There is a storm raging within me. Or rather, there is a whole weather system of storms, all of which are separate fragments of a greater whole. The members of my inner family are changing. I’m not sure if maturing is the correct description, but definitely changing – just like storms and weather systems do with time, sometimes with frightening speed.

Officially, my inner family goes by the label of dissociative identity disorder – or multiple personality disorder, if you prefer the older, more melodramatic name. To me, it is not disorder at all. It is a clever trick of my mind that allows several individual storms to occur simultaneously without allowing the overall weather system that is me to escalate into an all-destroying cyclone. Perhaps a series of tsunamis would be a better analogy. It is the children of my inner family that are storming right now, the ones that hold the individual slices of my childhood self which would obliterate me if I were to try to hold them together simultaneously in the greater reality that is the adult me.

Why the multiple storms? Why now?

There was the writing of that letter to my father which my therapist set me as homework; the letter that would allow my inner little girls to place the blame for what happened to them squarely on my father’s shoulders, where it belongs; the letter that would allow them to begin to feel and express the anger they felt towards him. Sounds simple, yet like in so many cases of therapy homework over the years, it has plunged them and hence me into this weather system of swirling individual and interlinked tempests.

The therapist is new to me, and I to her, so she is still getting used to me, and especially to my inner family. She is feeling her way through the revelation of how easy it is to pitch its components into parallel, and sometimes conflicting, spirals of turmoil. No wonder she has to type so furiously on her tablet when we meet. Lots to keep track of. The children can be confusing, even to me. As with all children, whether in the outer or in an inner world, they are constantly changing focus, speaking over each other, jumping from one part of each of their stories to another, often without any apparent logical connections. That, with the added complication of the release of repressed memories through the children – those disjointed fragments which pose so many questions. Which parts are semi-objective truth, if such a thing exists? Which parts are the imaginative attempts of a child to make sense of overwhelming and often terrifying sensations and experiences, which she has neither the knowledge to understand nor the language to express?

Beyond that, there is always the frightening prospect that none of it represents any true experience of mine at all; the prospect that I and my therapists – the new one and her predecessor – have made it all up out of some perverted thirst for sympathy and attention on my part, and for professional recognition on theirs. After all, there have been those who know me who have tossed around the label “false memory syndrome” with a firm sense of security in their superior knowledge and understanding of how these things work, regardless of the extent of their psychological training – or lack of it. Foremost among them was my then husband, who eventually found my divided self too much to live with, and left. But he was far from alone. There are plenty of “normal” people out there, including in my small circle of friends, who find the concept of an attention-seeking histrionic fake far more comfortable to comprehend than the mind-bending possibility that both the multiplicity of me and the years of abuse that created it, are in fact true. No small wonder, then, that periodically I commit the traitorous act of doubting my inner family and wondering whether, just maybe, I am a far simpler case of outright insanity.

If this causes you distress, please contact one of the following support organisations (in South Africa, 24/7):

  • Lifeline South Africa  0861 322322;
  • South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG)  080 012 1314