What’s My Name?

I grew up an angry, broken girl who hated herself and everyone else. After many years of horror and heartbreak, I lost it all. Rather, I gave it all in. I entered Cedar-Sinai Thalians Psych Center in September 2010 but the same person did not come out. As time went by all remnants that connected me to the broken girl who’d been before began to untether; each knot freeing me to have a life the person I was born and raised to be never could have. Five years later I don’t ever feel like I remember who she was. I don’t remember what it felt like to be Christal. She feels like someone I vaguely once knew, but I have sharper memories of acquaintances I met in passing.

Today I had my weekly appointment with my psychologist, Dr. Tone; we were discussing this division. I was explaining that I feel like a fraud when I have an appointment and I’m addressed by my legal name. For years I’ve wanted to change my name to the one I’ve gone by since I left the hospital; it’s on the short list for 2016. Christal isn’t me and answering to that name feels wrong.

So why was I the one invoking the name of Christal less than two minutes later in reference to me?

It’s strange because my mom constantly confuses my sister’s name with mine, and mine with hers without shame, but when I first met David I called him my ex-husband Paul’s name now and then. I always had these ‘o’shit!’ moments when I did, fearing he would think I was confusing them. I wasn’t back then, and I wasn’t confusing me and Christal today–even though it induced the same ‘o’shit!’ moment. Making things worse today was I tried to cover it up by babbling some crap as if I was a guilty fool. It was a confusing for me. (And I apologize for the bad cover up, Dr. Tone. Sorry for insulting your intelligence with my panicked mouth diarrhea.) I was freaking the hell out. My faux pas had me immediately second guessing that fraud feeling I have about being called Christal, as soon as I realized the name fell off my tongue. My head spun at the thought that I said her name. Obviously, I’m still her! Fuck, what if I’m still her?

My thoughts were still racing as I drove home and I needed a little busy work to get my head on straight. The idea that I might be that girl that loved to die and thirsted the ways she would do it, rocked me. I needed out of freak-out-mode and back to logic-is-a-place-on-earth-mode.

As soon as I caught my breath, a bubble of laughter rose from my chest. Christal did not fly out of my mouth because I have some sort of identity crisis. The issue was Dr. Tone and I had been having this rather tricky conversation about a very complicated situation I in my head about just what and who existed before my psychotic break and who came out after. I’ve had two psychotic breaks and one is enough for most people. One of those broke me real good, and one of them set me on the road to recovery; but two people experienced these events and they were Christal and Ali. I don’t have multiple personality disorder, I had one part of me bent on dying, and one part of me bent on surviving; the outcome was one got to go, and one got to stay.

The really confusing issue today wasn’t the name though, although the conversation starter that way. The crux is that I have two perspectives in my head of memories that Christal experienced although Christal isn’t me. It’s almost like two people seeing a movie, one view is dark, histrionic and tiring for me to think about. The other is more expanded, I can see more people that were in the memory than I knew before. I also can remember the behavior of people more clearly and it makes everyone less villainous as they were growing up. I have a really wonderful distance from all of Christal’s crazy black and white circus relationships. This allows me to understand that she was so very unhappy and she really needed so much help she wasn’t able to get. But we aren’t the same people. We were discussing this dichotomy and dissociation, for the first time in a long while I was giving a lot of thought to her, to young Christal. I was thinking of not so young Christal. I was thinking of Christal hellbent on winning death after fighting for it for so damn long. I felt for her and saw her; I saw her but didn’t feel her.

It was running in my head while I was talking to Dr. Tone and I were talking about legal name change. I was about 60% present talking about David’s co-worker changing her name too. Me liking the woman’s name. Omii, a great name. Me asking David what origin Omii is. Excited someone else is changing their name.

“But then I said to him, ‘Only Christal cares about….’.”