Content warning for this article: self harm and suicide, internal abuse, and general unpleasantry.
Before 2015, we thought that not being along in your head was the norm. Everyone talked about parts of self, being of two minds, arguing with themselves, having different selves in different places- things we interpreted as "everyone else has uncontrollable brain voices and deals with this sort of thing too." It certainly seemed that way from the outside. The people around us tended to change on a dime without clear explanation and acted extremely differently at different times. For a kid, it's not much of a leap to assume that other people have the same brainweirdness going on.
Similar explanations extended to other things. We'd always talked to ourselves. There was a constant dialogue in our head, and it wasn't within our control what the other voices said. It just sort of happened. No one else ever talked about uncontrollable brain voices, so we figured it was so normal as to go unspoken. We'd always had large fluctuations in skills, memories, and behavior; no one had ever said anything about it, so it must have been typical for others too. It was normal for our reflection to not look familiar, to feel distant and floaty, to not recognize our surroundings or remember anything about a person that seemed to recognize us, to not understand why we'd done something because it went against our usual preferences or principles. No one ever talked about this, so it must not be notable. There were a lot of things that could be explained away by either "this is so normal that no one bothers to talk about it" or "people talk about this all the time," and we never had much of a reason as a kid to suspect something wasn't typical. By kid logic, everyone had the same things going on.
Somewhere in late 2015 or 2016, that excuse began to break down. We were starting to realize that this wasn't how most people were, and that phrases like "I'm of two minds about this" were just figures of speech. At the time, we were also starting to dip into a major mental health crisis. Things were going downhill and we were forced to confront that there was no way we were mentally typical or healthy- but we had absolutely no explanation for what was going on. We started to form our own understanding in an attempt to make sense of our mind. Late night conversations eventually led to the realization that there were at least two separate people inside our head, and we theorized that maybe this was a multiple-soul sort of thing. We'd absorbed our twin in the womb, so maybe the twin had stuck around as a brain sibling. Or maybe our brain was just broken somehow, or an imaginary friend was simulated so well that they became real, or any other sort of explanation we could come up with. There was no outside framework to go off of, just the knowledge that the other "me" wasn't me. It was confusing and kind of scary to realize that we were alone in this. We worried that we'd end up in a psych ward if someone else found out. Our saving grace was that a different person handled our daytime life, and they didn't seem to be aware of the rest of us or share much of our nighttime memory. They couldn't betray us if they didn't know.
Separately, the person that handled our daytime life came across the tulpamancy community in 2016 and was intrigued by it. The idea of sharing a brain with someone was oddly fascinating to them, and there was a magnetic draw to the idea. It felt right somehow, like it filled this missing space in their mind. They decided to try to make a tulpa and set about the beginnings of that process. They created a headspace and started work on trying to make a person. About a week into that process, they stumbled upon a group of us and inadvertently broke down a mental wall separating them from us. They'd been so excited to share their head, but this terrified them. Suddenly there were many more people in their head than they had wanted, all acting without their input or consideration, and they felt out of control of their own mind and body. They felt like they'd gone crazy. For a while, they were convinced that they were schizophrenic and that the rest of us were just delusions that could be forced out of existence by ignoring us and telling us we weren't real. They destroyed the notes and records we had and did their best to shut us out. When schizophrenia failed as an excuse, they kept grasping at straws and trying to find some sort of explanation that would allow them to get rid of us- anything other than plurality.
We didn't disappear like they'd thought we would. We got louder. We were still free at night, but during the day we were yelled at and blocked out. It was deeply upsetting to be told that we didn't exist and be locked out of daytime life like that, especially after we'd just gotten access to it. Some of us took that time to lash out in an attempt to get the daytime person to stop treating us like this, which only widened the rift between us. We'd gotten along decently well before (albeit with constant insulting and internal abuse), but the approaches people took and the strain of being told we didn't exist by someone inside our own head ripped that fragile peace apart. People were angry at each other, and for good reason. Some of us came across the exclusive DID community during this period, which only made things worse- those people became paranoid that any positivity between us meant we were faking it, and that suffering meant we were acceptable. They wouldn't let us be happy.
It all culminated in someone lashing out and hurting the body repeatedly in an attempt to punish everyone for behaving like this. They hated us at the time, and they wanted us to suffer, so they made a point of hurting us. We were absolutely horrified. This had never happened before, and it made it impossible to hide what was going on; our own parents thought we were nuts even as they patched us up. We had to do something. Either we dealt with this, or we died. We locked the person that was hurting us away in a room inside of headspace and tried to forget they existed, which is a horrible idea. When they broke out of containment, they were even more upset at us and did as much mental damage as they could, putting us out of commission for almost a week. Our brain was fried. It was enough to make even the daytime person confront the reality that the rest of us existed and had to be worked with if we wanted to survive. Something had to change.
In the midst of this, we finally came across the inclusive plural community and were exposed to the idea that our existence as plural wasn't inherently bad. We'd only seen the tulpamancy community and exclusionist DID community before, which were respectively not really applicable and outright harmful to us. The former wasn't our situation, and the latter taught us that plurality was inherently suffering with very little upside, that any differences from a textbook case were a sign that we were faking it. It painted a picture that we were either doomed to suffer or that we were horrible mockeries of people doomed to suffer, neither of which were true. When we came across the inclusive community, we saw a very different picture. There were people like us that were happy with their existence. We saw systems that supported each other, that did their best to be kind and accepting regardless of how their system worked, and it showed us that there was hope. We didn't have to hate each other or worry that we were unconsciously faking our own existence. We could just exist and work to support one another. It was eye-opening.
We started working on accepting ourselves and unpacking internal problems. It was a slow process given that we'd been hurting each other for quite some time by then, and we had to relearn old habits. Instead of lashing out at them or ignoring people for being dramatic, we tried to help them, and repairing damaged internal relationships became a priority. People were angry and hurt. They had a right to be upset about how they'd been treated, and getting their trust back was difficult. It took years for some of us to come around and work with us, and there are still one or two holdouts that we're trying to get through to.
As we worked with people and our internal environment became more accepting, more people began to show themselves to us. They'd been hiding all this time. It hadn't felt safe for them to be seen by the rest of us because we were hurting each other, but when we began treating each other better, they saw that they would be treated well and supported. 2019 and 2020 were years of people and fragments trickling in as they felt comfortable enough to do so, and our headcount quickly swelled. When 2020's pandemic hit, we were left with a lot of time to process things and work on ourselves, and even more people revealed themselves. As time went on, we began to question the typical notion of plurality as entirely separate people- parts of us would show up that challenged that model, and while we forced them to fit, it wasn't authentic to who they were.
In November 2020, someone here had a realization. We still aren't sure who they were, but they wrote a long piece about identity, fluidity, fragmentation, and a different notion of how separate we were; then they posted it to Dreamwidth. The piece proposed that we were all constructed from fragments and that none of us were solitary, separate people in the way the plural community usually conceptualized plurality. The rest of us saw it the next morning and plunged into full denial. The idea confronted our notions of personhood in a way we really didn't like the possible implications of- if we were just fragments in a trenchcoat, did that mean our personal identities meant nothing? Did it make us not people? What were we? What was going to happen to us? It was easier to shut that out and deny it in order to stay comfortable in the idea of being entirely separate, enduring people.
The denial didn't last very long, and in early December our concept of being entirely separated, solid people began to break down in earnest. We spiralled into full identity death and rebirth. A person who handled most of our daytime life committed egocide after a traumatic event happened during this period, which opened the gates for others to give up their identities in one way or another- if he could do it, then so could everyone else. Over a few weeks, we all dissolved into a fragment mass where no one had any real identity at all, and we began confronting the way we existed. It was internal chaos for a while. We had to entirely reconstruct our ideas of what it meant to be a person, what identity is, who we were. It took about three months to get to a point where we were somewhat stable, and we fell apart again shortly after and partially started over. Piecing ourselves back into functional selves was a long process, but eventually we started to come to terms with ourselves. Some of us were still fragment masses held together with duct tape, while others had a more solid identity. We were more like a very complicated and fluid Venn diagram with some isolated circles here and there, and that was okay. It felt right and natural instead of forced for the approval of others. We could just exist.
As of now, we're still in the process of perpetually rediscovering ourselves, improving internal relations, healing old wounds, and working on our problems. It's a long process and one that we're probably never going to finish, but that's okay. Life is a journey of growing and learning. What matters is that we keep trying to move ahead and become better than we were before.