Solitary Confinement?


My brother and I have been discussing a very interesting quote made by the late Tennessee Williams which reads as follows:

“We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.”

He brought this quote to my attention because he said after speaking with me and understanding how a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder experiences the world, he could not agree with it. Our conversation got me thinking about this so I decided to write a short article on what I think is true.

What is it like to live as a multiple?

Many people have asked me this question, not out of malice, but out of an attempt to visualize what it must be like to have so many voices and parts of oneself to communicate with continually. I must confess that I have very little understanding of what it must be like to live in a mind with only one voice and no other opinions floating about or to live without the constant companionship of alters. I well remember one day when I was sitting with my therapist Paula and we were trying to understand one another’s world. I suddenly leaned forward and looked at her then asked, “Paula, don’t you get lonely in there?” to which she replied, “Shirley, isn’t it crowded in there?” We both laughed lightly, but the difference between our worlds was profound.

I know to those who are newly diagnosed and singletons it must seem very strange and disruptive to think of having sixty 6-year old children and a myriad of other alter egos running about in one’s head, and it can be. Oh yes. Going to sleep at night can be a real chore because it is like trying to rest in a room full of people all talking about different subjects at the same time. However, despite all the noise and organized chaos that goes on inside my mind all day and night, I would be lost without my others. We have learned through good therapeutic treatment to work together and to love one another. If I need to sleep, I can send the kids who are not interested in resting to the beach and tell them to have fun. It is a safe place in my mind where no one can get hurt, and they can have fun and just be kids. I pay $30 a month to my 18-year old self Bianca to watch them for me so that I can sleep. It isn’t much, but it is the best I can pay her right now. She understands and I trust her implicitly.

From early childhood, these alter ego states have worked hard to protect me and to keep us going when rightfully we should have just laid died or gone insane. Even when I tried to kill myself in 1995 one my alter, Bianca, saved all of us by calling for help. These parts are not monsters, they are not aliens, they are not demons, they are parts of me who became splintered off into their own little hells trying to help me survive. They are me and I am them. Their memories, thoughts and actions are mine and I honor and cherish every one of them, which means that unlike many, I honor and cherish myself.

Can I be lonely? Sure. I crave the companionship of others in the world outside my internal system, just as any other person, however I can never be alone because I live with a huge family of ego states that can never leave me, nor I them. Would I prefer not to be a multiple? That’s really a nonsense question since I have nothing to compare it with any more than you can answer the question would you prefer not to be a singleton. It is what it is, that’s all, there is no more.

If loneliness is defined as yearning for the comfort and presence of someone to interact with who cares for you, well then, I can never truly be lonely.

4 thoughts on “Solitary Confinement?

  1. I think that I would like to be a singleton. Most of my alters have integrated, but I have a 15 year old that has severe anxiety. When my therapist goes away, she gets nuts. I find it very difficult to deal with all of this drama and grief. I have loved her through it – done relaxation tapes with her, and empathize with her. I remembered my past at the age of 52 and then realized that I had all of these alters. I am now 75 years old, and I am still dealing with it. Thanks for listening. My biological children won’t even entertain that I have parts. Any suggestions?


    1. Hi Gerri. She is 15 and that’s a very emotional age. I know she is you and you are 75 but she is only a scared and emotionally driven teenager. My teenager Bianca receives an allowance every month and is my best ally. It wasn’t always so. She was my worst nemesis at one time because she was constantly getting me into trouble. The other alters that have integrated, what do you mean by that? In my system I know that they can never truly go away anymore than I can leave them. We are one and inseparable. Is your 15 year old feeling overwhelmed possibly by others who she feels responsible for? I know Bianca (that’s my teen) would. She feels a keen responsibility for all the littles younger than herself. I pay her the allowance because she helps me keep the littles happy and together. When I need to do something that is scary to them I send them to the safe place in my mind, a nice safe beach, and she babysits. I don’t know what is happening in your system, I’m just writing from my experience. Integration doesn’t mean they all become one you, that just isn’t possible. It means the barriers between all of you come down enough where you can function as a unit or a family if you will. Cooperation and coawareness of what is going on in your life is the goal. I’m not a therapist or even a mental health professional, I’m just speaking from what I know and understand. Please feel free to contact me if you wish.


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