#Bookreview – Versions of the self by Christy Birmingham (Poetry)

This is a well crafted review by Robbie Cheadle with congratulations to Christy Birmingham!

Robbie's inspiration

What Amazon says

Imagine a shift to the way you see the world that arises through poetic narration.

Imagine the world, at its base level, is a collection of selves. These selves collide, disperse, intermingle, and share themselves in lines of free verse. Such is the premise of Versions of the Self, poetry that assumes multiple types of selves exist and relate in ways that alter them. Each of the eight chapters looks at a different type of self, including the singular “I” and romantic interactions. These unique 80 poems definitely color themselves outside of the lines.

My review

Versions of the self is quite an extraordinary book of poetry. The poet, Christy Birmingham, has a very unique style of writing which I found very intriguing. I also thought this style worked exceptionally well for the content of this book which is all about different versions of self. It imitates…

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Coping with DID: The Struggle for Unity

If you live long enough you will discover that you are the person you are looking for.

When my adult alternates used Virtual Reality as a social network the other members called them ‘The Family’.

Of course, they did this even as they discussed my DID behind my back as a
fake; albeit a convincing fake.

a photograph staged in virtual relity of a battered little boy sitting alone with phantom alternates in the back ground
Coping with DID – Making the Family

Making The Family

According to the theory of the Trauma-Related Structural Dissociation of the Personality, a child with DID does not develop an integrated sense of self, thus when children with Dissociative Identity Disorder become adults, they are a fragmented ‘self-state’ of traumatized ‘emotional selves’.

The ‘Self-State’ creates an ‘Apparently Normal Self‘ to interact with other
people.

The ‘apparently normal self’, or ‘host’ alternate may have no clear memory of childhood, the trauma, or the family of birth.  The ‘host’ compensates for the system’s deficits and attempts to complete the process of integration, but the ‘self state’ has no clear sense of time or reality:

Photograph staged in Virtual Reality of an avatar wearing a blind fold
The ‘apparently normal self’, or ‘host’ alternate may have no clear memory of childhood, the trauma, or the family of birth.

 

…The ability to differentiate fantasy from reality is critical in achieving the integrative mode of consciousness. “Trance-logic” (i.e., the tolerance and/or rationalization of logical inconsistency while in a hypnotic state) which is a core aspect of the cognition of DID patients (Loewenstein, 1993), allows the patient to adjust to “normal” daily life while maintaining beliefs which are not only inconsistent with external reality but may be contradictory among themselves…”

‘Dissociation allows the existence of several different (subjective) versions of reality within one person. Thus Kluft (1993) once called DID “multiple reality disorder” (and not multiple personality disorder) and referred to “alternating reality states.” Somewhat similarly, Chefetz (2004) refers to identity alteration in DID as “isolated subjectivities.” Paradoxically, distinct or “alter” personality states are not disintegrated structures only but they also represent a striving of re-establishment of the lost unity (Şar and Öztürk, 2005).

Frontiers in Psychology

 

The Cycle of Repetition

If the ‘host’ fails to integrate, the ‘self-system’ or ‘emotional personalities’
replace it with a new host.

An illustration staged in virtual reality of a battered little boy with two male adults moving to protect him
The new host must survive the social environment and compensate for the lost time and the ‘failure’ of the previous alternate

The new host must survive the social environment and compensate for
lost time and the ‘failure’ of the previous alternate.

This leads to overwork, perfectionism, exhaustion, hyperactivity and system collapse which results in a new alternate and a new a cycle of mal-adaptive behaviors and relationships and another failure to integrate.

When I was in my early 20’s I moved on impulse from New Haven to Honolulu.

I still don’t know why.

On day I woke up on a beach in Hawaii.

I looked for a psychiatrist and a job.

The shrink gave me a diagnosis of bi-polar illness, depression and
prescribed Elavil.

I found an excellent job with one of the local hospitals.

One day I woke up and discovered I left the job because I’d met
a hot sailor with whom I’d gone to live on the beach.

So, I was again on the beach without a clue.

The shrink changed the diagnosis to bi-polar illness, manic
episode and added Lithium to the Elavil.

I found another good job and a nice high-rise apartment with
a view of Diamond Head.

One day while swimming at the local beach, I heard a voice:

Voice: “I need to go to the hospital.”

Me: (frustrated) Why?

Voice: (pleading) I’m scared.

Me: (Angry) We’re doing great! What’s wrong with you?

Voice: (pleading) I’m scared.

Within a few weeks, I was out of work and in lock-down on
the local psych unit.

I told my shrink about my argument with the voice and he
added the anti-psychotic, Haldol to the Lithium and Elavil.

I decided not to tell him about the writing I’d found;

“I think I am murdered and feel ashamed.

I hide under my blankets and feel ashamed.

I reach for a faceless cock and feel ashamed.

I feel ashamed and I feel ashamed.”

1978

I didn’t know the voice belonged to a teenage alternate named Bobby and that ‘going to the hospital’ was how a young Bobby escaped his family.

I didn’t know that being in the hospital was the only time Bobby felt safe.

Protrait of an avatar used by my alternate bobby
I didn’t know the voice belonged to a teenage alternate named Bobby

The Self-State of “Emotional selves” hold the emotions, thoughts, fantasies, wishes, needs, and sensations the ‘host’ considers unbearable and unacceptable.

Dissociation & Complex Trauma

In 1985, ‘Bobby’ wrote about his first hospitalization .

Despite the hospital’s intention to use ‘Aversion Therapy’ to cure
Bobby of his ‘homosexuality, for Bobby it was the first he felt safe
to assert himself.

Bobby doesn’t write about that feeling of safety because he doesn’t
remember it.

Bobby and the Aversion Therapist

Art by Rob Goldstein
Bobby and the Inner Shrink

Studies of children with DID show that alternates in children are more
alike and have less amnesia barriers between them.

An illustration staged in Virtual Reality of a battered little boy surrounded by adult selves
The new host must survive the social

Alternate personalities strengthen and become more individual over the life cycle.

Severe trauma in adulthood worsens the prognosis for people with DID.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018

Sources:

Living in a Cooperative Self System

Dissociation & Complex Trauma

Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD) and DDNOS

Disavowing and Re-Claiming the Self-Identity in the Aftermath of Trauma-Generated Dissociation

 

 

 

 

Zack: Shoot me for Jesus

7/04/2012

Hey Kev

I thought I’d drop you a few lines since this week makes
five years since we left Iraq.

I know you say you ain’t the same without ur leg but I hope
ur feeling better.

I’ll feel hella better when I throw out these pills for crazies. 

Why does the fuckin’ V.A. give me pills when I say I need food?

Why don’t shrinks know people go crazy from hunger?

My partner died of AIDS last year so I got no one to talk to so I
went to Reno last month.

That was a big mistake, but the ticket was a free one way so I
figured I’d go see family.

My sister wouldn’t let me meet my nephew ‘cause I came out gay.

Her holy roller husband kept sayin’ he’d shoot me for Jesus.

So I spent the rest of my food money for a one way back to Frisco.

My family can kiss my faggot ass!

Oh well, that’s life for crazy fags and stupid war ‘heroes’

I keep hoping you’ll send me a card so I know ur alive.

I’d call but I can’t buy a phone.

I get $300 a month disability and it costs $200 for a week in a
crap hotel, so’s I won’t have a place for the next three weeks,
but please write to that address I sent anyways.

Please.

Love,

Zack

Photograph of graffiti left by homeless people who sleep on Clation Alley in San Francisco
The writings of the homeless men and women who sleep on Clarion Alley in San Francisco

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018