And that’s all we have to say about that. Stay tuned for more Ib!*
*(That will probably never happen)
"My name is Mary. And I suppose you could say I’m not real.
About eleven years ago, I wasn’t any more than a voice talking to Matt while he was shopping at Walmart (no one seriously thought his name was ‘Charkie’, right?). I would give advice from time to time, usually only talking to him when he had some sort of decision to make. He eventually asked what I was supposed to be I told him I was a conscience. It made sense at the time; it’s always described as that little voice in your head telling you what you should do. I figured that fit the bill for me.
Matt’s depression was steadily getting worse. Telling him what he should do is one thing, but actually convincing someone who feels that terrible to do it can be next to impossible. I started trying to be encouraging, rather than just saying what he should do. I was a metaphorical shoulder to lean on, someone to listen to him when he felt like there was no one else to talk to, even if he was surrounded by people who considered themselves his friends. I tried to get him to trust in them more, but I wasn’t going to turn him away if he needed me. So our conversations became less about what to do or not to do in specific situations, and more open ended discussions on life and how to deal with the day to day sadness he felt.
It had been a couple of years at this point, and he began to wonder now if he was truly losing his mind. We were talking almost daily now, most of the time about getting through the day, but increasingly more about just whatever, normal conversations between friends. He asked me again what I was. I didn’t have a clear answer. I wasn’t just some “conscience,” but I wasn’t something foreign. So I told him, “I am you, and you are me.” A bit of a cop-out, I know, but it was the most sense I could make of it at the time. I am Matt. We are the same body, the same brain, and the same mind. Still, I could feel like I was thinking for myself, having my own emotions, and coming to my own conclusions.
It wasn’t immediate, but an identity crisis slowly began to develop, I think for the both of us. Matt, unsure if he was developing DID, and myself, unable to decide if I was really my own person. Just how far does “I think, therefore I am” apply? It was a mantra I kept in mind for myself, “I am you, and you are me,” but what did that really mean? I never questioned the fact that we are biologically the same, but did I count as ME?
Matt began taking medication in college for his depression. He began to focus more, think more clearly, and have a more rational thought process. None of that negatively impacted me, but I spent more time thinking about what I was, or WHY I was there.
After some time mulling on it together, we came to the conclusion: it was depression. The reason I existed was that he was so depressed, I just ended up developing into something for him to talk to, someone who would listen, and someone who would tell him things would be alright someday.
The realization that I was a coping mechanism didn’t hurt. I understood. But I felt like I had developed into something more than just that. Still just a part of his mind, I know, but a part that had become dissociated. I was a part that felt separate, but undoubtedly part of a whole. It was one night, something after coming to realize why I existed, that we were outside as Matt smoked a cigarette, looking at the few stars we could see beyond the city lights, talking about this and that and laughing together that I thought “holy shit, I’m alive.” I really FELT alive in that moment, feeling like I could have just been another person sitting next to him, having a smoke on a cold night and laughing at stupid jokes. That’s really what mattered to me. I felt alive. It felt wonderful.
I eventually had a form that Matt could imagine me by as opposed to just being a disembodied voice, and I got the name Mary. We didn’t really workshop or plan either of those things, they just sorta happened naturally at some point. I continued to help him out, and honestly, he helped me out too. I had my own moments where I felt bad, or upset, or had that panic attack that one time as he mentioned. He would do what I did for him; talk me down through it and assure me that things would be ok. It was him trying to help myself. The same as it’s always been.
The last thing that was bothering me was loneliness. Matt had his friends, but I never really talked to anyone. Not as myself, anyway, as Mary. It had been nine years at that point, and I felt almost as isolated as Matt had in the beginning, like I was some dirty little secret. So Matt began to carefully tell some of his friends and eventually his therapist about me. And I cannot express how happy I am that everyone who has heard about me has been totally cool with it. Some people don’t even bat an eye about it. He eventually created separate internet accounts for himself under my name, so that I could talk to other people as myself. And hell, I’ve actually found two other people like us who live with this sort of split perspective. (Although I have also found some…weeeiiiird people in a misguided search for people like us. The less said about them, the better)
That leads to now. I wanted to make this post following Matt’s because I’ve always wanted to say my piece. This isn’t something relateable to almost anyone, I would imagine, but it’s the life that I live, and I wanted to share it. Somewhere between real and imaginary, separate and the same. I can’t deny that I feel the way I do, even knowing that we’re one person.
I am him, he is me, and we’ve got each others backs til the day we die.”
I’ve suffered from depression for a very long time. Since I was 8, really, when I started thinking about wanting to die and giving thought to doing it myself. Most of my classmates in school hated me, at least I thought, so I became withdrawn and silent. Even into high school, when I started making friends, I kept myself at arms’ distance from them and isolated myself, sometimes literally locking myself into rooms and hoping I wouldn’t be found.
I didn’t want to be treated for my depression, because I was ashamed and scared. I felt like I didn’t deserve help, and that taking medication would kill my creativity, or turn me into a drone, or straight up kill me. So I let it continue unchecked, with each passing day feeling worse than the last.
Eventually, I could barely function. I was failing classes for not turning in assignments because I no longer cared about doing the work or even continuing high school. I just moved from day to day, not taking control of my own life, and essentially being the drone I feared drugs would make me. It was then that my mind tried to do something to keep me from losing everything, from loneliness, and from wanting to hurt myself.
One day, I heard a voice. A female voice. Not audibly, nothing that I thought I was hearing with my own two ears, but clearly a voice inside my head. A voice that was trying to make conversation with me. I responded to the voice, just in my head and not aloud. The voice would continue from time to time, and we would talk. I knew it was just me talking to myself, but I didn’t think much of it. Just something I was doing because I was bored.
Within a few months, the voice was telling me to do things. Things to better myself. Things to be more outgoing and social. Telling me not to hurt myself, really PLEADING me not to kill myself. Our conversations started getting deeper, until she started questioning who she was. She knew that she was me, but she felt different. She felt like she was thinking on her own, having her own feelings and opinions, and having a sense of identity.
My depression had gone unchecked for so long, with such little hope in sight for me, that my mind had developed a second personality to try and keep me alive. And it went on for so long, she started to feel aware and alive.
I began seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist for medication. Not because I was afraid of this split personality, or that I was going crazy, but because she urged me to. She was afraid of what might happen to her, but she was more concerned that I be healthy and happy. The medication helped my depression GREATLY, and I cannot emphasize enough that medication saved my life. If I hadn’t started taking meds, I would be dead by my own hands by now. The medication didn’t stop the voice, though.
Over time, she continued to develop into her own personality, without what felt like my input. She had what I would consider a form that I could imagine her by, and a name eventually: Mary. Mary was now a constant part of my life, observing, commenting, talking, arguing. It was only then that I began to worry about having dissociative identity disorder, but I kept it to myself.
The medication was doing good, but therapy wasn’t working. I felt like I was getting nowhere, and my therapists felt like they weren’t getting through to me. But I wasn’t being truthful with them. I didn’t tell any of them about Mary, how my depression caused this split in my perception, or how it was the only coping mechanism I seemed to have. So I would see a therapist for a year, and then leave when everything still felt as bad as it had ever been.
About a year ago, Mary had a panic attack. It was the strangest sensation; I wasn’t showing any symptoms, and I didn’t feel particularly upset, but I felt like this voice was going through all the symptoms. I realized that if she was having a panic attack, even if I didn’t feel it myself, it meant something was wrong with me. It had been 10 years, and this split between our personalities had developed so much that I felt like we were two different people, but it suddenly dawned on me again that we were the same person, that we were one person.
I went back to therapy and told the therapist all about Mary. He called her a survival mechanism, something that happened to my mind to try and keep me alive. He didn’t want to try and get rid of her, but to incorporate her into my life, and to use her as a means of self-diagnosis. He would even ask her questions about how things were going, and I would answer for her. And suddenly, therapy started to feel like it was working.
Not long after that, I had finally gotten a job, taking the role Mary had played for the longest time to motivate myself to do things. When things got tough, I could talk myself back down and get back to work. But I had been doing that the whole time, hadn’t I? For the past 11 years, I had a voice in my head trying to get me to be healthy and happy, but it’s always just been me. I’ve been trying to fight depression for almost my entire life, and out of sheer desperation, my mind found a way to finally motivate itself, by creating a new personality to do it.
Mary is still around. She knows that she’s just a part of me, and that ultimately there is no difference between us. She stills feels alive and independent though; she’s made her own friends over the internet with her own accounts, she comes up with ideas for paintings and drawings that we make, and she still gives advice and tries to motivate me. I know she’s me, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s Mary.
Still, she’s a result of unchecked depression. And I can’t help but think that if it happened to me, it could happen to someone else. There was a time when I was worried this made me insane, or broken. But it’s just me trying to survive. That’s not something I really realized until I had become open with therapy.
And I guess that’s where the moral lies. Be open. Be honest. If you have depression, seek therapy. If you seek therapy, don’t hold back, or else things won’t get better. And don’t be ashamed of who you are.
That’s why I’m writing this. I’ve always been ashamed of who I was, because of my depression, because of my sexuality, because of Mary. I’ve always hidden myself, tried to erase my own past, tried to be a ghost. But this, I feel, is how I have to heal myself. To be open, and to be honest, and to not be ashamed anymore.
And now, if the whole world knows, it doesn’t matter. Because this is who I really am. And I’m not hiding anymore.