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abuse, dissociation, gender dysphoria, ego/headmate death
By Hungry Ghosts
Last updated: 12/12/2022
Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was born to parents who so very deeply wanted a daughter. Her father and mother came from very poor families, but they worked hard, and she grew up in a nice house with plenty to eat.
But there was a problem. Her family looked on the outside like it had come from a fairy tale, but on the inside, it was falling apart. And bad things happened to the girl. She was too young to understand why they were bad, but she did understand that she still had to look happy and keep doing well in school, or else her parents would be upset. And she didn't want to make her parents upset, not after they had worked so hard to give her a good life!
So the girl began to wear different faces. Sometimes she was a mighty dragon. Sometimes she was a friendly dog, or a wise sorcerer. Each face she put on made her stronger in a different way, and also made things hurt a little less, and so she began wearing them all the time. The girl was also lonely because she was different from the other kids, but she had a big imagination and could go on all sorts of adventures in her head with people who were always nice to her, so that was okay. Everything was okay.
As the girl continued to grow up, she began feeling more and more different whenever she wore her faces. She wanted different things and felt different things that didn't make sense together. For example, in some faces, she would feel like her body was wrong. She hated her growing breasts and she hated being told she was a girl. But there were other faces that didn't mind. Some faces were so happy to be with people! Other faces were angry at everyone and wanted to YELL. Sometimes it even felt like the faces were more alive than she was, and she was watching everything from far away. The girl was very confused. But she was still getting good grades even though bad things were still happening, and besides, it was normal for teenagers to be confused about who they were, so that was okay. Even when the faces began having voices, too, that was normal for someone with a big imagination!
The girl got good grades, and went to a good college. It was harder to make good grades there, though, and the bad things that happened in her house followed her to school. And she was still different from everyone else. She spent a lot of time talking to her imaginary friends, even though she was an adult. She also tried to talk to the faces-who-were-now-voices, but they seemed more interested in arguing with each other. And boy, did they argue a lot - about what to do, what to be, who to be, who to trust. They pulled her to and fro like a game of tug-of-war, until she was all turned around and couldn't remember herself. They worked together and sabotaged each other and comforted each other and blamed each other. It made studying very hard, which made getting good grades very hard, which made her parents very upset, which made more bad things happen, which made the voices argue more. It was all so very much, and the girl found herself hiding and sleeping more and more. Sometimes, she wished she could hide and sleep for good.
Eventually, the bad things became VERY BAD, and all of the voices in her head - the faces and the imaginary friends and the ones that weren't quite either - finally came to an agreement. Things were NOT OKAY. They knew that if they went home, incredibly bad things would happen. Ones that they might not walk away from. And so, they packed their bags and fled their family, their school, their life, in the middle of the night.
Somewhere along the way, the girl got her wish. She went to sleep for good. The voices looked, but they couldn't find her. They wondered what had finally done it - maybe it was because they'd left everything they knew behind? They argued over which of them was the most "real" and worthy of being her successor. Some felt guilty and some felt relieved, and they also had arguments over that. But now that they were away from the main source of the bad things, the arguments lost their energy. Their old life had died and their new one was trying to be born. If they were to survive, they had to work together, because thinking the others weren't real or important hadn't stopped them from affecting their life.
And they knew it was possible. They knew there were others like them who had overcome their differences and grown strong together. Who protected and comforted and loved each other in ways their families never had. It was... nice, actually. They wanted that, too.
They wanted things to be okay.
They would make things okay.
They didn't know if the girl would ever come back. (They didn't know how they would feel if she ever came back.) But if she did, she would find a life better than the one they had all left behind.
And if she didn't... that was okay, too. It was their life now, and they had friends and passions and trials and triumphs as real as anyone else's. With or without her, it would go on.
And so, here we are.
Postscript by Phosphor:
I think it's easy to look at this not-so-fictional story and conclude that trauma was The Source of our plurality. And honestly, there was a time that we thought that, too! But after about a decade of stumbling around, including stumbling through various plural spaces, we've decided that we just don't subscribe to the idea of there being a The Source for us.
It's not that we think trauma didn't play a role in our development - it absolutely did. It's something that we've grown bigger than, but it's still part of us, like a carving in a tree. The thing is, saying it's The Source feels like a terribly incomplete telling of our story. There are so many things that shaped our multitudinous selves. Stories that touched our hearts! People and characters we admired and tried to emulate! A bountiful imagination that we're pretty sure would have been there even without childhood abuse! We even suspect that genetics might have had a role - our mother once told us that she heard all sorts of voices that she had no control over.
These other things made us us, too, and they're as deserving of being seen and acknowledged as the various Bad Things. Even when it falls outside the Standard Accepted Narrative to do so - no, especially when.
(This is, incidentally, part of why we refuse to use any of the "-genic" terms for ourselves.)