"God Sarah, I lost it with them again last night!" Pursing his lips, he tilted his head slightly to one side, scratching the back of his neck as their eyes made contact. "They've got to go," he added in more subdued tones, "...and soon!"
Sarah noticed that his shoulders no longer slumped as he spoke. He appeared more determined, resolute, decisive. Even taller perhaps? she mused. Definitely less resigned! She began to feel something that she hadn't felt in a long time; hope.
Max held Sarah's gaze. He loved that when they spoke she was always completely absorbed in what he had to say. She was really great like that! They had been seeing each other for the best part of 2 years and he felt like she knew him inside out, understood the way he ticked. Things had always felt comfortable and easy between them and their relationship had blossomed from day one.
She leaned in a little closer, "So, what happened this time then?"
Max sighed. What could he say that hadn't been said already? It was always the same thing really. Both Tallulah and Geoffrey had been a part of his life, on and off for about 5 years, and they had even shared his home for some time. There had been a period when they had lost touch for about a year and he had figured that they had simply moved on, as people do, and that the once close connection that they had shared, had just naturally dissipated over time. He had been a little surprised at the lack of warning, but in hindsight, he could see that it had been coming for a while. The three of them had been arguing frequently just prior to them moving out, mostly down to what Max could only describe as 'personality conflict', and if he was truly honest with himself, he'd actually been quite relieved when they hadn't returned that one Summer's day and he had noticed that all their belongings had disappeared with them. They hadn't even left a note! He found that quite rude, after everything they had been through together, but then he wasn't one to lose sleep over trivial matters. Such was life! He had enough on his plate and frankly, having them out of the picture, had done wonders for his mental health. Their mutual relationship was not exactly harmonious and the discord at times was unbearable. But a few weeks ago they'd rocked up again out of the blue, wanting to reconnect.
Thinking back, their co-existence had been more of a mishap than anything that had been planned. They had started chatting one day while he was out in the park, sat on a bench watching the world go by. Then he started encountering them more regularly on his walks, in coffee shops, supermarkets, random places, random times and they had struck up an acquaintance which had over the years turned into a friendship of sorts. Before he knew it, the three of them were together almost constantly and sharing his once quiet existence.
At first, they had bounced ideas off each other and the relationships had worked relatively well, bringing him the solace and fortitude he had sought for so long. Their presence in his life was quite simply reassuring. But in the year before they left, the three of them had been co-existing in a strange state of entropy, and he had started to feel as though he had lost control of his identity; that it was being drowned out by unwelcome actors intruding on what should have been a solo act. And it wasn't just Tallulah and Geoffrey he had to worry about, their friends were no better. In fact, he'd wake up some days to a cacophony of voices, all competing to be heard, new louder personalities invading his personal space. And he was ordinarily a quiet person himself. He was frankly amazed that he'd received no complaints from the neighbours!
People had walked all over him his whole life. Heck, even his parents had been a nightmare to live with, especially his dad. He would regularly be consigned to his bedroom or, worse still, the basement when his dad was on a bender. Being a punching bag for a deviant alcoholic was never something he had asked for and not something a 5-year-old should have to contend with, but his father had been the gift that kept giving, and at some point, he had given up on his own dreams and just started focussing on survival. He had to take a stand at some point though, and that point was now.
Of course, he had tried speaking to both Tallulah and Geoffrey about their extra-curricular activities and the impact it was having on his ability to sleep, work, concentrate, and generally exist, but it didn't appear to have had any impact. They were not the most considerate of characters. And so he started going out more often, keeping busy, staying active, in an effort to escape the constant murmur of voices, and cries of discord that filled his living space. And it was on one of these escapes from his reality, that he had met Sarah.
Sarah's eyes continued to follow him around the room, as she waited patiently for his reply.
Max paced across the floor space between them and flopped back onto the sofa.
"I'm exhausted. Tallulah keeps me up most nights with her antics and ramblings. The other evening she ate the packed lunch that I had made myself for the following day. When I confronted her it turns out that it was her 'midnight snack' after another late night barhop through the city centre. Last week I looked in my wardrobe to find out that she'd hung up some of her dresses in there, and shoved my shoes under the bed, replacing them with her own. My favourite sweater turned up in the wash pile after going missing for a few days. She'd worn it and attempted to wash it on a cotton wash of all things! And now it's honestly getting beyond a joke. And Geoffrey, he's no better. We argued about the state of the apartment last night and I suggested it may be time that they got their own one! Things turned nasty and the next thing I was ducking chairs and empty beer bottles being thrown in my direction. He's a loose cannon! I can't go on like this, Sarah. I'm ready to work on getting them to leave."
"This is so great Max! Such a huge step; recognising the dissonance for what it is. I think we are ready to say goodbye to the final two." Sarah's face beamed and Max couldn't help but smile back. He could always count on Sarah to champion his progress, to be on his side. She had been advocating for him, Max, from the start.
"Next appointment, same time as usual?" She pulled her diary across the desk and penciled his name in for the following week.
Things were finally starting to happen for Max, she thought. They had come a long way from the forlorn and depressed personality that had walked through her practice doors, almost 2 years before, his head hung low, and the joy beaten out of his life. His referral and subsequent therapy for Dissociative Identity Disorder or D.I.D had been a long journey of exploration and discovery, acknowledgment of the many different voices that frequented his head and at times, controlled his actions, and finally on to acceptance, and the will to work towards greater integration. She had worked hard to build the kind of trust filled relationship that he needed to progress and heal and to have a chance at emerging less fragmented and more whole on the other side.
Max closed the office door of Sarah Chapman, PsyD PhD, behind him, and took the long lift journey down to the main lobby. Exiting the building, he looked back at the imposing beauty of the glass tower, its spire rising up to meet the heavens, its prismatic shards reflecting light and hope in all directions for generations to come. If his city could rise again from the ashes of the worst discord known to man, to reclaim its identity and place in the world, he felt certain that he could now do the same.
Photo credit Elina Krima