A story about a girl with an identity disorder.
|The night Keri died, I lost my twin and best friend.
I was walking the dark streets of Manhattan, hailstones pelting me, and as everyone hurtled by, clad in their thick coats and scarves, I was a lone figure of loss and despair.
I didn’t even have a jacket with me. I was still wearing the thin, flimsy hospital gown they had given me, but I couldn’t feel the cold.
Or more accurately, I couldn’t feel anything anymore.
"I’m so sorry."
"We tried our best."
My insides heaved and thrashed about wildly inside, and I forced myself to keep in the thunderstorm of tears.
I wanted to die.
I wanted to cry.
I wanted to die.
I couldn’t really see anything anymore, and then I realized that it wasn’t just because of the sleets of rain falling steadily from the sky, but from my own rivulets of tears flowing from my eyes.
I stopped for a moment, hanging onto the railing overlooking the Hudson River, gasping in deep, wracking breaths of the cold night air.
I dropped onto my knees, hands still gripping onto the cold metal railing for dear life.
I didn’t know how long I stayed that way, but finally someone found me.
He found me, just as he had found Keri all those months ago.
The love of Keri’s life.
Jonathan had been a senior at Wimberley High, just like Keri and I, and on the night of the graduation prom, he met her.
The long, hot summer following thereafter, they had spent practically every single waking moment together, and I could see that Keri was head-over-heels in love with this guy. And I was glad for her. As her twin, I felt her feelings almost as astutely as she had felt them—and the joy, hope and love that enveloped her was something so real, so all-encompassing and so pure that I was literally living on the essence of Keri and Jonathan’s love too.
I was happy—indeed, I was beyond happy. For so long, Keri had had her… issues, but now, since knowing Jonathan, she had stopped her obsessive thoughts of her perceived imperfections and ugly flaws.
Oh my God, we were identical twins—I looked into the mirror and see a perfectly healthy, beautiful and radiant eighteen-year-old girl staring at me. But Keri… I didn’t know what she saw. I still don’t. I just knew the girl she saw when she looked at her reflection wasn’t the same girl everybody else saw.
She (we) had long, straight hair the colour of fine, spun gold. Sapphire blue eyes that could mirror the calm sea on a good day and a turbulent storm on a bad. Tall and thin, without being too thin.
She was (we were) the epitome of perfection—the All-American girl who seemed to have stepped out of a glossy magazine cover and graced our humble high school with her very presence.
I lived for the moment, and Keri lived for the future.
Perhaps that was the first crack to a seemingly perfect veneer. The first sign of trouble to come.
We were close—always had been—and nobody could come in between us.
I lived my life like a teenage cliché of immense popularity and out-of-control parties—but I loved it. I loved my life ardently and it loved me back (at least, that was what I used to believe.). Keri, always being the quieter twin, wasn’t as loud and boisterous as I had been, but she grew into her own slowly.
She was on the school newsletter editorial team, while I was busy getting the cheerleading squad all psyched for the next big game. She went to coffee clubs with her friends on Friday nights, and I swung by a couple rowdy parties on a regular weekend night. She dressed in denim, whilst I was decked out in prep and chic alike. We were so different in everything, yet underneath it all, we were both the same.
We loved sitting down with our family for the Wednesday night dinners (the only time when my dad, mom, Keri and I had the same non-conflicting schedules), loved our cocker spaniel, Danny, loved singing along to the loud rock ballads on radio, loved going to the pubs to support whatever up-and-coming bands…. We loved each other, and we loved our lives.
At least, that was before the summer two years before.
Then, Keri changed.
And I didn’t know why. It just completely threw me off, I guess. Because I’d thought that we were so close… It just hurt to think that she could undergo such a complete transformation, and me, as her sister—her twin—didn’t know how it happened.
Anyway, that summer, we were both working as interns at our dad’s law firm, and nothing really unusual happened. But one day, just out of the blue, she stopped going for lunch with me and a couple other girls who were also interning. She didn’t say anything, just that she was too busy to come with us….
And that was it, I guess. Once turned to twice, and twice morphed to… always.
Keri stopped eating.
I tried to gently remind her to eat, and then, became angrier when she refused to, and once, we had a really bad row over her refusal to eat. I’d wanted to tell our parents. I almost did. But I didn’t. She begged me not to—she said it wasn’t anybody’s business but hers.
I let it go on for a few weeks, a few months… a year.
Then last summer, Keri met Jonathan Hayden, and she started eating again.
And that was it.
I thought the both of them were the most perfect couple on the universe.
My face radiated the same amount of joy on Keri’s face whenever Jonathan came over to our house to pick her up. I’d glance up from whatever latest charity fundraiser project (the cheerleaders of Wimberley never stopped working for charitable causes) I was working on, and smile beatifically upon seeing the beautiful smile on Keri’s face.
We all adored Jonathan, and he adored Keri.
That was enough.
We were getting back the old Keri.
She was beautiful, perfect and loved.
That summer, I hung out with my friends, went to my job at the law firm and hooked up with a guy in a punk band.
Keri spent all her time with Jonathan.
He was one of those guys who didn’t belong to any clique in school, but managed to fit in wherever he went. The guy who was off the charts in the popularity polls in school. Nobody outcast him, nobody slighted him, nobody dared give him any wrong look at all. Jonathan refused to conform—but our petty high school hierarchy, for some strange reason, couldn’t refuse him either.
Okay, it didn’t hurt that Jonathan looked like those tall, brooding archetypes that drove all girls wild (literally). And he rode a Harley Davidson, and was the grandson of a topnotch movie producer. Enough said.
But the most important thing was, Jonathan loved Keri. Like all of us, he met her, knew her, and fell in love with her.
And she loved him.
Oh yes, she did.
After Jonathan took me back to the hospital, I sat huddled with a thick wool blanket around me, as I peered at my parents engaging in an agitated conversation with the perplexed doctor.
“She’s okay…” the slightly balding, middle-aged doctor was saying.
“How can she be okay!” I heard my father hiss in a loud whisper. He thought I couldn’t hear him, but I could. Perfectly well. Though they had tranquilized me and all that, and I was supposed to be feeling groggy and fall asleep any instant.
I shifted uncomfortably on the hard metal examining table.
My father was still pacing the room in a very agitated manner, but he stopped then. My mom was looking at me with furrowed brows. “Lana? You want to lie down a while?”
Not on this metal table, no thanks. “Can I go back to my room?” I asked hesitantly, trying the words out.
“Of course.” The doctor seemed to snap back into his default efficiency mode, and with a snap of his fingers, a white-clad nurse appeared from behind the curtains with a sliver wheelchair.
“It’ll be okay, darling.” My mom smiled bravely at me.
My dad nodded grimly in silent agreement.
Just before they wheeled me away, I could see the tears falling down my mother’s face, and my father putting his arms around her.
Back in the hospital room, I let the nurse help me across to my bed, and lay down quietly, pulling the blanket up to my chin. She stared at me with a little sad smile, and after making sure that I didn’t need her help anymore, went out of the room, shutting the door behind her quietly.
I lay there and stared up at the off-white ceiling.
It’ll be okay… my mom had said.
Please, Lana, let us help you, Jonathan had told me when he found me by the river.
But what is okay? How can I be okay again?
Can they even understand how I feel—losing Keri? Can they?
Maybe Jonathan can—but he seemed to be well on his way to recovering from his loss and pain now.
What is okay? What is normal? How do I even feel normal again?
I sat up in the hospital bed and pulled the bedclothes along with me. Suddenly, I felt very cold, very frightened, and very alone.
Tugging the sheets closer around me, I tried to envision the warmth they provided flowing into me. Like the invisible heat waves from a radiator. The fuzzy feeling from a human touch.
I leaned heavily into the headboard and tried to stop my uncontrollable shaking.
Keri, Keri, Keri….
Who am I without my twin?
Where do I stand in this world now that the very person who had come into the world together with me was gone?
How do I continue on when a part of me had been cruelly wrenched away—leaving a big, gaping hole in my self?
How do I even begin to repair this hole… this emptiness in my life?
I sat there with my knees hugged closely to my chest, feeling that familiar feeling of fear and panic clawing its way up… Breathe, Lana. Breathe.
With difficulty, I gulped in a few wheezes of cold, sterile air and felt the black hole slowly closing back up.
“Lana?” The voice was soft, tentative.
My head jerked up. It was Jonathan. He was standing at the doorway to my room, looking concerned and frightened at the same time.
I forced my mouth into a smile. “Hey, uh, come in,” I said awkwardly.
He took his hand out from behind his back and shyly presented me with a bouquet of yellow roses—Keri’s favourites. “These are for you—”
I saw his eyes widen in terror, and then in a swift flash of movement, he leapt to the side.
Just as well, for I had taken up the heavy glass vase and hurled it in his direction.
“Lana!” he yelled, and then I couldn’t hear him anymore.
There was an even louder screaming that was drowning out his voice… and it was coming from… coming from… me.
I was screaming and hurling at him, harsh words, painful sounds escaping from me as I thrashed wildly about. I didn’t even know what I was saying.
Then, Jonathan was over by my side, trying to hold me down, and pretty soon, the nurses and doctor arrived to help him out.
I saw the syringe with its needle coming towards me and I writhed about, trying desperately to get away from it—no, I wasn’t going to be tranquilized again—I wasn’t insane.
I was just trying to yell at Jonathan—how dare you, how dare you forget Keri… And then everything swam away into darkness as the needle slipped effortlessly under my skin.
When I came to again, I could hear my parents talking to the doctor in low voices. It was like a replay of last night. Or this morning. Or… how long had I slept anyway?
I lay there and kept perfectly still, breathing out evenly and quietly to mimic the action of sleep.
“When will she be okay?” that was my mom. She sounded even more strained and tired—if that was possible.
“I don’t know…” Dr. Kenneth.
“Is she a danger to herself?” My father’s words made me inhale a breath of air too quickly. I sensed them looking my way and pretended to flutter my eyes open as realistically as possible.
They moved towards me, and I invariably stiffened.
Then my mom’s hand was on my head and she was smoothening out my hair. “Oh, darling,” she sighed.
I gave her a crooked little grin.
“You lost control just now.” My dad managed to look grave and concerned at the same time.
I swallowed and opened my mouth slowly, “He—Jonathan… Keri…” And I started to cry again. Big, fat drops of tears splashed onto my pale pink hospital sheets.
“Kenneth.” My dad’s voice was cold now, and I presume he was glaring at the helpless doctor.
“Shush, darling…” my mom was trying to calm me down.
Keri, Keri, Keri…. Have they all forgotten about her?
“… just a normal kid.” My head snapped back up to attention. Normal? What was normal anyway?
I used to be normal.
Before that summer two years ago, Keri and I were happy, normal girls like everyone else. We had an intact family. We went to a good school and had great friends. And though we were identical twins, we had personalities that were different enough for us to lead individual lives, yet we were not so dissimilar that we drifted apart. No. We were best friends.
And I knew normal then. It was a concept that I could still grasp hold of. Normal was going home after a long day at school to a family that didn’t annoy you. Normal was talking to your twin into the dead of the night about everything and anything. Normal was as normal goes.
But as I’d said, that fateful summer, Keri lost it.
Now, I remembered all the tears and fights that followed thereafter Keri’s eating disorder. And how hard it was for me to keep such a thing from our parents. How Sara and Tiffany and Jen didn’t have to go home with Keri everyday after school and face her shrunken self 24/7. How I was her twin, but I couldn’t understand why she was doing what she did. Yeah.
But I kept it all together… for a year; till she met Jonathan and he took it over from me.
And I was back to normal.
I went to parties with my friends, rode downtown to all the band concerts and performances, and got together with Jake. Oh right, so Jake turned out to be a total loser and I’d dumped him a couple months back, but still. I was normal. I was living, breathing normal.
I didn’t know what happened to Keri—she was all ready to go off to Massachusetts for college and all her bags were already packed and ready. I was going to NYU, so for the last couple weeks, I’d been getting together with friends of mine who were leaving the country and just having farewell bashes all round.
I didn’t see Keri much. But I knew she was with Jonathan. And I’d thought she was already okay. She smiled at me that day just before I left the house.
The next time I saw her, she was lying in the morgue.
She was my twin.
And I didn’t know what happened to her.
I stopped being normal and a few nights back, they warded me in the hospital.
A week later, I was sitting on my hospital bed, staring out idly at the peaceful rose garden bordering the side of the hospital.
Suddenly, I really wanted to get out there. I was so sick of having to sit inside all day long, flicking mindlessly through the dozens of TV channels, faking smiles at the nurses who wheeled in my food at mealtimes, nodding my head in answer to my parents’ seemingly endless questions… I wondered why I had to stay there anyway. What was wrong with me? Nothing.
I was just mourning the death of Keri—the sudden, unexpected loss of my other half. And…
I angrily shook my head to stop the tears from gushing out. I was not going to cry anymore. I’d thought my tears had dried up by then, but apparently not. You probably have an infinite well of tears just waiting to burst forth for any and every occasion.
I looked down at my pale wrist and slowly detached the IV drip from my vein.
I didn’t look up. I’d finally made my way out to the garden and was sitting on one of the stone benches, letting the warm sunshine spill onto me. It felt so comforting, so glorious, so right. And I just wanted to stay that way forever.
I felt Jonathan sit down beside me.
My eyes continued to stay shut and I made myself breathe in and out evenly. One, two, three… I started counting silently.
“Will you just talk to me, Lana?” The exasperation and exhaustion in Jonathan’s voice surprised me, and my eyes involuntarily flew open.
I stared at him silently.
His emerald green eyes reflected a world of hurt back to me. “Why, Lana…” he whispered.
“Keri,” I managed to mutter. “She’s—”
“Lana,” he said in that same choked voice.
I wasn’t crying, but tears were flowing down Jonathan’s face.
I didn’t know what to say, so I turned away from him and continued staring up at the hopelessly bright blue sky. After a while, he got up and I turned back to look at him. There was this look of incredible sadness on his face, and it stunned me. He finally gave me a pat on the shoulder before walking away.
I stared hard at his back until he disappeared down the grassy verge to the visitors’ car park.
And for just that one moment, I felt an imperceptible tug at my heart.
I finally had a visitor who was not a parent or a sister’s boyfriend two days later.
Sara, bouncy and lanky and with a head of beautiful unruly red curls, walked into my room that afternoon as the sun was about to set.
I was just watching the sun inch its way down into the stretch of horizon, so I didn’t see her coming in.
By then, Sara was standing right by my bed, her brilliant green eyes clouded over with worry. “Hey, Lana.” For some reason, she was chewing her lower lip and looking uncertain. That was strange—for all the years I’d known Sara, she was never at a loss for words to say. Never.
“Hey,” I said back tentatively.
Sara heaved a loud, suppressed sigh. She looked around the room for a couple seconds, and then pulled a wooden chair right up to my bed.
I stared at her cautiously, not quite sure what to say. After all, she was Keri’s best friend—the most we ever talked about when we were together was about Keri. Or schoolwork. You get the drift. But she was an amazing person all the same—and one thing about Keri and me is that, we respected each other’s choice of friends. Yes, happy for me to say, I liked all her friends, but I can’t say it’s the same for her.
So, Sara was sitting there and tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear, and still staring at me. Weird. I don’t think she was ever this quiet before.
“Lana,” she finally started, and I could detect the caution in her tone. “Are you feeling okay now?”
I blinked, completely surprised by her words. “Yes, of c-course. Why wouldn’t I be?” I flashed her a disarming smile.
Sara furrowed her brows and leant in closer to me, till her elbows were propped on the edge of my bed. “Lana, we miss you so much.”
Now, I was really surprised.
Like I said before, Keri and I hung out with different people in school—and Sara was Keri’s friend. Okay, so I was also on friendly terms with her, but yeah, we just weren’t close. I blinked again. Could she have mistaken me for Keri? Perhaps, in her grief… No, she had called me Lana. She knew I wasn’t Keri!
This was getting pretty confusing for me.
“Who’s “we”?” I muttered.
A look of hurt flashed by Sara’s eyes. “Everyone! God, Lana…”
I didn’t even know I was shaking my head.
“Lana. Lana!” Sara was calling my name.
“Have you mistaken me for Keri?” I didn’t even know I’d spoken the words out loud. Keri, Keri, Keri…
“Lana!” she was shouting my name now.
My name? Keri… Lana… Who am I?
When I came to later that night, my mom was sitting by my bedside, gripping my hand tight in hers.
I looked down at her sleeping face and felt an old ache start in my heart.
She looked so weak, so vulnerable, so exhausted… I felt truly sorry for having done that to her.
Then, my gaze floated down to rest on her hand enveloping mine, and with a start, I realized that my wrist was practically half the width of hers. And it was so pale, so deathly pale too…
I tilted my head back and stared up at the pureness of the white ceiling. Slowly bringing my other hand up to the dim light falling over the room, I gazed faintly at the humongous needle stuck into a large protruding vein on the back of my hand. My eyes traveled along the thin tube attached to the IV needle, upwards to the heavy bag of fluids dangling from the IV stand. I looked back at my hand—my pale, bony, scrawny hand. The skin was stretched so tightly across my knuckles that I could see my veins clearly. Even in the dim light.
I felt my mother stir beside me. I quickly snapped my head back towards hers.
Staring back at me… was not my mom… but… The face of Keri was staring back at me.
And at that moment, I had a sudden, jolting flash back to reality.
“She’s having a relapse…”
“What can we do?”
“… send her to the specialized treatment center immediately.”
“Then, what? Do you want to wait until she’s….”
“… She’ll be okay.”
“She’s not going to be okay.”
I felt like I was dreaming.
Everything around me was so white, so white and pure… and beautiful. If you’d told me I’d died and gone to heaven, I might have believed you.
In any case, I didn’t feel anything at all. Just a sense of utmost peace and calm. I felt as if I was leaving my earthly body behind, and just travelling in my soul up… and up….
I finally woke.
And I felt as if I’d slept for a very, very long time.
I sat up in bed, and saw that they had moved me to a different room.
That wasn’t the first thing I noticed.
I also noticed a lot of complicated-looking machines in the room. And I was hooked up to some of these machines.
My first thought was to open my mouth and scream, then decided I’d better not, for the room was completely empty except for me.
I had to think.
And then I realized I couldn’t think. Okay, to be more exact, I couldn’t remember anything to think about.
So I sat there and started to have a mild panic attack—and then I remembered I used to have panic attacks… and I also remembered my name was Lana… and I was eighteen that year… and I had two fantastic parents who were still together… and I had a boyfriend named Jonathan.
Many months later, on one of my bimonthly appointments to Dr. Philips—my consultant psychiatrist (in other words, my shrink)—I was sitting alone in his office waiting for him to return from wherever, when I casually picked up a large brown folder from his desk.
And staring down at my name written across the cover in thick felt marker, I felt a tingle going up my spine as I slowly flipped it open.
I fingered a couple pages, and started flipping randomly. There wasn’t much interesting stuff to see… New York University… Design and Media… Doesn’t talk much initially… Has opened up a lot more…
Just random, normal things about me. Facts, observations, past illnesses.
My eyes drifted down the page before I could even stop them.
There, stamped across the little, rectangular box, were the words I’d always dreaded but known it to be true—
Dissociative Identity Disorder.
"Patient used to believe she had a twin, and would enact seemingly lifelike scenarios about “twin” and once, even mimicked the event in which “twin” died. Believed to have been a form of coping mechanism for patient… Patient may be trying to shrug off the destructive and corruptive influence of her “twin”, in medical terms, to be called her alter-personality—a false personality constructed by patients under extreme duress…. "