There are six parts inside me. I have listed them in order of age along with their nicknames and when they began to show up, as far as I can ascertain.

Sam (Ghost), 2 years old , there as long as I can remember

Lana (Svetlana), 5 years old, there since I was two or so

Yekaterina (Katie or Katya), 7 years old, there since I was about five

Annoushka (Anna or Anya—this one’s confusing, since this was the name I was called by everyone who knew me where I was trafficked most of the time) 10 years old, there since I was six

Charlie (just Charlie) 11, there since I was 8

Vera (Veroushka or Verka or—I thought—Vivianne), 13 years old, there since I was nine

And there is Ash, who answered to a different name in childhood. That old, childhood is still my given name, but I don’t answer to it unless you are looking straight at me and I know you have mean me. I never liked it and I don’t like it now.

Since I first became aware of the parts, I have always maintained that I am just another one of the parts. I am not a full-fledged personality. I’m a fragment, just as they are. My job is to keep shit together and get things done and, also, to maintain the illusion of coherence. It is not a rewarding job. It is not emotionally fulfilling. It is a flattened experience of life. It sucks. I have neither what was most traumatizing about my life nor what have its high points. I have the in-between states, where things were merely bearable. It is no kind of life history to build a self out of.

There is an eighth personality involved. In the DID community—and I’m a bit short of DID on the dissociation spectrum, but it’s the best model available—this personality is referred to as the Original Personality. The idea is that personality went into hiding when the trauma got out of hand and the alters thereafter took charge of life.

I don’t know that this is true. It seem to me you aren’t born with a personality. Your personality forms over your lifetime as a result of the combination of temperament, culture, and life experiences. I may be wrong.

So I don’t think I’m dredging through looking for a personality already there. I think I’m putting things together into a personality that was never there before. It might be the person I would have preferred to be all along, but it’s not something whole and perfect that I just need to locate within myself. It is the personality that would have emerged out of my life experiences if I could do that. But I couldn’t.

I’m not sure this is an important distinction, except that my role in things is different. Because it’s not my job to dredge up or identify what is essential. Instead, it’s to put things together and to make it possible for things to come together on their own.

It is, for example, my job to help Verka, Annoushka, and Charlie to see one another’s experiences of being in love as being part of the same experience. Verka felt determined to find some way for her lover to be free again. Annoushka was happy. Charlie felt sad he couldn’t make his lover stop hurting. They are what one person would feel if your lover were being trafficked. It’s split apart because it was way too many emotions for me to manage when I was 12 and 13 years old.

But integration does not mean the parts will all blend into me. They will blend into each other. A new sensibility will gradually—or not so gradually—emerge out of this blending together of things.

This sensibility needs my help too. She does not yet know who she is. She needs help discovering it. She needs to be encouraged to try things and recognize what feels good to her. They might be the same things as they were for the parts that came before her. They might be different.

When this is done, I can disappear altogether.

But it’s time to stop guessing what the future will be like and start venturing out into it.