If you met me you’d see a woman in her mid-twenties who’s friendly, makes good eye contact, and can keep a conversation going. If you met the rest of us it would be completely different depending on which of us is out.
Miss 5 is an initially shy, but sweet, cheeky and chatty girl.
Miss 7 is a very timid, quietly spoken girl who struggles to make eye contact.
Miss 12 is a highly anxious, terrified young girl who’s often unable to move, and won’t talk.
Miss 16 is confident, swears without a second thought, has a permanent smirk on her face, and has the attitude of an unflappable teenager.
Miss 19 is quiet, somewhat reserved, and speaks in a soft voice, often looking down.
If I’m not behaving in a way that is familiar to those who know me, then it’s probably not me that’s out. In public most of our older parts will pretend to be me, and answer to either my name or the body’s name. At home we have more freedom, but still keep who’s out a secret from our housemate. In hospital though? We’re switching regularly.
Nursing staff don’t always notice. Sometimes it’s not particularly obvious. Sometimes they don’t ask who’s our or who they’re talking to. If they did ask we’d usually answer. A lot of the time we’re co-conscious, and other parts will back away and leave me to talk to people.
Sometimes that doesn’t work so well. Miss 12 has been out more lately, and that’s proving to be difficult for both of us. Miss 12 is highly anxious, terrified of people, and scared to talk. Often when she’s out she’ll freeze. We’ll still be conscious and breathing, but unable to move, and absolutely unresponsive. Our psychiatrist has said this state is a dissociative stupor, and we’re all grateful that he understands.
Miss 12 was out yesterday. She was scared, and curled up on our bed then ‘went away’. Her eyes were open, but she wasn’t blinking. Whenever anyone (nurses, doctors, roommate) came in she’d panic, tense all her muscles, and remain rigid until they left. When they stayed she’d begin trembling. Absolute terror and overwhelming anxiety. Eventually she settled, started moving, but still wouldn’t talk.
Thankfully a couple of nurses knew it wasn’t me that was out, but given Miss 12 couldn’t say her name it made it difficult. A nurse asked for advice today on what to do should Miss 12 be out again. Aside from putting our weighted blanket over us, there’s very little anyone can do to comfort Miss 12.
If we’re behaving differently or in an unfamiliar way it’s reasonable to ask who you’re talking to. If you don’t get an answer, it’s fairly safe to assume that it’s not me. That’s the time for you to introduce yourself – you’re name, who you are, what you’re doing. It’s also helpful to tell us where we are, and the date. Some parts forget that it’s 2015 when they’re distressed, or get confused because they’re not out very often.
The next most important step is to ask questions. Ask who you’re talking to, and how old they are. From then on the best thing you can do is to respond to that part in an age appropriate way – don’t use big words if you’re speaking to a five year old. If they look scared (or anything else), ask if they are. Be gentle, move slowly, say what you’re doing, avoid physical touch, but ask questions!