The following essay is written by guest contributor, Gina D.
I met James during our mutual friend’s graduation party at a park the day after I finished high school in May, 2013. After everyone else at the party left, he and I hung around, talking and laughing until very late. We saw each other again a couple of days later for a proper date, and we have been together ever since.
About a month and a half ago, the two of us were sitting at a table in a park late at night. He told me, “I’m really happy with you. I don’t want it to end.”
“It’s not going to,” I responded. He gave a funny little smile, got on his knee, and asked me to marry him. Although we’d decided mutually that we wanted to be engaged, the proposal, and actually being engaged, was so exciting, especially since it was all happening with him in particular. James is honestly the best guy I know. He’s kind and generous, super smart, and wickedly funny. I often think of how unbelievable it is that someone like him loves me as much as I have grown to love him. Having James in my life makes me feel warm.
There is one little thing, though. James isn’t only James. He’s also Paul, a logically-driven worrywart, and Craig, a sexy Southern bad boy. There’s also the shy and quiet Stanley and the elusive Hector. To put it plainly, James’s brain is home to more than one personality.
I didn’t find out about these other personalities the way James wanted me to. It was very late at night, or early in the morning, after one of our first dates as an official couple. We had driven out to the desert where the lights of habitation wouldn’t impede stargazing. We were in the back of his car, messing around, when suddenly he pushed me back and asked, “What have you been doing to James?” I didn’t have any idea what to say and asked what he meant, what he was talking about. He seemed confused as to why I didn’t know when he said, “I’m Craig.”
I freaked out. I remember thinking that he was probably going to murder me. That’s how it happens, right? Young women lured out to the desert by a charming stranger who, as it turns out, is crazy and wants to chop them up? I felt frozen with fear and somehow managed to call James’ best friend, someone I knew a little through his girlfriend. I was practically hysterical trying to stay both coherent and alive. I described what happened, and he told me, “It’s okay. It’s him, but it isn’t him,” going on to carefully explain this funny little thing about James. I had learned about multiple personalities from high school psychology, so I at least had a frame of reference for what he was telling me. “He would understand if you didn’t want to see him again. You can just say goodbye.”
So I had the easy out and could walk away from all of it. But I thought of the short time we had known each other — the wonderful few dates that we’d had. How excited I had been to have met someone. I’d felt butterflies around this boy, a sensation I’d never felt before. I didn’t want to be stuck wondering “what if?” I wanted to give him a chance. So I did. And I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears drive me away from him. Over time, I met each of his personalities and got to know them all at least a little bit. I really like all of them. Actually, it was harder for me to win their approval than it was for them to win mine! They are all quite protective of James’s heart.
I want to be very clear about one thing: James has never been to a therapist and has never been diagnosed with anything, including dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. Yes, there’s something very different about his mind, but he feels it’s never really caused issues that need to be dealt with by professionals. Unless a real problem arises, I leave that choice totally up to him. Honestly, I often forget that he’s different.
Having multiple personalities is just the way James deals with life’s struggles: He sends out whoever is best equipped to deal with what’s going on. Paul keeps track of everything and can explain things in a logical way that James often cannot. Craig handles stressful situations and is good at processing frustration. Stanley used to be called “the Operator” and can go through the necessary motions of life while everyone else works out the solution to some big problem. I have no idea what Hector is for. Everyone in the world compartmentalizes things about themselves for different situations. For James, the compartments are just a bit more separated.
To be sure, not everything is wonderful about being in a relationship like ours. When James is stressed or facing emotional challenges, he can — and does — switch personalities. It’s difficult for me to deal with relationship issues with James when I can only talk to, say, Paul. I also don’t always know who I’m talking to when we’re around people who don’t know about the others and I can’t just ask. And I have my worries of the future. What if, when we get married, it’s not James I share vows with? What if we have children? I wouldn’t want to leave an infant alone with Craig for more than an hour or two (he’s a good guy, but kind of irresponsible like a seventeen-year-old kid). Fortunately, none of them would ever, ever do anyone any harm.
I know that most people would not choose to have a relationship with someone like James. I love him a lot, but it can be bothersome that there’s this huge aspect of my fiancé that I do not currently understand. I probably never will understand it, as he himself does not. We can never know if he was always this way since he remembers very little of his childhood before the age of thirteen and no one in his family knows about this part of him at all.
It would be dishonest to minimize the difficult parts of loving James. Yet love him I do. Knowing him has taught me so much more about understanding, patience, and identity. I am very much a better person for knowing this man. More than that, though, he is a fantastic partner and my best friend. The good outweighs the difficult a hundred times over. I don’t want to go through life with anyone else but him. Even if there’s company.
Gina D. spent her childhood in Colorado, Illinois, and Utah before landing in New Mexico at age 16. Now 20, she studies secondary education at New Mexico State University. She loves cooking, writing, and penguins. Gina is putting off wedding planning as long as possible and is therefore grateful for her very long engagement.