just hold on

You’ve come to realize the depths of your self-loathing today. You subscribe to “dissociative identity disorder” google news alerts, and today you received such an alert. The news alert featured a story with a video of someone describing their experience with DID, and in the video the person briefly spoke using the voices of all of their alters. You find yourself wincing as you watch this, and you ask yourself Why? Why would I wince at this? You wince because you see how it looks to others. There’s no question it looks strange. You look strange enough in life (with your thick glasses and nondescript face, for starters), and to have another piece of strangeness (DID) juxtaposed upon your original strangeness sometimes feels like a strangle hold, an infinite prison of madness and weirdness.

As much as you have grown to love Letty, your younger alter, you hate having DID. You wish you could somehow give it back, return it, exchange it, anything but have it. But, that is not how this works. It’s not how it works with any mental illness. It’s here, ensconced in your being, and you have to learn how to cope with whatever ails you.

DID is the great division between you and the rest of the world. It’s the big secret that you have to constantly weigh when and if to disclose it to people. You know, you’ve heard it all …

“DID is what saved you, kept you from going insane, made it possible to survive your childhood.”

Lately, you truly wonder what the worth was in being saved. Saved to function in some half-assed way with the DID albatross? Yes, because that’s a full life, getting all triggery, and freaky from time to time with PTSD, DID or a lovely hybrid of both. And, you argue that DID helped you go insane. It most certainly did not protect you from mental illness.

If only DID was like a rock you could throw back into the ocean. Alas, no. DID is something you have to work around, like a part of the road that tends to flood. You either avoid that road when it rains, or you do the hard work to fix it.

DID is full body robbery. It robs your mind, your body and your voice, all at the same time. The professionals call it protection. Let’s dispense with the euphemisms. It’s robbery. You see people with similar talents to you, and you are keenly aware that they are going to surpass you. You are further aware that they are going to surpass you because they are not held back by mental illness. You can plot all your career setbacks, and they are all attributed to your DID or PTSD. Either you let promotions pass you by because you know you should minimize your stress, or you’ve had situations with people because you are so sensitive. It’s been abundantly clear to you that the best loves and friends you’ve lost can be connected back to these two issues. You despise that you are this way. You desperately want to NOT be DID, but you might as well throw a penny into a wishing well because that’s how likely your desire to NOT be DID will come true.

You find yourself again thinking of the news article that brought a spotlight to your self-loathing, and you realize your own hypocrisy in that you want people to accept you, DID and all, but you wince at the mere sight of someone telling their DID story on the news. Ok, so you’re a hypocrite, but now what? What is one to do with this information?

Right now, in this moment, all you can do is tell yourself that in another time, and another place, heck, maybe tomorrow, you will feel differently about yourself. You’ll be kinder and nicer, and you’ll be glad you’re here. Until then, all you can do is hold on, and try not freak any more people out along the way.

To the one who has no idea

It’s 2 am, and I am wide awake. The start of this vacation has not been as restful and peaceful as I had hoped. Unfortunately, I think I know why. I like you, and you have no idea.

Not sure how much longer I can hear about your eharmony questions, or your questions about what to wear on your next date. Yes, part of me loves that you ask me, but another part of me does not like the fact that there is even a need for the conversation. Though it was amusing to get an anxious text from you with a picture of a couple of sets of your shoes asking for help. Even more amusing is that I was the inspiration behind this statement in your eharmony profile, “If you say that a food is the worst thing you’ve ever eaten, I will want to try it.” I think it’s crazy and funny that you put such a thing in your profile. And, yes, I maintain the particular diner on Broadway that I pointed out to you is among the worst. Or course, now you want to eat there. Why do I want to go there with you?

Nearly everyday you and I communicate with each other. Do you realize that when you seriously start dating someone our relationship cannot continue on the level that it is? I find it hard to believe that whomever you date would find it acceptable for you to have such a close friendship with me. You can call it fellowship, or whatever you want to label our relationship, but, mark my words, this will end as soon as you start seriously dating someone.

And with that, I cherish the early morning breakfasts with you at the diner. You are the only one for whom I would wake up early for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast on the weekend. I rather like that we practically have the place to ourselves at that early hour. I never like when life gets in the way, and we have to skip a weekend. Remember, these breakfasts with me will end when you find the one because she will expect that you will be dining with her, instead of me, and rightly so.

You spent Father’s day with me, always a hard day. Thank you for that.

I like that when I told you I have DID you said to me, “I only know what Hollywood has shown … or is it like Hollywood?” The sweet sincerity of the question made me laugh when you asked.

You’ve seen me as another alter, and you didn’t freak out or run away. In fact, you seemed to process it as not a big deal. Most importantly, you’ve remained my friend.

I like that we can laugh about my DID. While hiking you posed the possibility of going off the trails. I think you said this in jest, though it is hard to know with you. I put the kibosh on that idea, and said I had never done that. You turned to me, and with a sparkle in your eye, you said, “YOU can never say that.” I laughed right out loud. I never dreamt that there would be a day that I would laugh about my DID.

We don’t have a lot in common. In fact, we have quite a few differences. I like Kripalu as much as you like Vegas. You admittedly rarely read for pleasure, and you say you are not a “word person.”

But, I like who you are … the dramatic, kind, funny, loud person that you are through and through.

Though you cannot know how I feel about you. I do not want to face the prospect of not having you as a friend. Your friendship means too much to me. And so, I will continue to try to look unaffected when you talk about your latest date. I will glance at your hands, and try not to think about touching them. There’s a reason we have those awkward moments when it looks like I want to hug you, but don’t.

The preschool room

The preschool room in the church is where we have our Alanon meetings. It’s fitting in a way as my connection to Alanon started at the same age of the children that inhabit this very room during the week. The blue sky paint and rainbows on the wall harken me back to the days where it all began. There are lovely crayon drawings on part of the wall facing me. My favorite is one of a personified sun that seems to grin at me from the top of the wall.

Many times I can set the reminders in that room aside, and focus on the here and now. Friday night was a notable exception. Our meeting chairperson read a piece about being grateful for the alcoholic and their alcoholism. I felt myself stiffen. I never imagined being grateful for my father’s alcoholism. I can hardly fathom it. My brain shuts down at the thought of it. I don’t know if I can speak. We’re going in round robin order today. The woman beside me is speaking for a long time, the long wait makes me crazy out of my mind because it is an all out effort to stay present, stay here. I stare at the clock: 7:59, 8:01, 8:04, 8:06 … good god, the wait is excruciating. I start tapping my chest as Doc has taught me when I get triggered. Finally, blessedly, she is done. I’m up.

“Hi, I’m Beatriz. Today’s topic – Grateful for the alcoholic Wow. This hits home for me. No question that I will always be grateful for my father, and what he gave me: a love for writing, literature, poetry, human rights … But I don’t know that I will ever be grateful for the alcoholism, and everything that came with it -his disappearance from my life- and everything that came as a result of that disappearance, and all the crime and so much more … Maybe there could be a day when I’m grateful for all that. It certainly would be a more peaceful place to be, and maybe it’s a sign of how much more work I have to do, and how young I am in this process … But no, I am not grateful for the alcoholism. I am grateful for all of you, and for this meeting. I look forward to it every Friday. Thanks for listening.”

We continued around the rest of the room with shares until the end of the meeting. The business meeting was up next with a short five minute break in between.

And that’s when I heard it.

I heard the voice of the old man, the old man with the bright green shirt and a constant cough. I heard his voice go up, and I dismissed it. I thought I was mistaken because this man had kindly passed me a box of tissues at my first meeting when I cried about my father. But then there it was again, unmistakably his loud voice … he was mad about something we wrote in our introduction to the meeting. I can’t make out what he’s saying because I have to run. I have to go. He starts shouting. It’s no longer just a loud voice. My mind starts to get scrambled, and I can’t think, can’t think straight, just have to go, go for the door. I need the door. But I feel heavy. The desire to run is not in concert with the rest of my heavy feeling body. I must be walking oddly. I just keep my eye on the door and will myself towards it. I manage to feel the door against my hands, and I push it open, and when I do so I just fall out with the door and stagger onto the sidewalk. I feel myself fall onto the concrete curb for a respite from my heavy feeling body.

I hear a voice call out to me, “Beatriz, are you ok? Do you need help?” Jack is part of our group, and he sounds so far away, like he’s speaking to me from the end of a long tunnel. I strain to hear him, part of me knows he must be near me though it sounds as if he is long out of my reach. I will later learn that he was sitting right beside me on the curb.

I try to stay there, stay there, right there. I do not want to fly away and disappear. I need to stay. I try to focus on Jack’s voice. I don’t know what he’s saying to me, but it’s a calm voice, and that is good. His voice is calm like the light breeze on the lake as you sit on your hammock. I try to focus on that. I think I can come back. He asks me something, I don’t recall what he asked, but I can tell I’m slipping away because my own voice comes out in a hoarse whisper. I can tell it’s barely even my own voice. I am barely present.

But then I hear him again, the old man with the bright green shirt and constant cough who once passed me tissues. He is now outside, and he is still yelling. Is he coming closer? I have to go. I cannot be here. Jack tries to keep me from running. “He’s not going to hurt you. He’s leaving. You’re safe. You’re safe here.”

And there’s the change. I feel the moment when I’m no longer in the driver’s seat. I’m now in the passenger seat of my own life, my own interactions with people I barely know.

I feel the little girl voice, and the little girl fear take over all of me. “I sorry. I so sorry. I not supposed to be here. I sorry I scared.”

“Where’s Beatriz?”

“She not here. She be gone. Please don’t call no police.”

“Why is that?”

“They not nice. They mean.”

“Is there anyone we can call?”


“Inside where?”

“They be a man inside. He friends with Beatriz. He know about me.”

“What’s his name?”

“I forgot.”




“Yes! It’s Ben! That’s him!”

“Okay, we’ll get Ben. Do you have a name?”

“Yes. Letty …”

“Hi, Letty. I’m Jack. Can you give me some big belly breathing? You’re safe here.”

“I sorry. I not supposed to be here. Please don’t be mad at Beatriz. It my fault.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. No one is in any trouble. Here’s Ben.”

“Ben! I so sorry. I sorry I got scared in your office when we was at your house. That was me. I sorry. It looked like my old room. That was me, not Beatriz. She tell the truth when she say it was me.”

“It’s okay.”

“Who be here now?”

“Well, there’s me – Jack, Lucy and Tina, all people who care about you.”

Just like that, I felt myself come back. I looked at Jack, and gave a yelp, a Beatriz yelp, and buried my face in my cardigan that somehow came off me though I don’t recall how it came to be in my hands.

Everyone introduces themselves to me as it is the first time I’ve met them. Perhaps they are not sure who they’re speaking with now …

Awkward hugs for everyone, awkwardness is from me, not them.

We go back inside the school to finish closing up. Lucy takes out a chair and implores me to sit while everyone else closes up shop. She asks for my phone number with her pen poised over her little memo pad that she pulls out of her Betty Boop purse. I give it to her. She tells me she’ll call me. I take her number as well.

Ben remembers I told him that talking about nonsense helps me. He offers to take random things out of my purse as conversation pieces. We all laugh, and head out the door.

Don sees a lightning bug. (Where did Don come from? Was he here the entire time?) He points it out to us. I’ve never seen them aside from pictures. Then he shows us a whole group of them further down from where we stand. It all feels surreal, and oddly special.

Then it’s just me and Ben. He asks me if I can drive. I say that I am not sure. Bugs are biting him like he’s Thanksgiving dinner, though they have no interest in me. “Let’s continue this conversation from our cars,” he says as he slaps bugs off his legs.

We get in our cars, and continue talking via cell phone. I try to talk about something else, and I mention the house he just bought. He says, “Yes, it’s in a neighborhood near you so we can go to your favorite diner more often.” My heart jumps when he says this. I start to cry because if he sees himself having breakfast with me at my favorite diner then he just might still be my friend.