I Share My Body With 20 Personalities

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Fourteen of whom are highly successful artists with distinct styles. It was -- difficult -- to accept.

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After four months in Arbours, which felt to me like a fortnight at most, my money ran out. I'd hoped that by the time we reached that point my health care provider would have stepped in, but they had been utterly intransigent, which is a polite way of saying they were complete bastards about it. There was no way they would pay. After all the places they'd locked me up in against my will during my life, now here I was showing some interest, yet they wouldn't lift a finger.

At least my house was finally ready to move back into, after the insurance company had paid for some redecoration and repairs, and the fire brigade had given the all-clear. And finally I could get going with my weekly meetings with Valerie Sinason and monthly appointments with Dr. Hale at the Portman Clinic.

The meetings came and went very quickly, like so much of my life. I was sure Valerie said she worked in fifty-minute blocks, but I barely seemed to arrive before I was home again. The conversations while I was there seemed the weird end of bizarre, as well. I didn't really know what the therapists' agenda was, but I quickly got the feeling they were trying to nudge me down a particular path. I couldn't put my finger on it, so one day Valerie came out and said it.

According to her I shared my body with dozens of other people.

I waited for the punchline but it never came.

Even so, I think I still must have laughed in her face. Anyone would, if a so-called professional came out with nonsense like telling me there are other people who take control of my body sometimes.

If this is what your research is for, I'd pick another career!

Obviously I accused Valerie of being crazy, but I didn't exactly storm out of the room. People had always spun me the most fantastical lies. Every so often, like with the acid and the fire, the stories seemed to be based in truth. But this one was too ridiculous for words. Valerie was testing me somehow -- I just needed to work out how.

The next time I saw her she was pushing the same line about strangers sharing my body. I was disappointed when Dr. Hale started going down the crackpot road as well. According to him I had something called Dissociative Identity Disorder.

"I've been diagnosed with dissociation before," I said. "And that was wrong as well."

Dissociation is different from DID, he explained. Lots of people -- people you'd consider "normal" -- suffer from dissociation to varying degrees. People who block out pain or bad memories by forgetting or compartmentalising their problems are dissociative.

"What you have is far more extreme," he said. "Your dissociation is so great you actually have different personalities living inside one body. Your body."

It was too ridiculous for words. Yet I couldn't just walk away. I owed it to Dr. Hale to listen, even if I couldn't see the point.

"You're telling me there's someone watching me when I go to the bathroom?"

My old experiences of Warlingham left deep scars.

"It doesn't work like that."

"No, it's not like that," Dr Hale said. "You are not here all the time. Other people take control of your body. They have their own separate lives, just as you do."

Ridiculous as it all sounded, I couldn't help asking questions.

"So where do I go then?"

He shrugged. "It's as if you go to sleep."

"Why don't I fall over then?"

"Because someone else is awake and keeping the body going."

We went round in circles like that for ages every time I saw him. Sometimes I played the game. On other occasions I wished he'd call it a day.

Seriously, man, change the record!

I don't know what he expected me to say. "Oh yes, I get it, I'm just a figment of my body's imagination. I don't really exist!" But I didn't mind. I'd been accused of anorexia, bulimia, depression, attempted suicide, schizophrenia and so many other things I couldn't remember, and I'd managed to prove all those wrong. So what difference did it make if he accused me of having multiple personalities as well? It was just another name. 

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Kim Noble is an artist based in Surrey, England. She is the author of All of Me: How I Learned to Live With the Many Personalities Sharing My Body.

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