You don’t end up as a poly-fragmented multiple without severe, prolonged, horrifying trauma before the age of 7. I know this. All the literature agrees, well all the literature that acknowledges multiplicity as real, as possible. I laugh at the idea that something that I live can be debated still as to whether it even exists.
It’s always existed for me. I split before conscious memory, long before narrative memory. I will never get to know why. There is no story that I can tell, no threads to weave together into a tapestry that explains why when I was a preschooler I already had 5 distinct separate personalities. My abusers refuse to acknowledge the harm they did to me and I do not yet have the strength to force a confrontation. It’s around the age of 4 that I have conscious narrative memories. That is where my stories start - the first time that he thought I was demon-possessed and decided to cast it out of me. The first time that a friend wanted to play a game with me - a game that I've learned to label for what it was - sexual molestation and object rape.
There’s the story of the bullying, the name calling, the being pushed down on the playground. Of being excluded, always, forever left out. These are stories that I could tell, that I need to tell - and every story, every incident shattered me further. My words feel too small, too insignificant to do justice to the harm done to my very being in the name of God, love and family. I don’t have a before. All that I have is the abuse and the aftermath.
I can’t tell you the story, the first story where I learned that because I was a girl I was less than, I was evil. I can’t tell you the story because it was in every interaction with my father. I saw it every time he belittled my mother. I was taught it every time that the story of Adam and Eve was told. It was Eve’s fault, she destroyed the perfect world God had made. I have a three year old part inside who’s name is Eve. We only found her a year ago - locked in an internal hell, perpetually being punished for being a girl, for being sin, for being totally depraved to the very core of her being. Christianity taught me that. My good private Baptist school taught me that. My current church teaches me that. It’s taught every time a man gets up to speak and a woman doesn't. It’s taught every time a man is put into a leadership position over a woman. It’s taught in ways that are driven into the depths of women’s souls.
To stay in my church right now is telling Eve, this precious piece of us, two separate messages. Because we rescued her from that hell - both her and the young boy that was created to torment her for all eternity. We rescued them and have been teaching them both that they are more than that story from so long ago. We are teaching them that they each are beautiful and worthy and loved. But when I stay, I'm telling Eve that there’s a piece of that old story that tormented her for so long that is true. She is different, less than, over-looked and unseen because she is a girl. I can’t stay in a place that tells this beautiful piece of my heart that she is evil.
I must leave, and I don’t know where to go. It’s only been in the last 4 weeks that the internal structure that has kept us trapped in a cycle of torment and obligation about our faith has stopped. It’s shifting, changing once again as we take this next step to healing. This is my hard thing - my internal world, that is more real to me, more a part of me than anything else on this earth and this next step in my healing, finding a church that doesn't add garbage into my still open wounds. I want to live open and honest as me, as us. I don’t want to be the poster child for healthy multiplicity. Most multiples who heal choose integration into one whole self. That’s not an option for us. We've never known a life without each other’s company, opinions, voices, and our internal landscape. It’s not easy to live as a plural person in a singular world. We are always checking our tenses, terrified we said too much, that we spoke as a harmonious collective instead of a solo voice. It’s the secret that doesn't get talked about - not with the family, not with most of my friends, not in the places that I minister. There just doesn't seem to be room for all of me.
Yet all of me is here, we exist - and the more that we write, the more the struggle to stay singular seems worthless. And we’re scared. Scared people will run away like they have in the past. Scared people won’t engage with us as we are. Scared that we will turn into this sideshow freak. Scared to write this, even more scared to post it. We've been kicked out of things before for being plural and owning it. Our biggest fear though is that we’ll be ignored. The one thing I cannot bear is silence.
There’s no tidy neat bow to wrap this up with. I hate that this is an on-going writing, something that continues to surface. This healing from abuse is painful. Living in the aftermath is even worse. Maybe that’s why my eye keeps being drawn to trees growing out of rock faces. Trees that are thriving, and growing in the most difficult and beautiful of places. Maybe my eye sees what my heart doesn't dare hope for yet - that there is beauty here, growing out of these hard places.