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Poem: "Headmates" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Headmates"
This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

Warning: This poem includes identity issues and minor self-harm.


Headmates



Maze

I stare at the notebook for hours
before I can muster the courage
to write anything in it.

Hello.
My name is Maze.
I am not Maisie,
but everyone thinks I am,
so please don't mess that up.

I am a girl with short curly blonde hair,
green eyes, and tan skin.
I go to college at Urbanburg university,
where I study theatre.

Two weeks ago, Mindflare kidnapped me,
and now everything is coming apart.
I keep hearing voices, muffled in my head,
and things happen to me that I don't remember.
I think Mindflare might have changed me somehow.

If you're reading this,
and you're me but not ME,
turn to a new page and write back
.

I close the notebook
and put it in a desk drawer.
I'd hide it better,
but if this is going to work,
it needs to be easy to find.
I certainly won't be taking it
to class anymore, though.

- - -

Clarity

I am tidying my room
when I find the notebook
stashed in the desk drawer.
I read the note, amazed
at the idea of other selves.

Quickly I turn to a fresh page
and pick up my pen,
because it's clear that
someone needs to put this in order.

Hello.
My name is Clarity.
I am a person with a blonde buzzcut,
brown eyes, and tan skin.
I like interacting with people
and I'm good at organizing things.

My first memory is of
trying to understand Mindflare
so that I could block his plans.

What do you remember?


- - -

Ham

There's a reading assignment
for my martial arts class --
that's how I find the notebook.
It has two entries already,
neither of them my handwriting.

I hesitate, wondering if
either of them will believe me,
because I'm not a girl
and I look nothing like them ...

but I don't want to be alone in this,
and I need to know how many people
I have to protect in here.

Hello.
My name is Ham.
I'm not a girl, I'm a guy.
I have short curly black hair,
brown eyes, and olive skin.
I'm tall and muscular.

My favorite class is martial arts.
I am pretty good at knife fighting.
I enjoy using my body,
just the feel of it moving around me.

My job is to fight back.
That's the first thing I remember,
lashing out at Mindflare.

Next thing I know,
I'm in the practice room
with a wooden knife in my hand.

Those memory blanks, Maze,
they happen to me too --
I think my life is mostly blank.
What about you?


- - -

Keane

It's only when I pull my throbbing fingers
out of the crack of the desk drawer
where I've accidentally slammed them
that I notice the notebook
with somebody else's messages --

no, several somebodies, I realize
as I read over the previous notes.

I'm not alone in my head.
No wonder I keep waking up hurt
and not knowing how it happened.
So that's what the odd voices
are all about.

We're in this together.

I know I have to write fast,
before the pain fades,
or I'll disappear again,
back to wherever I go
when I'm not hurting.

Hello.
My name is Keane.
I'm a black man with
short woolly black hair
and gray eyes.

I'm glad there's another guy,
Ham, though I'm stocky
instead of tall like you.

Anyway, I deal with pain.
That's my thing.


... and it's fading now,
I can feel myself drifting away,
so I have to put down the pen
and mash my fingers in the drawer
before I can keep writing.

My first memory is of
Mindflare hurting me,
his thoughts sliding through mine
like the blade of a knife.

I know there's someone else,
though, who helped me out
with Dace on the roof,
a redhead I think --
where are you?


- - -

Clement

I'm waiting, ready to catch the body
when the pain fades enough
for Keane to lose his grip
and slide back inside.

It still doesn't fit,
doesn't feel like me, but
it's what I have to work with.

I rub my hands together,
trying to soothe away
the last of the ache,
before I pick up the pen.

Hello.
My name is Clement.
I'm another man.
I have wavy auburn hair
that falls to my shoulders, hazel eyes,
and fair skin with freckles.

I'm good at first aid.
I like helping people.
I remember trying to fix the damage
that Mindflare did to me ...
to us, I guess.

Keane, I'm right here,
and I saw what you did just now.
Don't do it again. It's not okay
to hurt yourself like that.


- - -

Mira

I don't want to come out.
I'd rather stay hidden.
It's safer if nobody knows
that I even exist.

I'm lonely, though,
and the others are waiting.
Maybe they'll be nice to me.

I sneak out one evening
when nobody is
holding onto the body too hard.

Hello.
My name is Mira.
I'm a girl with curves.
I have long straight white hair,
blue eyes, and fair skin.

I keep safe by hiding
and by creating distractions.
I even managed to fool Mindflare.

I don't want to come out much,
but I like doing crafts, and
I need hands for that
.

- - -

Maze

It takes two weeks to meet them all.

There is a chart laid out
in Clarity's neat handwriting,
with everyone's name and description
in orderly little rows.

I know that I'm losing my mind, now,
but at least this way I can pretend
that it makes some kind of sense.

In a way it's almost familiar,
sharing my body with these other people
the way I share a house.

I can hear them through the walls,
sometimes, going about their lives,
starting to talk with each other.

It's hard, because we're so broken,
we can't always control what happens
and so much is in someone else's memories
that we can barely piece together the days.

The notebook helps.
We're learning to write down
what we're doing and thinking.

We get in each other's way a lot,
like housemates who haven't learned
to answer the phone or put things away.

Mira hides, Keane hurts himself,
Ham gets into fights,
and I have to deal with all of it
as if I'd done it myself.

We can't split up
the way I can with
the roomers in my house.
We're something different,
not housemates but headmates.

I don't really know what to do,
but I do know one thing:

These people understand
that I am not Maisie
.

That makes it all worthwhile.

* * *

Notes:

Living a plural life can be very disorientingLosing time is one of the challenges, if the headmates can't or won't communicate fluently yet.

Plural people may show marked difference in handwriting from one headmate to another, much the same as differences in handwriting between different singletons.  Markers associated with body size tend to remain similar, but those based on age and personality may differ greatly.

Journaling is one of several techniques to improve communication amongst headmates.  Here it's an accidental discovery, but therapists recommend it (and not just for dissociative identity disorder).  There are tips on how to journal for therapy.

Self-harm spans a wide range of activities that injure one's own body, a known issue for some multiple systems.  Usually it's done to relieve intense stress, but there are many reasons.  In this case, Keane uses it to anchor himself to the body.  It's still not a very healthy thing to do, but it has a practical purpose -- this time.  The trouble is, Keane just plain has an affinity for pain.  It's clear right away that the other headmates disapprove and this will continue to cause friction between them.  It's a key reason why Keane is the system scapegoat, despite all that he does to make the system work.

Clement's response to Keane's self-harm is meant well but not ideal.  There are lists of what to do and not do.  In general, compassion is more helpful than disapproval, and it's important to seek for less harmful coping techniques to deal with the underlying issue.

A feeling of "going crazy" is common to many mental issues.  It may or may not be accurate.  Multiplicity is not necessarily correlated with poor mental health, although it can feel that way; it can also be healthy.  Consider the individual circumstances before counting it as healthy or unhealthy.

The discovery process can be very disconcerting for plural people, and it usually takes time to learn the intrapersonal skills needed to function fluently as a multiple system.  It's a lot like living with housemates, only you can't easily get away from or get rid of them.

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Comments
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: July 21st, 2013 09:24 am (UTC) (Link)
"that we can barely pieces together the days" - 'piece' instead of 'pieces'?

Should I worry about what happened to Maisie?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 21st, 2013 09:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

>> "that we can barely pieces together the days" - 'piece' instead of 'pieces'? <<

Got it, thanks.

>> Should I worry about what happened to Maisie? <<

Maisie was the person who existed before the Damask system. Mindflare cut her apart. The characters you've been meeting are more-or-less equal sized portions of that essence.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: July 21st, 2013 10:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

I did wonder whether the original personality might be comatose in the background somewhere.
siege From: siege Date: July 21st, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

From what I've learned so far, it varies. Some believe the original personality is still present, just not functional; many believe it's simply gone, or only manifests partway through the personalities that are left behind. Some personalities are a reviving of past lives that the original soul lived.

A lot of multiples apparently gain headmates from elsewhere, as well; non-humans, good friends-in-spirit, and so on may join or be brought in to deal with certain things.

I'm just learning from the fringes, though, so I don't have a lot of understanding of this myself.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: July 22nd, 2013 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

Some believe the original personality is still present, just not functional; many believe it's simply gone, or only manifests partway through the personalities that are left behind.

In some cases, I suppose. In ours, that girl is gone. Dead, for lack of a better word. We've actually had people who desperately hoped she was just hiding under a subconscious rock somewhere, but yeah, she's never coming back. Her soul has been dismembered and the pieces have gained sentience. I doubt she can return from that level of ego-annihilation.

--Rogan
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 22nd, 2013 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

Excuse me if this is too personal a question, lb_lee, and of course you needn't answer:

That's signed "Rogan", and refers to "us" as well as "me". Is Rogan one of your selves?

(I only know how to address baaing_tree; sorry if I should be asking Rogan.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 22nd, 2013 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

>> In some cases, I suppose. <<

Method of creation varies, and for those who are divided rather than added, proportion of division varies.

>> In ours, that girl is gone. Dead, for lack of a better word. <<

Yes, that can happen.

>> We've actually had people who desperately hoped she was just hiding under a subconscious rock somewhere, but yeah, she's never coming back. <<

That sounds very tense. It reminds me of Charlotte/Anna in the Pagan collection of kajones_writing, which is an amnesia story.

>> Her soul has been dismembered and the pieces have gained sentience. I doubt she can return from that level of ego-annihilation. <<

Well ... it's not actually impossible. There's a version of reincarnation where souls are dissolved back into a common pool, and bodies are filled out of there. Occasionally they reassemble themselves. It's statistically unlikely, but the process is much the same, just without a death involved. But it's like undressing a salad.
siege From: siege Date: July 29th, 2013 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

If the parts of a soul desire to be together, they will come together. That desire can wear down over time, or be redirected, but if the desire persists there's no real way to stop the event from happening.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 29th, 2013 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

Largely true. Some people want to merge but can't, though. It's possible for the edges to be sealed in a way that does not lend itself to recombination, and I'm pretty sure that's true of Damask.

This can be monumentally frustrating if one's care provider insists that integration is the only way to be healthy and refuses to offer any other assistance. That's happened to plural people. It's like someone trying to cut your toes off to fit into Cinderella's slipper. 0_o
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 29th, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

>> From what I've learned so far, it varies. Some believe the original personality is still present, just not functional; many believe it's simply gone, or only manifests partway through the personalities that are left behind. Some personalities are a reviving of past lives that the original soul lived. <<

It does vary, and all of those things can happen. I'm just dealing with one example in Damask, who has an atypical origin story.

>> A lot of multiples apparently gain headmates from elsewhere, as well; non-humans, good friends-in-spirit, and so on may join or be brought in to deal with certain things. <<

Also true.

>> I'm just learning from the fringes, though, so I don't have a lot of understanding of this myself. <<

I've learned a fair bit about this over the years, though I'm not an expert.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 21st, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

Not in this case, although it can happen. Damask doesn't have a "core" or "host" personality. Maze is just the one who fronts the most often due to current context. They're all roughly equal in egomass.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: July 21st, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fixed!

In that case I don't need to root for Maisie to be rescued.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 30th, 2016 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed this. The main plot arc for Damask is actually about how the headmates discover each other and learn to get along so they can function as a team, both in everyday life and as a superhera. I wanted to explore what it would be like for a plural person just discovering their own nature and figuring out how to cope with that in (mostly) healthy ways. So there are lots of arguments and confusion early on, but over time, they gain more resources to handle those challenges and it gets a lot better. You can watch it unfold -- I have a bunch of poems posted already.
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