The Teen in my Head
There is someone else living inside my brain.
I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, formerly called Multiple Personalities). I just have another me who pipes up from time to time. And, man, can she be annoying!
She’s 14 years old, and she doesn’t have a name. I don’t know when I acquired her, but I do know when she acts up.
She’s the one who frets when a friend doesn’t answer my IM. When he does, she squees, “He noticed me! He noticed me!” She’s the one who wants to buy ridiculous, useless – but amusing – things. She makes me eat that extra chocolate cookie, then frets about getting fat and pimply. She’s the one who is hooked on all the stupid clicky Internet games.
I’ve heard the theory that everyone has a mental age that they get stuck at. No matter how old they get, they always picture themselves at that age. Mine is somewhere between 28 and 34. So how did I end up with a 14-year-old?
My theory about her existence is that she is there to try to do what I never did when I was 14 – all the regular teen-age angst and frivolous stuff: mad crushes and pouting, self-obsession and discovering her sexuality, in-jokes with BFFs and trying out fingernail polish.
When I was actually 14, I did none of that. I was in a prolonged downward mood swing, made worse by puberty and the horrors of junior high school. I wrote depressing poetry and read French existentialists. If they had had hipsters back then, I suppose I would have been one.
When I feel her popping up in the back of my skull, most of the time I have to put her in a box and sit on the lid. It’s scary to let her take over. She’s rapid-cycling, impulsive, and worst of all, unmedicated. (I don’t know why my meds don’t affect her, but there you are, they don’t.)
Once in a while I let her out of the box. I let her enjoy some mad crushes (as long as she doesn’t do anything about them). I let her buy things that cost $20 or less. I let her talk me into fake fingernails (once!). I let her have some of the fun that I never had at that age.
The thing is, I don’t know if this is just a me thing, a female thing, or a bipolar thing.
I know I’m not completely alone in having a teen ride-along. I do know a man with DID who has an alter that is a teen girl. I could tell when she was out because she giggles a lot and buys junk food. A friend of mine who has suffered from depression also has a 14-year-old in her head. She has given her teen a name – Innie Me. Hers behaves a lot like mine.
I also don’t know whether having a teen living in my head is a good thing or a bad thing. It could be good, because it does give me access to the feelings and experiences I never had as an actual teen. My teen is better than I am at having fun.
On the other hand, I know it would be a bad thing if I let her have her way all the time. She needs that box and I need to sit on the lid. The trick is knowing when and how and for how long to let her out.
On an episode of Scrubs, one character remarks that no matter how old a woman gets, she always has an insecure 14-year-old inside her. I suppose that men have similar phenomena. Most people are said to have an inner child (although I think they are usually younger than 14). I think my husband’s inner child is usually about seven.
Certainly my teen is insecure. There’s no question about that. But she’s also enthusiastic, engaged, and energetic, as well as moody, dramatic, and confused. I think she may be related to the hypomanic part of myself, although I’m also sure some of my fits of apparently reasonless weeping have been her acting up.
My therapist knows about my 14-year-old. We have discussed her and her behavior and her moods several times. Dr. B. has never expressed surprise or shock or puzzlement at the idea. She does think it’s good that I’m learning to sit on the box lid when I need to. We’ve talked less about when it’s a good time to let her out. That’s something I still need to work on.
I guess I’ll have to learn to live with my 14-year-old, because I don’t think she’s going away anytime soon. And I don’t think I really want her to.