ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem fills the "counseling" square in my card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest.

Title: "Shrink Wrap"
Fandom: Polychrome Heroes
Prompt: Counseling
Medium: Poetry
Wordcount: 1392
Rating: PG
Warnings: Past trauma. Current environment is safe.
Summary: Maze hopes that counseling will help her cope with the aftermath of Mindflare's attack. It doesn't really work out as planned.
Notes: This poem will make more sense if you have first read "Cut to the Quick" which features the original attack. The protagonist is a multiple system with six personalities who don't know about each other yet. It deals with dissociation, psychic powers, and other matters of the mind. The original file marks personality shifts with different fonts and indents, but I couldn't get that to work here, sorry; it's just marked with dashed lines between verses.


"Shrink Wrap"


It's been a week now
since Mindflare kidnapped me.
The days stumble past
like actors who can't hit their marks.
The scrapes and bruises have mostly healed
but the inside of my head is still a mess.

I have a counseling appointment
at the Student Health Center.
Maybe that will help me figure out
what's really going on here.

The world feels strange and distant,
as if I am covered in layers of shrink wrap,
everything too slick and glossy, translucent
but a little blurry from the wrinkles.
I sit in the hard plastic chair;
the room is quiet and plain.

The counselor's name is Cindy.
She looks pretty in a professional sort of way,
pink fingernails almost matching her peach suit,
brown hair done up in a bun -- and for some reason,
I find myself paying more attention to her hair
than to her little spiel about being safe.
I wonder if I could fix my hair up like that,
because having it fall in my face feels so wrong.

"I like your hair," I blurt out,
and she smiles at me a little oddly
then thanks me for the compliment.

"How are you doing in school?" Cindy asks,
and I'm so grateful for something to talk about
that isn't the attack, I just start babbling.
I can do this. I could do this for hours.
I tell her all about my Method Acting 150 class,
acing the math test, finishing a paper on Greek plays.
I mention Applied Kinesiology 233
but not that it's martial art involving wooden knives.

It feels good to talk and have someone listen
who isn't trying to avoid me because suddenly life is weird.

Cindy is nice. She nods her head
and leans forward and says "Uh huh"
or "Tell me more" in all the right places.
I think I could get to like her.

My parents have offered to get me
the best shrinks that money can buy,
but really I'm happier staying on campus
where people understand student life
and I've got a routine to follow,
even if it feels like I'm just playing a role.

It's comforting to be here
in the boring old Student Health Center
with its crummy chairs and motivational posters
and oil paintings on loan from the Art Department.
I feel better already.

Naturally that's when I start crying.
Cindy pats me on the hand
and passes me the giant box of kleenex.
She doesn't get all flustered like my friends,
so that's a relief, and it only takes me
a few minutes to turn off the tears.

Cindy gets up and goes to the water cooler.
She brings back a paper cup for each of us.
The water is bland, not the gourmet bottled water
that I'm used to drinking, but it's cool and wet
and helps me feel a little better.

"Is there something else you'd like to talk about?"
Cindy asks, and although she doesn't say so,
I know she's thinking about the kidnapping.

"You can say Mindflare," I tell her.
"It's not like I'm afraid of his name.
People don't want to say it around me
but that's just silly."

"They probably don't want to make you feel bad,"
she says. "Most people don't know
what to say when a friend is having a hard time."

"I just want everyone to act normal again,"
I say, because that would make it so much easier.
"I mean ... it's not like he hurt me all that much.
He just grabbed me and tied me up
and okay, his superpower was awful,
but it's not like he cut me up with a knife
or tried to tear my clothes off."

"I'm listening," Cindy says,
and it's sweet even if I know
she's getting paid for things like that.

"None of this was about me," I explain.
"Mindflare only touched me when he had to.
It's like I wasn't even real to him --
he only cared about me as bait
to get attention from Savoir Faire --
so it could have been a whole lot worse."

"You sound pretty calm about that,"
Cindy says. "If it had happened to me,
I would have been scared out of my wits."

So was I, of course, but people freak out
if I show how upset I actually am.
It's better to keep my cool and play it safe
and fake my way through the conversations.

Listening is Cindy's job, though;
she can't throw me out until our time's up.
"It was kind of scary," I admit.

The lingering headaches and bizarre echoes
are scarier, but I don't mention that.
The doctors can't find anything wrong
so there's no point bringing it up.

"Maybe I can help a little," Cindy says,
and if it's true that would be terrific.
"Some people find it useful,
when they feel upset,
to imagine a wonderful safe place
where nothing bad can happen to them.
Would you like to try that?"

"I guess," I say,
because I have Maisie's memories
of feeling safe but I don't feel it myself.

"Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths,"
Cindy says. "Tune out this room."
Well, that's not hard to do:
everything seems unreal to me these days.

"Turn your attention inward," Cindy says.
"Are you indoors or outdoors?"
Indoors, a nice house with lots of rooms,
like the one where I live at the edge of campus.
"Hold a clear image of it in your mind."
That's funny ... none of the doors match.

"Search for clues with your senses," Cindy says.
"What do you smell or hear around you?"
I smell homemade spaghetti like my grandmother makes.
My mouth waters. I hear music, too,
but not mine -- some tinkly meditation stuff.

"Now look around your safe place," Cindy says.
"Are you alone or with company?
Are there animals or other people with you?"

- - - 

I was in my room and now I'm not.
I'm in some other room with a woman I don't know
talking to me about a safe place
but I know that nothing about this is safe
because I can't let anyone find out about me
and I just want to be not here.

The next thing I know,
the woman is jumping up
and yelling about an empty chair.
She's coming right at me
and I don't know what to do.
I scramble out of reach.
I wish I was anywhere but here.

- - - 

One moment I'm in my room, and then
suddenly I'm in the Student Health Center.
I recognize the style of posters.
"How did you get from the chair
to clear over there?" the counselor exclaims.

I don't want her to be wondering that.
It doesn't seem good for either of us.
Surely there must be a rational explanation for this.
I look at the empty paper cup in my hand.
"Perhaps someone spiked the water cooler,"
I suggest, folding my hands in front of me.

"This wouldn't be the first time,"
the counselor mutters.
"It would certainly explain a few things."

If she could just believe that,
everything would be so much better.
I really want for her to believe it.

"That must be it," she says vaguely,
drifting back to her chair.
She sits down and ... does nothing,
just staring idly at the wall
as if she has forgotten all about me.

Perhaps it's for the best.
I slip out the door,
closing it quietly behind me.
There is no one in the hall.

I walk home.
It's a pretty day, warm,
the leaves just starting to turn.

Here is the square white house
with its walls textured like stucco,
which Daddy owns so I don't pay rent
like my four housemates do.
As my hand touches the doorknob
of my bedroom, at last I can relax.

- - - 

I'm home. How did I get home?
I'm in my bedroom.
The last thing I remember,
I was in the Student Health Center.

It's another hole chopped in my life,
time lost, memories that don't connect,
and nothing makes sense anymore.

I flop onto my bed
and begin to cry again.
This time there is nobody
to hand me kleenex and a cup of water.

I cry into my pillow
so that I do not need kleenex
and nobody will hear the noise.

* * *

Notes:

Dissociation is an altered state of consciousness arising as a defense mechanism, often brought on by trauma. This "Dissociation" comic gives an excellent example of the subjective experience. Dissociation is also connected with multiple systems. Checking in, boosting awareness, and grounding are ways of coping with dissociation and trauma.

Depersonalization is a feeling of being unreal or living someone else's life. In this case it's not all a misperception, since the natal personality no longer exists and Maze actually is trying to fake being Maisie. There are ways to overcome depersonalization and stop feeling depersonalized. Focus on bodily sensations, emotions, or personal preferences.

Derealization is a feeling that the world is unreal or irrelevant. There are steps for overcoming derealization. Concentrate on material features of the surrounding environment, especially things that change in response to your presence.

A wooden knife makes a good practice weapon for certain martial arts.

There are tips for helping a friend after trauma.

Minimization is a coping mechanism that downplays the impact of trauma. It's especially common after child abuse, rape, or other violations. There are steps to get past it. Speaking about the events can be an important part of trauma therapy.

Emotional detachment causes blunted or absent feelings. This emotional numbing is a problem because you can't fix what you can't find. Learn to understand your feelings and get in touch with them instead of burying them.

Here's a basic "Safe Place" meditation script. This one is longer. Here's a video.

Internal landscapes are important in a multiple system. This is our first glimpse of Damask's headspace, which happens to be a house. Each headmate has their own room.

Switching is when headmates change who is controlling the body. In a healthy system, this is usually a conscious and cooperative choice. That takes practice to learn. Damask is still at the stage where it happens by reflex, which is confusing for everyone.

Losing time is an example of inconsistent memories, a problem that many multiple systems face. Usually the time and memories are not actually lost, just belong to someone who's not able to share them right now. This is disorienting and potentially dangerous. Learning to share memories also takes practice. Each headmate has some of Maisie's old memories. Each can make new memories. They have a hard time sharing new memories because they don't know about each other yet.

Damask's body is female and multiracial with long curly blonde hair, brown eyes, and tinted skin. It looks something like this.

Maze looks the closest to their shared body. She has the same tinted skin but with shorter electrum-blonde hair and green eyes. She is the first and fourth speaker in this poem.

Mira has straight white-blonde hair, ice-blue eyes, and pinkish-fair skin. She is the second speaker in this poem.

Clarity has buzz-cut light blond hair, brown eyes, and tinted skin. Zie is neuter, and the third speaker in this poem.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-26 02:46 am (UTC)
thnidu: blank white robot/avatar sitting on big red question mark. tinyurl.com/cgkcqcj via Google Images (question mark)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Unh! (somewhat as if gut-punched)

Teleportation? The counselor hallucinating? Never mind, I'll reread their descriptions.

η: Ah. Mira. ("Look! Look!" I heard it all the time growing up on the Upper West Side of NYC.)

Shrink (W)rap. :-)



Edited Date: 2013-06-26 03:07 am (UTC)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-06-26 03:41 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"Head-shrink" seemed too obvious to mention; hadn't thought of "it's a wrap".

It sounds similar to "Mirror."
(The tall, lean, pedantic chap -- with unruly light-colored hair, a great many pockets overflowing with markers, pens, and slips of paper, and a striped scarf that brushes the floor at both ends -- raises an eyebrow. "Madame Wordsmith, you know my profession. Did you expect me to be unaware of that?" And he winks at you.)
Ah, I realize you might not be aware that the Upper West Side was, and I believe still is, very heavily Hispanic in population. So at any time at all you could hear kids shouting "¡Mira, mira!" – "Look, look!"

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-26 09:26 am (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
It's very interesting to read this both before and after reading "Cut to the Quick."

Looking forward to seeing what else comes...

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-26 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baaing-tree.livejournal.com
Would you mind not using the terms 'alters' or 'personalities' in your notes and summaries? A lot of folks (including us, now) find it dehumanizing.

--Rogan

Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-26 03:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Vocabulary is a major challenge in writing about people who have more than one soul per body. I looked at several reference pages before picking terms. There are a lot of words in use. None of them are perfect. Some are more or less popular. All of them are hated by some people. The options include ...

* Alter.
+ Easily recognizable. Suggests a difference from the original.
- Some people find it insulting.

* Core/host
+ Distinguishable from other people.
- Among the less popular terms. Not applicable to this context, since Maisie no longer exists and the other characters are equal. Maze just fronts the most because she can fake being Maisie.

* Fragment/part/shard/shell/splinter/split
+ Easily recognizable. Suggests division from a larger source.
- Among the least popular terms. Suggests a lower level of complexity and function not in keeping with this character.

* Group member
+ Among the least objectionable terms.
- Doesn't distinguish from membership in other groups, such as student clubs.

* Headmate.
+ Pretty clear, especially once explained. Nice parallel to housemates, thus likely to come into play later.
- Better suited to intrapersonal conversation than to interpersonal narrative. Also they don't know about each other yet, so they kind of haven't reached this stage.

* Insider
+ Moderately clear, especially once explained. Moderately popular.
- Becomes confusing in light of the fact that everyone in the system can and does come out sometimes.

* Person.
+ Least objection.
- Least distinction from anyone else.

* Persona/Personality
+ Pretty clear, especially once explained. Includes the word "person" in it, which appeals to some but not all people.
- Some people find it insulting.

The problem I'm having is that the terms which are most clear and distinguishable from singletons are the less popular with multiple systems. The more popular terms are less distinguishable from multiple systems. Both "multiple" and "plural" are acceptable and clear, but only apply to the collective not to individuals within it.

From a literary perspective, I need to maximize clarity. I'm writing this in first-person from a narrative viewpoint who doesn't know what's going on yet; that creates some inherent confusion. Readers need to be able to distinguish easily between souls-sharing-a-body and those who aren't.

From a cultural perspective, I want to avoid alienating my audience. That's hard because almost all the terms are controversial. All the ones with the advantages I need are mixed.

I could make up yet another new term. I'm reluctant to do this, because it would add to the linguistic clutter, and I'm not sure I could do better than the extant terms. I think anything I created would hit one of or more established drawbacks. This is not a situation where I think a word from an invented language would help. It's probably not a situation where borrowing from a foreign language would help. *ponder* Looking at Greek or Latin roots might be worth a go ...

I wound up picking "alter" because it seemed like the best match for Damask as a character, was reasonably clear, and wasn't in the hatiest "fragment" group. One possibility would be to discuss this in the notes, and link to a vocabulary list.

Possible compromise terms would be "insider" or "headmate." They're not as advantageous for all my needs, but I might could live with them. It would be preferable to driving away part of my target audience.

Further thoughts, given this expanded context?

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-27 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baaing-tree.livejournal.com
Hmm. It is a conundrum! I took a day to think it over.

One thing that comes to mind for me is that a lot of the terminology you've found, especially the more well-known/insulting stuff, is very specifically DID terminology. Which, you know, is fine, but DID and multiplicity aren't necessarily the same thing. Are you writing Damask with DID in mind, or a more general multiplicity? There's room to work around in here.

Obviously Damask doesn't know about their status yet. Some things to think about are: who will eventually figure their plurality out? The therapist? One of the system members? How familiar would they be with DID? These can make a big difference in what terminology they use. For instance, we originally used terms like 'alter' because the DID narrative was what we were familiar with. But other plural people may come at it from a spiritual, religious perspective, and refer to 'spirits,' 'demons,' and so on. If the therapist figures it out first, she'd probably use 'alters' or 'parts,' and you could cover how the various system members feel about that.

However, if one of the system members figure it out, they'll probably utilize whatever vocabulary seems most reasonable to them. You note the linguistic clutter, but really, in my experiences wandering multi in the media, I've NEVER seen anyone use much of anything asides 'personality,' 'alter,' 'fragment,' or (god forbid) 'ego state.' It's not uncommon for people to come up with their own individual vocabulary, especially since there are very few communities of multiples with standard language.

Honestly, because of the superhero milieu, one of the words coming to my mind is 'mask,' or 'face.' (Even, since Damask is a fabric, 'thread.' Fabric is woven of many threads, after all...) 'Insider' also works okay, because even if everyone can front, it's obvious they have rooms inside, or spend some time there, even if they're asleep the whole time.

If you do use therapeutic, dehumanizing terminology, I'd be more okay with it if that aspect is addressed. Honestly, I kind of reflexively flinch when I see 'personality;' it was used in pretty awful ways in my past to discount me and try to quietly 'remove' me. (Because of course, personalities aren't really alive, so can't be murdered.)

--Rogan

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-28 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>Hmm. It is a conundrum! I took a day to think it over.<<

I really appreciate you taking the extra time to help with this.

>>One thing that comes to mind for me is that a lot of the terminology you've found, especially the more well-known/insulting stuff, is very specifically DID terminology. Which, you know, is fine, but DID and multiplicity aren't necessarily the same thing. Are you writing Damask with DID in mind, or a more general multiplicity? There's room to work around in here.<<

I'm not thinking of this as Dissociative Identity Disorder. While there is some overlap -- those who became Damask began as one person, and they develop some dissociative relations -- the construction is different. They didn't come into being by dissociating from unpleasantries; they were cut apart by a psionic knife. Actually, it's the opposite, associative generation, as laid out in "Damask Speaks." Each character's key traits were set by what they were trying to do in order to fight Mindflare.

>>Obviously Damask doesn't know about their status yet. Some things to think about are: who will eventually figure their plurality out? The therapist? One of the system members? <<

One or more of the system members will figure it out. They have a few hints already.

>> How familiar would they be with DID? <<

Probably not very.

>> These can make a big difference in what terminology they use. For instance, we originally used terms like 'alter' because the DID narrative was what we were familiar with. But other plural people may come at it from a spiritual, religious perspective, and refer to 'spirits,' 'demons,' and so on. If the therapist figures it out first, she'd probably use 'alters' or 'parts,' and you could cover how the various system members feel about that. <<

I thought about "parts" from a theatrical aspect. It fits the context and character well, but would be hard to distinguish from acting parts.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-28 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>However, if one of the system members figure it out, they'll probably utilize whatever vocabulary seems most reasonable to them. You note the linguistic clutter, but really, in my experiences wandering multi in the media, I've NEVER seen anyone use much of anything asides 'personality,' 'alter,' 'fragment,' or (god forbid) 'ego state.' It's not uncommon for people to come up with their own individual vocabulary, especially since there are very few communities of multiples with standard language.<<

Hmm, good points. I ruled out "ego state" early on as both vulgar and inaccurate. *ponder* Well, inaccurate for a true multiple. It's closer for an aspected person like me.

>> Honestly, because of the superhero milieu, one of the words coming to my mind is 'mask,' or 'face.' (Even, since Damask is a fabric, 'thread.' Fabric is woven of many threads, after all...) 'Insider' also works okay, because even if everyone can front, it's obvious they have rooms inside, or spend some time there, even if they're asleep the whole time. <<

I seriously thought about these, but they don't seem to fit this particular character as well as some other options. "Mask" would be great if they had a core member, but they don't really, they're coequal.

>>If you do use therapeutic, dehumanizing terminology, I'd be more okay with it if that aspect is addressed. Honestly, I kind of reflexively flinch when I see 'personality;' it was used in pretty awful ways in my past to discount me and try to quietly 'remove' me. (Because of course, personalities aren't really alive, so can't be murdered.)<<

Aaaaand that's what finally killed my willingness to use "alter." Not even for sake of clarity am I willing to remind readers of someone wanting to murder them, and your experience is sadly common. I had known about the terminology problem, and about the integration-as-murder problem, but hadn't quite put those pieces together until you said this.

I've been thinking more about "headmates" and will probably go with that. It's a close match for "housemates" and it plays to Damask's house-shaped innerspace. People talk about "so-and-so's housemates" so having outside reference to them this way is not unreasonable. Originally I thought this was a term you'd need to know the multi community to find -- but it's a short step from "housemates" to "headmates" through standard linguistic evolution: "my housemates who live in my head" -> "headmates." It'd be polygenetic (making up a word that already exists) but that's fine.

I'll try to find time to edit my notes accordingly.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-29 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baaing-tree.livejournal.com
I had known about the terminology problem, and about the integration-as-murder problem, but hadn't quite put those pieces together until you said this.

Yeah, they go hand in hand, in our experience. Few people will outright say they want us to die, but our parents were totally fine with asking us to take medication to make us "go away," so "their child" would come back, and would diplomatically ask about ways to make us "disappear." They insisted they loved us very much, but they didn't want us to exist either, and they felt that as long as they coached this idea in 'polite' language, the sentiment wasn't awful.

I've been thinking more about "headmates" and will probably go with that.

It's a good general purpose word, and works quite well! A good choice.

I'll try to find time to edit my notes accordingly.

I appreciate that.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-06-29 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>Yeah, they go hand in hand, in our experience.<<

0_o That is creepy.

>> Few people will outright say they want us to die, but our parents were totally fine with asking us to take medication to make us "go away," so "their child" would come back, and would diplomatically ask about ways to make us "disappear." They insisted they loved us very much, but they didn't want us to exist either, and they felt that as long as they coached this idea in 'polite' language, the sentiment wasn't awful. <<

I think that it's a version of what happens when people fall in love but wish the lover was different somehow, or when a child is other than what parents wanted (i.e. is gay or goth or whatever that they dislike). What they "want back" is often an idealized image that only ever existed in somebody else's head.

It just doesn't usually go as far as legalized murder. Few things are as terrifying as being a sapient person with no legal rights.

The Pagan collection by [livejournal.com profile] kajones_writing has a storyline with similar parental rejection. The main character comes out of a car crash with amnesia, and the parents want their original daughter back, but Charlotte is gone and Anna is here and most people cope badly with that. But some people are more supportive, so that's cool.

>>It's a good general purpose word, and works quite well! A good choice.<<

Yay! I made the changes using the search function. Let me know if you spot any that I missed.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-08-03 03:21 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl, blushing and laughing. (!Me blushing)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
I've actually read this a few times by now and went back to Damask Speaks (and reread it again) before I felt I got a bit of a handle on what exactly happened with Damask's powers in this piece, but it was a wonderful thing to do. ^-^ At first it made that niggling sense of "I know I understand what just happened, but... What just happened?" and then I reread it and reread Damask Speaks and reread it again and that made everything come together far more and it helped me tell the speakers apart a little more.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-08-03 07:42 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl, laughing with her eyes closed. (!Me happy)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Yay! I'm glad that it worked. I knew this poem had a chance of confusing readers, but I didn't think I could explain much more without a) spoiling the surprises, and b) bogging down the narrative. So I provided background material and the introductory poems, and hoped that people would be able to piece it together well enough until the later poems where I could label characters and talents.

*nods* In later poems you could namethe speaker in pieces where you wanted to be sure readers didn't mix anyone up, but here the lack of distinction actually adds to the poem's strength. At least for me. If everyone is simply 'I' and everyone is initially seen as 'Maisie', that makes the confusion far stronger for the reader too.

And confusion isn't necessarily a bad thing, anyway. Like I said, this is the kind of poem/story/event that makes me feel like what just happened makes complete and utter sense within the context and I just haven't figured out how yet. That's a kind of confusion that lends itself well to rereads. ^_^

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-10-31 12:19 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Re-reading the earlier Damask stories in light of the latest couple. I want to note that this one didn't confuse me (much) because I've read a couple of books* about multiples**, and so the "blank spots" and/or "time disappears" things (as well as several others such as "where did this thing come from, and how did it get into my room?") are Very Big Clues to me that this is a multiple not yet in communication with themselves.

* When Rabbit Howls, which I don't recall much of, and This Alien Shore, which is one of my favorite books.

** I've also had one fairly close friend who was multiple, and another acquaintance who said she was but I didn't know her well enough to see the shifts. Both of these were the disassociation-due-to-trauma type.

Profile

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
ysabetwordsmith

April 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 2829
30      

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags