My world changed the night I lost my mind. What had once been tucked out of sight and held in silence came roaring onto center stage. I was no longer able to hide the fact I live my life connected to a world most people don’t see. Part of me doesn’t care– I am what I am, weirdness and all– but another part does, because no matter how much I commit to being shamelessly myself, the world can encroach on me. I’ve seen it is possible to lose my freedom, to be made unsafe, to be questioned on things I cannot defend.
Consequently, I take a lot more precautions than I used to– not because I’m worried about myself per se, but rather because I worry about how others might handle me, because I am adamant my “being” is as protected as possible, and this includes Lask. In areas like mental health care, and other fields I cross paths with, this can be tricky to navigate, both legally and behaviorally.
Lask and I have both had a recurring nightmare since I was young. It takes different forms, but the plot is always the same. One or both of us become captured and imprisoned in a distinctly medical place. Sometimes our captors have invented a machine capable of severing our link. Other times, they want to perform a brain surgery on me to “correct” my cognitive function and eradicate the invasive personality known as Lask. And still other times, they simply kill him and keep me for study. Regardless, the theme is the same. We each had our versions of this dream long before we went crazy and found ourselves locked up. The eerie echo of a lifelong nightmare was enough to galvanize me into taking more precautions.
For example, at all times when I am out of my house, I carry with me (usually in my purse) a 17 page document that is my Advance Directive. It details my known conditions, Lask, and how to safely handle us. There’s a copy in my desk drawer at work, a copy with a coworker, and a copy with my wife. Similarly, I wear a medical bracelet wherever I go. Inside, it reads, “My name is Elanor or Lask. Ask nicely for our Advance Directive.” These things may seem excessive, but they are the only thing I have to give any power to my will if I should be taken into custody again, and even then, there is no guarantee my captors will honor the directive.
It’s easy to feel crazy. Recently, in an influx of stress and life, I’d been wrestling with whether or not I was deluding myself. I have almost all the major symptoms of DID– the only thing lacking is amnesia. I have some symptoms of schizophrenia, schizoid disorder, borderline disorder, PTSD, and others. I don’t neatly fit into any of them, and function better on a day-to-day level than would likely be expected of someone living with those disorders more-or-less untreated. We like to have words for things; we like to be able to organize our world into categories and neat little boxes. When something comes along that has no word for it, it can cause great consternation.
Case and point: I’ve spent two weeks wallowing in the mental quandary of, “oh god, what if I actually have DID and none of it’s real?” Suddenly, nothing felt real. Nothing. Not Lask, not his world, not my wife, not my job, not anything. Everything seemed like it could be in my head. (“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”) How does anyone know if anything is real? How do you trust your own senses, especially when a good chunk of what you experience is “not real” to other people? What would be left of my life if the pillars of it turned out to be nothing more than the product of a disordered mind? Reality seemed to quake, safety seemed to depart, and I was filled with a hollow feeling of dread I imagine matches any crisis of faith.
When I exhausted that dread, and it turned instead to frustration and stubbornness, I sat down and decided I would meditate until I determined at least a handful of things that were truly Real, and see what I could deduce from them. The first two items to appear on the list were easy:
• I am Real
• My wife is Real
And if that is so, then our life together is Real– our house is real, the jobs we work to support it must be real, the people working alongside us at those jobs must be real, the grocery store that stocks our fridge must be real… the human world at large, then, can be said to be Real.
The next item on the list was also fairly easy:
• Lask is Real
Regardless of his origins, whether he comes from elsewhere or my own mind, he is as much a person as anyone else I know, and has been one of the most consistent presences in my life.
After a bit more brooding, I added one more item to the list of Things Known to be Real:
• The Tree/Lygoranth is Real.
I weighed this with skeptical eyes, but decided there was no denying what I’ve experienced.
When I was 12, I wanted to kill myself. Opted not to (obviously), but in the wake of deciding not to, I questioned a lot about my life. At the time, my family was deeply involved in church. I’d been raised Baptist, and taught some very specific things about God. 12-year-old-me had a bone to pick with this God. One evening, while my parents were out and I was alone in the house, I was sitting on the couch having something of a faith crisis. It didn’t seem to me like the God I’d been told about existed. I already had my doubts about some of things I’d been taught at church, and during that winter, what little I did feel of God seemed to recede. I wondered if I had been brainwashed, caught up in the fervor of worship services and bible studies. None of those things helped me when I was alone. Where was He? How could He let my life become the hell that it was? How could He let a little girl become so miserable she’d want to die? That didn’t seem like a caring God. As best I could tell, there didn’t seem to be a God at all. In my frustration, I demanded, “Show yourself if you are there! Give me one reason to believe in you, or I’ll spend the rest of my life an atheist!”
Something hit me like a train. To this day, I can’t explain it. I was thrown off the couch, and sent sprawling into the floor, looking up at the ceiling from the flat of my back. In that instant, it was like wind was knocked out of me, and for a split second, as I lay there, I felt something that seemed… expansive. It was but a flash, but it was immense, cosmic, a universal greatness, a force of gravity, life, and time, indescribable in depth and scope, and when it let go of me, I was left panting in the floor, staring up at the ceiling in silence. There were no words. (Lygoranth.)
What I felt was inescapable. I could not deny the pressure, the presence, the vastness of the thing. It was not the God of the Baptists. It was not the God of the Christians, or Muslims, or the gods of the pagans. It was bigger any of that. 12-year-old-me didn’t know what to do with that information, but I decided I’d be baptized, because it seemed like the only accessible and socially-acceptable acknowledgement of what I’d experienced. As I grew older, the memory of that glimpse stayed with me. I never felt like a Christian. Religion seemed too limited for the expansive thing I had witnessed. Eventually, I stopped going to church. In some ways, I stopped being spiritual altogether for a while.
Then, in February of 2016, I witnessed it again. It was much the same as being thrown from the sofa and made to glimpse the universe, only this time, it didn’t let go. For almost three days, I was in the grip of it, being pulled deeper and deeper. What I witnessed was more than a mind could handle. It drove me mad. The immensity, the force, the simultaneous age and timelessness, the vast interconnectivity of life. I could feel it all. It was the realest thing I’d ever known. It seemed realer than me. I felt like a mote of dust, a ripple on the ocean, a speck of dirt under its nail. Despite my own insanity, I remain convinced that force is Real, and is the closest thing to God a human mind can experience.
During that time, the force I felt manifested as a vision of the Tree of Life. I don’t think the Tree is God, but I think it’s a conduit, and perhaps a representation of the universe itself, and God’s presence therein. Regardless, it’s easier to visualize something so abstract as something familiar, so… to me, it’s the Tree. And for me, there’s no denying it is Real.
So, I was left with four Truths:
• I am Real
• My wife is Real
• Lask is Real
• The Tree/Lygoranth is Real.
Lask tends the Tree. What that actually means is anyone’s guess. Probably has something to do with energy and photons or some shit, but to my human brain, it’s visualized as him caring for the Tree. The Tree always a Keeper, and the Tree has been around much longer than me, so it’s had Keepers before Lask. By that logic, then, at least some spirits must be Real, and they can’t all come from me.
As I was turning this over in my head, I heard the voice of another spirit (one known in the Anecdotes as Wyatt) say clear as day, “It takes a special kind of arrogance to think all of this could come from one person.” I think possibly my meditations insulted him, but nonetheless, I think he’s right.
Allowing then, that some spirits are Real and do not come from me, I find I have little reason to distrust them when they say they are people and I didn’t create them. I have no way to prove it either way, and these entities purport to be my friends, so presumably they don’t tell blatant lies to my face. Even so, I find myself inclined to believe that even if some or all of them do have origins in human minds, it makes them no less people in the spheres where they operate. Whether the spirit plane is populated by God or humanity, I don’t think it matters at this point– at least some of it is Real.
Taking stock of these things and myself, it’s difficult for me to label myself as “disordered.” I seem to function well enough in my day-to-day life. By and large, I can determine what is of the human world and what is not, and even if other people don’t see it, I cannot live in denial of one of the realest experiences of my life. I only have my own perceptions to go on, and whatever force of gravity or life or time I have looked in the eye, it is Real. Alas, I can provide no evidence– this is the nature of faith, no?– and it has, at times, rendered me a raving lunatic. But is it any wonder? Wyatt is right– this can’t be contained in one person. It will drive a person mad. I think if I tried to own those things, call them “of me,” and keep them boxed in my brain, I’d be a raving madwoman all the time. The force isn’t meant to be held in a brain. It belongs to all the universe, within everything; I just happen to feel the brush of it sometimes more than other people.
This, I think, is why I feel freakish, why I cycle through to trying research disorders and pick at my brain, why I doubt the things I feel in my mind and heart. Most people aren’t like this. Most people don’t see these things, don’t feel that presence. It’s a constant undertow in my life now. Interfacing a reality that most people don’t experience with the rest of the world is tricky on the best of days. Carrying the presence of something people deny is exhausting. Carrying the weight of knowing something, feeling the truth, where others insist there is nothing– it’s confusing, frustrating, disheartening, and yes… maddening.
But having taken stock of what I feel to be Real, I don’t think I have DID. I don’t think I’m schizophrenic. Depressed, probably. Anxious, for sure. But crazy… probably not. And so, for another day, I pack up those anxieties and doubts, and once again resign myself to carrying a truth that others will deny, probably as long as I live. It’s lonely. At times, it’s embarrassing. But I can be only what I am, and for better or worse, the presence of God– or whatever it is– follows me. To that reality, I will cleave.