I read Sybil in three days and watched the movie right afterwards. It was interesting to read how she and her other fifteen selves became one again. The story gave you closure. There was closure in real life, but it really felt good from a story reader’s perspective. Speaking of dissociation and closure, one of the first short stories I wrote at Bucks New University was called ‘Simon.’ It involved a boy with a dissociated identity. However, it had an open end; it simply ended with his mother discovering his other self. For a five-hundred-word short story, I made it work. I made it work without knowing much about this mental disorder.
The only time I did research was writing essays, but I wrote what I knew and what I felt as far as fiction writing went. Of course, you learn writing techniques from reading fiction and dissecting them in the class.
In one seminar, our tutor named some objects for us to write about. I chose the blood-stained plaster from which my novel originates. The rest were inspirations, and the stir of emotions came from music and having secret crushes.
Too shy and scared to say your feelings out loud, you would convey them through a story by dragging people into your piece of meta-fiction. That’s how you cope with reality when your heart aches and you don’t want to tell the people who cause them.
Sybil created other selves to shield herself from certain realities. Back at primary school, I remember how I wanted to be a beautiful white girl. I believed that my ethnic background had kept me from making friends. I believed it had kept me from identifying myself with the other kids. I never looked at myself much in the mirror, but I liked wearing nice clothes and popular shoes like the other girls. And that made me feel accepted.
I also wanted to be a boy because I know how much my dad had wanted a son back in the days. Luckily I was still young when I realised who I really was and what I wanted. At fifteen, I read an autobiography, which had opened my eyes to individuality and the importance of being honest to myself and everyone else.
And suddenly, I had friends, real friends and not just fictitious ones. I don’t remember ever being so confident in my life, even now. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’d managed to make groups of friends, but each time it’s ME who leaves.
Except for this time – they leave me. And I get anxious to go out and make new friends. It used to be so easy – so easy to find like-minded people, random like-minded people. For some reason, the same anxiety I had at primary school has crept up on me again. But no one I talk to knows what it’s like to be anxious.
It’s been like this since the start of 2015. Usually, in situations like these, I would pack my bags and leave. Shit hit the fan after my studies in 2007, and I left High Wycombe. Shit hit the fan in 2013, and I left London. I was hurt and grew stronger by leaving and starting over, but I’m tired of running away and starting anew.
Things are different now too. It feels more like others are soon to pack their bags.
“What have I become my sweetest friend? Everyone I know goes away in the end.”
And I am right here; I’ll always be right here – working on my novel. I imagine the satisfaction and loneliness that I will feel when it’s finished. But why would I want to bid farewell to my alter-ego? She represents my conflict with love and heartbreak. I’m fully aware of the past, and she is backing me up, yet she’s stronger because she’s still figuring things out while all I’m thinking about is pack my bags.
“If I could start again a million miles away…”
The older you get, the harder things become. You sign contracts, agreements, etc., and you feel stuck. Finance, job and so on, I’m glad I don’t own lots of furniture. My alter-ego owns a luxurious apartment and can do whatever she wants. But she deserves it. She is afraid of love, so afraid. I’m afraid of the end of honeymoon phases, so afraid.
The only time Sybil dealt with love was by rejecting it. It was the only way to protect the one she loved from her.
I never ran away from love…just once or twice.
I did pack my bags.