14 October, 2007

role confusion

or, How DID Further Complicates DD

It's been a while since I last posted here. In part, that's because W. and I were away over the summer, so we just weren't doing much that inspired posting here.

But a larger part is that I (in the collective sense) think of this as a blog for adults, and the adult parts of my system just haven't been around that much lately.

That said, I (Ellis) feel more comfortable writing here than I do over at The Punishment Book. I know the adult parts of my system would prefer I not be going to any "adult" sites, I figure better one that's registered in my own name, than one that is shared.

I suppose I could try to make this a really coherent and linear post, where I sound all erudite, but it's a blog, and I figure it's okay to write however things come out. So the topic is role confusion.

I mean, on the one hand, here I am in this adult body. I look like an adult. There are adults who live in here along with me. But I, myself, am fifteen. People who know me, and know teenage development, insist that the things I do that frustrate the adult parts (and W.) (and me for that matter) are actually totally appropriate for a fifteen year old.

But I'm used to living in an adult body. I can buy cigarettes or alcohol, because my legal i.d. says I'm in my 30s. (And, trust me, I routinely get carded, for whatever reasons.) I can drive a car. I can access the entirety of our household budget with my ATM card. I am used to making the decisions about what happens in my life.

I have spent most of my life functioning as an adult, and resenting a lot of what that has meant.

Maybe some history of how I came to be a fifteen year old stuck in the body of a woman in her 30s would make sense here. There are those who say that DID/MPD is caused by a person (unconsciously) splitting themselves into different parts in order to continue "normal" functioning in the face of traumatic experiences. I don't have a good gauge on what is, or is not, traumatic, but I do know that most of the time I was growing up, the best way to get through was to be able to totally separate different strands of my experience.

So, why would I have split off when I was fifteen? I think part of it was that none of the other parts who were around then were really able to cope with what was going on at home. Specifically, it's that someone needed to be a partner for my mother.

I guess you could call that the initial role confusion. My mother didn't have a lot of other options for someone to be a partner, and there, living in the house with her, was someone who had a body that seemed adult, and who sounded pretty much like an adult a lot of the time. We had moved to a new town midway through my 9th grade year, and I didn't really have any friends. So there I was at home most of the time, and I guess it just seemed natural for my mother to turn to me with all of the needs an adult has in a relationship.

And here's the hard thing. It's not like it was really clear what was and wasn't okay. I mean, which elements would I say shouldn't have happened? I just don't really know.

But I do know that all of the elements taken together added up to something that, had it not been with my mother, would have clearly been a Relationship, capital R. And it was a Relationship with clear evidence of domestic violence (although, I suppose since it was from parent to child, it was child abuse). Clearly, when one person in a relationship is an adult, and the other is a teenager, the balance of power is off. And when the person who is an adult is physically and emotionally abusive on top of that... well, it's not a great situation.

Okay, so fast forward, oh, fifteen years. And I (collective I) get into a relationship, on equal terms, with W. And then we move in together. This is when I (Ellis) started to get really triggered, a lot of the time. I would be absolutely FURIOUS that W. wanted me to behave as her partner. I felt (sometimes still feel) trapped and desperate. I would think, over and over, "At least with Mom, I knew if I stuck it out for a few more years, I would be able to just leave, no strings attached. But there's no out now."

So there's all of that emotional stuff going on. It's hard. Oh, my GOD, it is hard. I know it's hard for W. I mean, she has every single right in the world to have an adult partner. She is a loving, generous, really great person. I sometimes forget that, in the midst of my own stuff, but even I can recognize it's true. She deserves to have a partner.

And then here is this person, who lives inside the body of her partner, who is sometimes the only part who is present, who desperately needs her to NOT treat me as a partner. And it's not just about sex. Had my mother just come into my room at night, but been a mother during the daytime, then things might be much easier. But that's not how it was.

Okay. So on top of all of that, W. and I have been trying to maintain the structure and rules that I so desperately need.

Last week was an example of what happens when role confusion and DID collide with the best of efforts a couple can put into DD.

Over the summer, the rules and structure had pretty much not been in effect. We were travelling, and consistency just wasn't something either of us could manage. And then we got back home, and the habit from the summer of not doing discipline was stronger than the habit from before of doing discipline.

So I was getting really, um, out of kilter. Not doing well. Not being able to structure my own life. And things have been really chaotic for me internally, including the fact that none of the adult parts has been present at all for well over a month, and not much before that since somewhere at the beginning of August.

So W. and I discussed bringing back the rules. And for a couple of days, it did help quite a bit. Then things kind of blew up, due to something W. wrote and didn't intend me to see, but which was in a place where I couldn't really avoid having seen it. It basically talked about how much W. misses having an adult partner, and wishes that I (Ellis) weren't the only one present lately. Given that I'm not stupid, I had already been suspecting she felt that way, and feeling pressure to take responsibility for the role of adult partner. I mean, that's the kind of thing I was created to do--the things no one else wanted to cope with doing. But it's also the kind of thing that I've been working on NOT having to do any more.

So things were difficult last week, to say the least.

On the other hand, I have to give W. some huge credit. Despite the fact that I was fighting and testing in stunningly TESTY ways, despite the fact that I was doing everything I could to just push her to the point of giving up on the rules (something she has done in the past), she managed to hold firm to them, and be as consistent as a person who is coping with (currently) untreated ADD could be.

I got a punishment spanking every single night last week, each harder than the last. I continued to resist, and push, and just try to get to the point where W. would give up on the rules. Much as I was desperate for her to be consistent, I couldn't trust that she would be, and I just needed to "get it over with" as soon as I could.

But I was also working very hard, when I could, on figuring out what I could tell W. that would help her to understand me, and what I need, and why I need it. Just because I was testing doesn't mean that I wanted to be testing, you know? Just because I believed W. wasn't going to follow through doesn't mean that I didn't hope, deep down, that she would.

I have to say how incredibly grateful I am to her that she did manage to be consistent, because it's building up a little store of reasons to trust her in my mind.

Those of you who also have "trust issues" will know how much of a long haul we're in for. Much as I'd like to be able to say, "Oh, we had a good discussion, things are great, now I trust her...." Well, that would be naïve. But, slow though the process is, we are building trust, and that is a good thing.

And we are working on ways we can clarify the roles in our household, for both of our benefit. It does get complicated, like it does for anyone else doing discipline. I mean, most of us have quite a few roles in our relationships. But I guess with DID, that gets just a bit more complex.


Natty said...

This was a poignant post as it really shows how hard dealing with DID is for both of you and W. I so admire you both for your commitment to each other.

It's also a bit triggering for me. I can remember being my mother's wife as a teenager. Not so much sexually, but certainly in terms of the traditional household role of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids. I was also her confidante and her parent. Her boyfriends would talk to me like I was her father -- telling me where they worked, went to school (if they had), etc. It always left me very resentful that she stole my adolescence for herself. I definitely related to your anger and frustration, Ellis.

Thanks for sharing the reality of how discipline and DID and just making a relationship work actually works.

Jigsaw Analogy said...

Thanks for commenting.

I will say that having me start sleeping in my own room has helped significantly. And W. and I are seeing a new couples therapist, so try explaining, "We are sleeping in separate rooms, but that's actually increased our ability to communicate and have a healthy relationship."

And I'm really sorry you get where I am coming from on the teen stuff, because, well, it sucks.