“Sanctuary.” How Did It Start?

broken glass with sharp Pieces over black

[TW: CSA, suicide, abuse, isolation.]

Doing my research on DID, I’ve realized my mind is constructed this way so that I never know what originally broke the mind apart. So, obviously, I’m wildly curious. It’s like probing my tongue in the gap left by a fallen baby tooth. So, I’m going to type out my theories.

So, according to most, the initial trauma would’ve had to happen before around age nine. Shadow died when this body was almost 11, so I at least can rule that out as being the initial split. I know he had a lot to do with what this system would eventually form into. He died via suicide by overdose on August 10th, 2004. His family was slated to move to South Dakota, from Ohio, and he died in transit. His family was horribly abusive, he was dealing with the grief of losing his father at the age of eight (It was a prescription screw-up that caused either a fatal stroke or heart attack, I can’t remember which), he was massively bullied, and probably had some sort of mood disorder that was never diagnosed. (And now, never would be. I’d take a stab in the dark and put “depression” on my shortlist.)

The person who inhabited this body at the time went by Nebula, but Nebula’s since called her ‘Star.’ I’m not entirely sure of the logic in that, but Neb used to insist that Star had been a separate person. They seemed to have? Lived? About? The same life? But Neb used to claim that Star was quite a bit more confident, funny, and actually had good art skills. I think we heard about Shadow’s suicide via his older sister calling Star/Neb on the house phone. I remember no details of this. I don’t remember the tone, the exact wording, anything. I also don’t know entirely what happened afterwards. All of my memories of it are remembering hearing Neb retell the story over the years.

I also side-eye Shadow in general? If I talk to the older alters and they speak of Shadow as if he were some sort of saint. And gods know this particular system has a bad habit of aggrandizing abusers. I don’t remember a lot of Neb/Star’s time with Shadow. It’s all quite vague. What all happened to convince Neb/Star of his religion when this body was nine? Did he actually die of overdose? Why do I seem to have a disdain of Shadow whereas so much of my system thinks the world of him? Was Shadow an abusive relationship? Did we suffer something on account of him?

I got drunk the other night and listened to Hawthorne Heights albums and zoned out to see if I could tease any flashbacks out of myself. Hawthorne Heights was a band Shadow was obsessed with. I hadn’t listened to it in years. Then I woke up the next day, not remembering ever making the decision to go to bed. There were also comfort items near me– headphones, my game, and also a bottle of water. Generally, that’s a sign that Vex* has been around. She later told me that I ‘passed out’, but damn it, Vex, you know how much booze I can handle, don’t lie to me.

Another explanation is much more… Ah, cliché? Childhood sexual abuse. My mum’s 4th husband, 2nd after my dad, was a man named Bruce that started coming around her apartment when this body was about eight. I don’t think I ever typed it out before, but here’s what I know. We were molested repeatedly and regularly from around the span of 8-12. He seemed intent on convincing us that we enjoyed it, that he was getting us ready for a boyfriend. And gods know we never got too much good attention from adults anyway, and we or at least I felt wanted. He would give us treats for doing stuff with him, like later bedtimes, letting us watch horror films. (Including Ghost Ship, a film I still can’t watch due to associations.) I remember he once invited a friend of his over, when no one else was home. I don’t remember most of the night, but I know it ended with us calling my dad. Just to hear a familiar voice. We couldn’t describe what was happening; we may have thought we’d get in trouble. Mum and Dad still don’t know.

Unless they, by chance, have read this blog. In which case, Hi! Thank you for taking interest in my work, let’s never speak about this! : )

I think I got cocky in thinking I may have properly processed that. Like hell, I’ve admitted to it, have roleplay kinks centered around it, now weed smells trigger me, what else do I have to process?

Oh, Xanthe, you sweet summer child.

Another strong possibility– our abusive babysitter. I’d say this has the strongest argument. My dad took us from afterschool care at my elementary school around… six , I believe? I think it was just before our younger brother was born. Kim was her name and she had three hellspawn. Jessica, Katie, and Zoey. She also had a little boy named Matt around my brother’s age, but being as he was an infant at the time, I decline to blame him. Gods, there are some white-ass names in here.

Kim would spend the majority of her time watching daytime telly and talking on her phone, blissfully unaware that her children were remaking Lord of the Flies on a budget. This body of ours has been tied to a chair with pins shoved in these hands, we’ve been held underwater in the pool in the back and nearly drowned, screamed at, hit, beaten. And the thing is, it was all done in a pack. Some of these kids would be fine as a single person, but as a pack, they were bloodthirsty. They would laugh at us as they tortured us. We would get tricked into forming alliances with one child, convinced another was the instigating enemy, then being ganged up on when we were named the Sole antagonist. We grew scared of these children and they found my fear funny. (Does this found familiar? Strike a chord? Ring any bells? Rustle any jimmies?) They would take turns tainting my food, once to the point of our throwing up. We were screamed at for the mess.

Kim found our tears annoying. She threatened to beat all of us. “I’m gonna beat your ass!” Was said often, and in a particular tone, that still makes me feel nauseated. You could tell that the children were acting out due to her.

The abuse was inescapable. The children all hated this system. There would be some fun days, where we’d go on trips to the pool, where we’d get along. We’d be tricked into thinking we’d finally convinced these people to be our friends. And then just. More torture, more putting it out on display. I’d nearly met my death at their hands at least once.

Years later, I’d found out that Katie, the second eldest, was sent to juvie because she had bashed a fellow student’s head open.

My parents were told about the abuse and just dismissed it, under the impression that that we’d just missed our friends in afterschool care. But at the light of this news, I asked my father, “Do you think we’re still exaggerating?”

He dismissed in his usual jovial manner. “Eh, seemed like something you’d do.”

It may be one of those three. It could be something I have Absolutely no idea happened to me. Maybe Vex knows. Maybe Illusion knows. Perhaps I’ll never know. I’d put money on that last one, as a similar and recent scenario caused me to split, switch, disassociate, etc so heavily in the eight months of drama.

But I may remain ignorant of the cause forever, and I may just have to accept that.

But then my brain would win and we can’t have that, can we?

Audric was telling me today, as he was helping me run menial errands, that the situation I was in would unravel anyone.

I have wondered how my life could have gone without this disorder. But if people I give my full trust to are willing to repeatedly violate my privacy, lie to me, call lies about the past ‘understandable mistakes’ and promises about the future ‘subject to change’, gaslight me, harass me, isolate me, laugh at my pain, and give me no support; who else is left to protect me? My brain was designed to keep me safe when no one else will. The only time it’s been suggested that this is maladaptive is when I was subjected to a scenario that would mentally break anyone.

But as I’ve researched, I’ve discovered there are nefarious elements of this disorder. Many times, your alters can take on qualities of your abusers, leading you to feel as if you never really escaped them. Which, would explain Anifayre and especially Chandra, two persecutors who seemed to act out my feelings in a physical and literal sense. Sometimes, your alters feel compelled to abuse you, to keep a sense of normalcy for the system. Sometimes, they even try to plot to return you to your abuser for more abuse. (Which, explains how Kirra returned in a most unexpected way.)

But. I don’t regret very, very likely having it.

But I regret feeling safe.

Supposedly, switching is done when the system feels safe. Having DID symptoms were a sign that in this past situation this year, I felt safe. I reached for a sense of belonging, a sense of comfort, and a home– and only found validation for the system’s existence.

For when I live in a world where people supposedly privy to childhood trauma mock a childish source for subconscious coping. I live in a world where choosing preference over a birth certificate is claimed as a falsehood. I live in a world where people can be utterly cruel and still profess justification.

Yes, my friends (alters) meddle. But they’ve never barred anyone from entering a common part of their own house. Yes, they’ve spoken out about my interpersonal relationships. But they’re hardly proven wrong, and I don’t let it taint the relationships. Yes, they don’t have their own body, and they don’t have their own social security numbers.

But they have more of a conscience than many that do.