Identifying as a jigsaw puzzle

A psychiatry resident at the facility we were in after our suicide attempt had been insistent on us having a cluster B personality disorder due to our apparent ‘dismissive’ attitude towards what happened, dissociative symptoms and the “impulsive nature” of our overdose although it’s impulsiveness was coupled with extremely detailed planning which, while I now know the full story, it confused both he and I at the time fairly equally.

He didn’t seem to have enough criteria ticked off for his choice diagnosis though because he kept arguing with his colleague in front of us who clearly disagreed and was plugging the “mixed bipolar episode” theory instead because we had a past history of diagnosed Bipolar, had clearly been having psychotic symptoms and our friends and husband described us as “kind and easy to get along with”.

Dr Borderline-Personality-Disorder was insisting to us that we must feel “empty” inside due to our emotional numbness (totally overlooked as a normal reaction to a trauma I might add) and we were struggling to make him understand that we did have trouble knowing who we were but if anything we felt too full, not empty.

“But I don’t feel empty, I never have, if anything I feel too full, overflowing and yet lost and broken, conflicted by the should’a could’a will and can’ts, shattered into shards of the someone I have never really been, but so desperately long to find.

I feel like a second hand jigsaw, I think my bits are all technically here and yet my edges are too tattered for them to fit, there’s a coffee stain on my face and my pieces are all upside down and jumbled up.”

This is an excerpt from a notebook about our struggles with understanding our identity  around the time when we had been inpatient after that suicide attempt.

I’m not sure who actually wrote this excerpt, because it was a long time ago and wasn’t signed. It kinda sounds like me but I don’t think it was me (?) and while it seems lots of us wrote back then, the only one who ever seemed to go out of her way to make a point to actually sign her own name on things certainly didn’t write this. Anyways, it fairly nicely sums up some confusion felt at the time that were unable to articulate to the doctors.

I’ll just note here that at that point in time I personally had zero knowledge of what dissociative identity disorder actually was and although I’d heard the term, I didn’t know what the word dissociation meant & thought ‘multiple personalities’ were either fake, extremely rare or looked like a horror movie portrayed them to.

Other than guilt for my inability to ‘feel’, I personally had zero emotional response to having been informed I’d just tried to off myself, mostly because I had no idea what was going on, it felt like I’d read a mediocre book and someone was telling me that book was actually my factual life and so I had a vague patchy narrative but no emotional memory of it happening at all and the narrative recollection I was giving apparently “sounded like a robot”. The nurses were angry that I’d “manipulated them into thinking I was trying to get better” when I’d “planned this all along” one literally cried at me because I had been so selfish and I had children I should have thought about.


But Stigma is a bitch and hindsight is 20/20, because now we know that the person who was admitted was not the one who planned the overdose, I was the one who woke up in ICU thinking it was circa the late 90s and I was on some weird TV show having to covertly figure out WTF was going on, and none of us were the one who switched in suddenly and yelled at this doctor for accusing our parents of unforgivable things.

It seems so obvious retrospectively, but at the time it was just a whole lot of confusion and unknown switching and I was just trying to appear as “not crazy” as possible.

It didn’t work so well.


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