Bless my inworld. Looking back, I can really tell that my DID was trying to protect me by keeping me busy. There’s a line in the first Avenger’s film; I can’t remember it exactly, but Bruce Banner said something about how he’d ‘tried swallowing a bullet’ to end his life, but ‘the big guy just spits it back out again.’
That’s a lot like how DID can work too. After April had cracked my ribs, then threatened suicide about it, I was in rough shape. It’d become clear that her suicide threats had become almost a cheat-code to get me– or my alters– to do whatever people wanted. I still do not have a healthy relationship with the concept of suicide.
I will say, despite feeling suicidal several times in my life, I could never commit to the idea. You could say that I could never stomach being monogamously married to it. This particular night, I’d walked to Talmadge Bridge.
I still can’t say for certain whether I was trying to end my life. But I really wanted to walk to the top of that bridge. And I don’t know if this started off in the inworld or the outerworld. Whether my brain intervened at the last minute or if my physical body was in my flat the entire time.
But between 2am-3am, I was pretty certain I was on a bridge. And I was pretty certain I was talking on my mobile with Aberle.
“You should’ve seen her at the inn, Aberle. And here I thought I was the one with a flair for the dramatic.” Not that the setting looked great for my argument. It was the highest point of the bridge; I could see the golden dome of the city hall and the pointed steeples of the St. John Cathedral. The city lights glittered on the river below. A small boat made its way innocently under the bridge, just under my feet. “There I was, pushing plates of eggs and bacon, and she texts me that she’s outside. It was cold and raining and she just had to walk the thirty minutes in slippers to my inn to say goodbye. It was mortifying, going out there in front of all the employees. Her last day in Savannah and April just stood there, sniffling, not saying a word. And when I leaned in to give her a goodbye kiss on the cheek, she shied away and whimpered, as if she were scared of me.” The whole rant whooshed out of me like a joke I was sifting through to find the punchline. There had to be one, right?
There was a sharp exhale on the other end of the line as Aberle chuckled. “Perhaps she was confused about who assaulted who the night before?”
I smiled. Thank gods, someone willing to laugh with me. “Maybe. Perhaps my bones hurt her fists. Poor thing. My frock may have just scuffed up the tips of her boots.”
Aberle chuckled. The sound was nearly lost when a gust of wind blew by; I had to put my hand up to stop my top hat from flying off. “And she threatened suicide. I think it’s time to drop her like a sack of potatoes, my friend,” he advised.
I was inclined to ignore that advice. For now, at least. Something might drop, and I was in the mood to leave it up to chance. I was leaning towards the river, one hand on one of the steel bridge ropes. I remember just… swaying musically, music in the earbud of my free ear, catching myself on the ropes with only one or two fingers to the beat. If I missed, it was fate– and therefore out of my hands. “Speaking of that tasteless little threat, have her friends converged and begged her off the ledge yet?” I grinned at the irony.
“She seems more bent on your social homicide than she is her own physical suicide. I overheard her… downstairs, here at Dominic’s. Your reputation isn’t what they call thriving.”
“I mean. When you refuse to read the book, what else do you have but fanfiction?” My breath caught– I’d nearly missed with the last sway, probably more concentrated on coming up with that line. Priorities.
Here’s where it likely switched to my inworld. A smattering of April’s friends teleported there by bount. JaK, Ryuuga, maybe Vince. They saw me standing on the edge of the bridge and started in on how concerned they were that my girlfriend might kill herself.
I started laughing. Just maddened, cackling belly laughs. The situation was so absurd but it summed up our relationship so perfectly. Then, my inworld took an immersive turn. Myself and the Parasite Pity Party was interrupted by the news that Phisoxa, my creator, was trying to break out of a specific after-life dimension known as Phantasiae and play super-villain for a while.
It prompted an entire adventure. I spent the whole of December in my inworld. Someone else was either working in my place or the body was on autopilot. It was a grand ol’ time in Escapismland! But gods, I needed it.
April’s friends fought the plotline, even arguing with me or actively sabotaging quests like a spiteful DND player. But somehow, April lost control of my inworld for that chunk of time. In fact, the only thing she was able to introduce in that time was (What I’ll call) ‘Kieran’, her twin brother that she tearfully confessed she accidentally absorbed in the womb at a pivotal moment, according to Koji. In fact, according to April, if she had been born a boy, she would’ve been named [Kieran.]
I went to Germany to an abandoned castle, I fought Phisoxa’s clockwork-corpse guards. I then went to Greece, watched a warped god raise Atlantis from the Mediterranean as Vex came to terms with the abuse and manipulation that she’d put her first girlfriend through. After we finally calmed Phisoxa, I was able to spend some time with him.
I don’t suppose any of you know what it’s like to be written by someone. Yes, your parents created you, but it’s a roll of the dice how you’ll end up. But this was someone who had pictured my insufferable personality, crafted it to a charming protagonist, and defied the gods and all of creation to have me inhabit a body. It’s flattering.
I found out so much about myself. That I was created just stubborn enough, just irreverent enough, just whimsical enough to try to end the cycle of ending up blindly loyal to abusers.
By the time it was all said and done, my inworld seemed to recede like a tide. Work seemed less like a nebulous blur and more active memories. My inworld returned as long-distance friendships and too-lucid dreams.
I honestly don’t know whether I was physically on that damned bridge that night. Maybe my body was in that godforsaken flat and zoning out, or typing out the entire scenario through chat– just to warn someone what I wanted to do. And my brain put me into an IRL Dungeons and Dragons campaign as a timeout.
Did you know that the inworlds of DID can be that fantastical? That immersive? I didn’t, until the past few months. I’ve joined DID groups on Facebook, for a bit of guidance while I’m on every specialist waitlist in the city. I see posts all the time of, “I ran into an angel and I tried to ask it its name and it threw me off a mountain. Does that mean it doesn’t want to talk yet?” “How do I get my protector from cutting off my persecutor’s head with a sword? I don’t think that’s the most productive way of handling it.” “An alter has grown an extra head in the inworld? Do you think there’s any symbolism in that?”
It sounds like someone asking advice about a fucking video game, and bloody hell, I have never felt so seen. Granted, this isn’t the same with everyone. Some popular DID YouTubers I watch seem to have very mundane inworlds, limited to only a single house. Many have full economies, politics, species, some even have their own languages and planetary systems! I guess I’d always thought of DID as a bunch of alters sitting around in your head doing nothing until it was time to act out or show symptoms.
I digress. One of the more important aspects of all this was that I was so distracted by the fantasy and majesty of my inworld that, hell, I forgot about April’s damnable 30-day-talk-me-out-of-suicide challenge. I don’t remember talking to her for most of the month.
By the time she came back in January, and she did come back to Savannah, there was no talk of this trial. Or her physical assault on me. That dreadful night simultaneously changed nothing and everything, for April seemed to decide to ramp up her general theatrics. Particularly after I’d moved into my fabled room in the inn, just after Valentine’s day 2015. But my reactions had changed from ever-tense compliance to exasperated tolerance.
One particular time, we’d been drinking, and she insisted on staying at my flat for hours until the booze wore off. My hard-earned flat had become her new perching place, and she was frequently falling to sleep in it. This time, her excuse was that since SCAD was a ‘dry’ campus, she was too drunk to pass the guard to get up to her room. It’s not like there was a sobriety test– she literally just had to walk past the underpaid and tired graveyard shift guard. I could barely tolerate these impositions, and you couldn’t pay me to to sleep around her these days, so I played the newly released Gat Out of Hell Saint’s Row game to distract myself.
I’d been sitting on my floor, cross-legged, transfixed by the screen, a blanket over my legs. April lay beside me, trying to sleep off her entire two cocktails. At one point, she began twitching and making noise. But it was all pointed. Motions subtle enough not to look unintentionally silly, but obvious enough to bait concern. Clumsily tapping at my thigh, lurching her body towards me, then twitching spazztically in short, jagged bursts.
This bitch was faking a fucking seizure on my floor.
And like the dick I am, I pretended not to notice. Just continued flying on my burning angel wings on the screen, finding myself relating to the video game’s atmosphere of literal Hell for some odd reason. At this point, April was pawing at my blanket to get my attention.
“Oh, are you cold?” I shifted my blanket and covered her entire form with it, refusing to look directly at her the entire time.
She eventually gave up and ‘woke up’ an hour later. “I feel funny. Did anything happen?”
Meanwhile, the rest of my life was looking up. I met Anne Rice at a book signing! She thought I made a wonderful Lestat, when she didn’t know who the fuck Buchanan was supposed to be in his lazy ‘closet cosplay’ with a denim jacket and lemon-coloured wig. She wanted a picture of me, specifically, to add to her official Facebook.
I was settling into my new digs. And April just kept raising the bar on fuckery.
One particular night, Cotton, April, and I had just been drinking. I decided to show them both the still-being-renovated front desk at the inn, since I had a key and it was the type of workplace I liked to show off. Then… April pretended she was possessed.
She dazedly wandered around the basement level of this 1850’s townhouse, miming at structures the building had never possessed. “There… There was a wall here!” She would say in a distressed, high-pitched tone. “And– And… there was a mirror… Over there…!!” Yeah, so, all the buildings on the block were a mirrored structure. Which means, I already knew how every building was initially laid out, just by seeing one of them. Like, for example, the apartment I was living in. “I… I remember this place!” she cried.
Her tone of voice reminded me of that episode of The Simpson’s where Mr. Burns was mistaken for an alien.
She went home before Cotton did and that night, and, miraculously lucid again, she texted me about how I should ‘act like I care.’ Showing emotion had never been my strong point. I’ve heard so many people claim I was ‘not acting’ a certain way that it’s long been a phrase that makes me go on the defense. I texted back that I didn’t know how to do that.
As I talked to Cotton in the aftermath of April’s ‘possession’, April and I were having a spat through text. It was becoming tiresome, at this point. An average of two arguments a week, usually lasting for two days at a time. She often employed a technique of ‘dying’ through text, where her replies would be steadily more misspelled and ailments vaguely alluded to, then she would disappear, presumably hoping the impending tragedy would force me to see the error in my ways.
I would prod her with a couple of text messages, then tell her that if she didn’t answer me back in ten minutes, I was going to call 911.
She would answer me back in nine.
This particular night, Cotton was still in my flat. I was telling him what was happening in real time. And I think it was the ‘possession’ episode from earlier in the night that disturbed him more than usual, because he treated this a bit more seriously than his typical, ‘Boy do I have quirky friends!’ attitude. And for some reason, April ended up calling me.
“[April]? [April], are you there?”
Again, that stupid ‘possessed’ tone of voice again. “There…? What is ‘there’?”
I had her on speakerphone. Cotton’s eyes were wide and bulging, staring off into space and clutching his beard to ground himself. “[April]? Hey, are you okay?”
“Okay…?” She giggled airily. “What is ‘Okay’…?”
What’s worse than dating Amy Dunn? Dating an entire Yandere anime girl. “[April]? Hey, what do you mean? Do you need anything?”
“I can’t need anything. You don’t show care.”
This call continued on for some time before we finally hung up. Cotton expressed concerns about my relationship– I think I vented for an additional two hours. I remember it being nearly 5am when he did finally leave my flat.
One thing that prompted the conversation was him saying, “I didn’t know it was this bad.”
Something in either his tone or turn of phrase gave me pause. It was one of the very few hints that something in my relationship wasn’t at all healthy.
This nonsense plus the forced monogamy was making a break-up evermore appealing. Even if a relationship with her was what the old host wanted above all else. The only reason I was putting it off was because breaking up with her likely would’ve caused some sort of cataclysmic event.
Little did I know, that would be an understatement.