This piece is a composite. Though written in first person, it is a true story about a friend…
I haven’t always been mentally ill. I’ve always been on the fringe of the norm, the glass wall between me and humanity kind of thing, but I didn’t feel myself start to fragment until my mid-twenties.
The first time it happened I was working as a bank teller. It was closing and I was counting out the cash drawer and doing my balance sheet. I got this idea to close my checking account, take the $5000 I had to my name, and use it as a down payment for a Mercedes. I knew it was a bad idea. I could hardly afford rent. My job, like most of my others was tenuous at best.
And then I separated.
I stood outside myself and watched me clear out my account.
At the dealership I tried to tell the other me not to sign the purchase agreement, but I did anyway. I gave the guy my five grand and drove off in a new midnight-blue SL450 convertible. The other me sat in the passenger seat, her head thrown back, her short hair blowing around. She laughed and laughed. And I let myself get sucked into her lightness.
Two days later I was stuck in traffic on the 101 and it hit me what a stupid idea it had been to buy the Mercedes. I couldn’t return it and get my money back. It wasn’t a pair of jeans. I couldn’t afford it either. I got so depressed about it I got out of the car, left it on the freeway and walked away.
The car was never found. I’d let my insurance lapse so they wouldn’t compensate me, even with my documented tale of someone carjacking me. I was $50,000 in the hole for a car I didn’t have anymore and no way to pay it back.
And I separated again.
I started taking money from the bank. The customers actually. I’d take a little off the top of deposits over a grand.
I didn’t. The other me did.
Again I stood outside myself watching this other me steal. I tried to stop her with moral and value judgments. She came back at me with justifications.
You get paid shit. You get treated like garbage- bottom of the rung lackey.
I told her I was afraid of getting caught.
She laughed me off. No one will notice. Nobody keeps tight track of their money these days.
But I knew the bank did. Sooner than later they’d discover what I was doing. Three weeks into stealing, and both sides of me finally came together, now joined by raw, unrelenting fear. So I ran away. Two days before the end of the month audits I left the bank at closing and never went back. I walked away from my life with $17,000 in cash in my pocket and became the other side of me—the wild side, for the next month.
There are only brief, fleeting images of that month. The first thing I remember clearly is my mom standing next to my hospital bed staring down at me, her face tear streaked and gaunt. She started crying again the moment our eyes meet, and I got how hurt and scared she was. I wanted to hug her but I couldn’t. I was strapped down.
I spent three days at UCLA Medical Center Psych ward. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, given Thorazine and sent home with my mother.
No cure. No hope for a cure. Manageable only with medication—side affects to be expected.
And though the array of antidepressants I now take does keep both sides of me together, it reinforces the glass wall separating me from the rest of the world. I walk around in this thinly veiled haze, which I suppose is okay, given the alterative. But I wonder if sanity is really worth the price. It gets harder and harder to justify feeling sick and tired all the time.