also find myself dissociating more and more. I used to believe that switching came from another Part wanting to be out front; they were “pushing me off stage” to get their time. That is true sometimes, but now I am questioning the more active role I might be play in these switches.
Similar to the anger, this all-consuming sadness is not something I want to experience. I think that as River becomes more powerful and a more central component of the current System dynamic, I am pushing it away with all I have. Except, there comes a point when all that pushing becomes futile and my only options are to either bear it or get the heck out of there.
It would seem I am choosing the latter more often than the former.
So now there’s this willfulness component at play. When I was in the Trauma Program, they often framed dissociation as a conscious negative coping skill just like any other. So in the sense that an addict can choose to use or a self-harmer can choose to cut, I (as someone who dissociates to avoid emotions) can choose to dissociate. And I do.
Except, it doesn’t feel that simple to me. I’m sure it is, but I don’t feel like I am choosing to bail. I think that perhaps dissociation has become the sorta “default” method that I use to cope with anything scary or even uncomfortable. But I’m assuming that’s how we ended up as a DID system to begin with, yeah?
There are certainly times where I know I want to leave so I pretty much just step off-stage and let someone else run the show for a while. But most of the time, I am just casually going through life when I’m suddenly experiencing something strange or uncomfortable or scary and before I even have a chance to think about my options – I’m gone.
Last week during Monday’s session, the therapist reflected back to me that I seemed to be holding into a lot of emotion.
“You’re crying. I wonder if you’re even aware of that.”
“Mm-hmm. You’ve been crying for a while now actually.”
I don’t know how this will play out with River. I’ve been working so hard to understand and connect with her; to help her feel safe and in control and taken care of. I know she was triggered out more because everything felt too unsafe and chaotic in our life. Her job is to keep things ordered and routinized so that we can remain unharmed.
I have compassion for that, for her, and for how she experiences the world. But I just don’t know that I can let that all-encompassing sadness permeate my layer of this System.
I’m not sure I could survive that.