The Tiniest Russian Doll: A Poem About Dissociation


I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and identity disturbance is one of the most profound of my symptoms. I experience this almost to the extent of dissociative identity disorder (DID), but I think of them as “characters” who live in my head, rather than “alters” who take over. They are fragmented parts of myself, created at various points in my life to deal with events that happened to me. I was aware that I often felt very dissociated, was out of touch with reality a lot of the time and struggled to access, name or describe my emotions. But only through two years of therapy, delving into my mind, have I found these characters hiding away.

Recently in a therapy session, I had one of the most profound experiences of my life. It was the process of discovering a new “character” and having her speak directly through me, and feeling her emotions. But also being present myself, but dissociated. An odd sensation of being locked in. It was like being unseeing and hyper aware at the same time. Having thoughts but unable to express them. Expressing thoughts and very strong emotions that belonged to her and not me. I’ve written a poem and drawn a picture to try to help me process this.

The Tiniest Russian Doll

Today she appeared, heralded by tears and by unspoken fears that have no words.

She lives inside my head, remembers what was said, became someone else instead, became me.

But once I was that child, unbroken, running wild, that long forgotten child, I was she.

But one day it wasn’t safe, for that whimsical waif, and she didn’t feel so brave, so she hid.

And I helped her hide away, in the hope that one day, there’d be another way, for her to be.

But she hid away so long, I forgot she’d ever gone, I just felt like I was wrong, it was me.

But I was missing a vital part, a part of my heart, one there at the start, now lost at sea.

In dreams tossed and torn, her remnants blown forlorn, I treated her with scorn, that child.

But she holds my tears and she holds my fears and as separation nears, she broke free.

And today she tried to speak, barely louder than a squeak, but to squeak is still to speak and she was heard.

Emotions laid bare, body frozen, purple chair, an experience so rare, I was stunned.

She burst out of me, my eyes could not see, and when he spoke to me, she replied.

And yes, I was there, pinching fingers, pulling hair, I sat rigid in that chair, but wasn’t me.

Later, marks on my skin, I hadn’t felt my nails sink in, how do I even begin, to explain?

How it feels to be, sitting inside of me, sharing me with she, but self-aware.

And I’ll listen to her now, now that I know how, I make this a solemn vow, a vow to me.

She’s the most important one, and I’m so glad she’s come. Without her we are none, she is me.

I’m in such a state of flux, I need her now so much, I feel I’m at the crux of life itself.

I can’t promise to repair what filled her with despair, but now I know she’s there, I can try.

I feel like she’s the key to what’s broken inside me, to what I’m supposed to be, to my truth.

If integration is the goal, then today, I felt more whole, than I have in any role, since I was she.

This experience left me so stunned that I had to sit in the therapy room for another 45 minutes, waiting to return to myself so I would be safe to drive home.

The Tiniest Russian Doll

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