Identity Struggles as a Shell

Blogs may include sensitive or triggering content. Reader discretion is advised.

TW: mention of some mildly potentially triggery stuff, read at own risk but I’m keeping it to a vague minimum as best as I can.

Anyone really struggle with a lack of perceived identity?

Like, I think I’m a Shell part. I know my body’s history, even though it feels like a different lifetime and like it didn’t happen to me. I don’t feel connected to much, and feel stuck in hazy limbo. I don’t really feel like a whole Person. I’m too anxious and introverted to go out and try things.

My OT & Psychotherapist have tried to encourage me… I know it’s on me to try explore life and find things I relate to and am drawn to, and even to connect with my other Alters if they’re still there. I just don’t seem to be programmed that way, to do that. I just seem to be “in waiting” for a different Self to front.

I’m a grown adult who feels like a shy Shell Fragment of an insecure kid, afraid to stand out, afraid to explore, lonesome but wallowing in it versus doing much about it.

I feel like I’m in waiting. For something else to take over. I’ve been in this stage before (I identify as having OSDD, so my experience is: it’s one shared memory/shared slices of identity, with some mild memory barriers {more how ‘real’ or hazy or like they happened to someone else that a memory is; not total amnesia -like there *used* to be} but my Alters have almost all shared the birth name and felt like versions of the same Person).

I don’t like being just a Shell. I want to be vivacious, have personality, likes, hobbies, a unique aesthetic, a sense of self-hood beyond just being mopey and in waiting, connected to the body, creating a future for myself. But it’s like I am programmed with being “in safe-mode.” I am not fully committed to living, and fronting is getting old.

I don’t know if there have been Fusions. I suspect there have. I feel more like a single entity in one body than I ever used to, to the point I’ve wondered if I’m sub-clinical, though I’ve also experienced re-traumatizations that have disintegrated and un-Fused me. But it’s like my Soul is gone. I’m a robot. 

I don’t know if it’s medication side effects. I’m in wait for a Psychiatrist.

I don’t know if my will is just broken after so much chaos. Life has felt mostly like slavery: do this, be this way, do what teachers say, do as the boss requires, be used for others’ appreciation and to achieve shit I don’t care about, be kept from what I’m drawn to, be obedient. 

Only one point in my life did I ever feel emancipated and free, and I really rebelled and went wild with exploration. Those people are gone from my life, it was a different time, it was still an Alter (Harley), and it had its abusive drawbacks.

A huge chunky chapter of what I thought was going to be “my forever life” is closing, and I never saw it coming. Losing my career and friends and world. Losing my apartment and city. Suing for Long-Term Disability coverage to be reinstated. Being stuck in my dad’s home like a brooding teen again. Afraid to meet people, go out, even just for a walk. Body Dysmorphia so bad I feel unlovable.

I don’t know what there is for me, what’s next for me. I don’t know who I am to be. 

It used to be that Mecca, the spider and keeper of all the Selves (& connector, with her webs) was around to poke Her head up. Like a pariscope, I could feel her presence, coming up in my consciousness, Co-Con. 

She was wise, calculating and certainly no Shell, taking in the world with predatory precision (to determine what Our obstacles and shortcomings were, and to plan on what kind of Personality could shine in that reality, and how They’d have to be to conquer challenges), and then going back under to create the next Identity before it would manifest with a selective amnesia barrier to the prior Me, or me the Shell.

This time, there’s no clue what what We’re up against, what We want, what We need to be, how We want to be it, Whom to become. 

Mecca isn’t anywhere, or so it seems. Haven’t felt Her for some time, several years since early in therapy 4 years ago. I guess maybe Her role is flawed. And since so much getting as healed as I have, there’s only so much one can go backwards. Mecca knew Alters (as We experienced them) weren’t the answer anymore.

In my experience, Alters serve a role, but aren’t whole, and We finally saw that our way of coping hadn’t been working. 

Maybe Mecca feels she’ll do wrong by making a new Alter. Maybe Mecca Fused. As Fusions happen, it’s become more like a drop in the bucket (where there’s a sense of something different and new, and that We’re somewhat reconstituted differently) versus how it used to be majorly disorienting. Now I don’t know what’s Integrating vs Fusing. It’s all started to feel the same. But then, I’ve been a Shell the whole time so maybe that’s just my experience of it.

Maybe there’s a point of being Fused where you’re just on your own? But I’d imagine I’d be more of a Person were that the case. I feel abandoned. I feel defective. I’ve been this Shell almost a year, maybe longer.

If Mecca still exists, I imagine she’s protective of the Fusions. Like a sac of baby spiders, but it’s becoming one whole gestating Self. Perhaps when she feels It’s ready, It’ll Fuse. But we imagine: not until she’s sure and life is ready for It as much as It is ready for life. 

I get the sense that until things are freshly ready for a do-over in life, I’ll be bumbling along awaiting the debut. Because being newly-Fused is so freaky; feeling so new. I don’t miss that.

Times like this, I miss using cannabis. I became addicted so I had to stop 1 year ago this coming September, as I was using so frequently it wasn’t helping me and only causing memory issues, paranoia and worse anxiety. 

But, when it worked for me still, it loosened barriers and my Soul came out. I could laugh, dance, find joy in things, felt motivated, beautiful, alive, free. I could explore the nature of mySelf, and just be genuine. Sometimes it induced switching and levels of Co-Con, and I felt that was helpful. 

I feel like I’m in a cage, away from my Selves.

This feels like more than just Depression, Anxiety, numbness and Depersonalization, or medication side effects. I am lacking parts of mySelf. I’m less than whole. 

I even still struggle with accepting my experience of having OSDD vs “just” Depersonalization. I mean, Mecca being a spider, for one. Is that just me being “crazy”/Delusional? It’s been my real experience, but I know it sounds crazy. And I feel shame for that.

And the Child who has fronted…

There’s a sad Child me I can’t connect with, who has fronted before. But I’ve been feeling her depressive emotional bleed-through. I think my Therapist can connect with her, though, and that’s my plan at next session. 

She wants it badly. I can’t stand being “stuck” in Shell-mode like this. Even a blank canvas takes colour; I feel like I’m repellent of influence and meant to stay blank and in hiding. 

But maybe if we can in some way Fuse or introduce the hidden painful parts, progress can be made.

What I’m scared of with that is another Age-Regression/Switch to my younger Self. It feels too vulnerable, too “crazy,” or the idea that my Therapist might think I’m just pretending for attention makes me disgusted. 

I don’t think he will think that of me, but he’s not entirely on the OSDD band wagon; more of an IFS stance but doesn’t seem to understand how independently separate my Identity states can be. Like I’m Delusional that they feel separate enough from me-as-I-am-now. I’m phobic of the notion of having Delusions, though I’ve had them in the past. Such shame felt around that.

But also, what if I do switch into that Child part? Last time, in in-patient last September, she wasn’t even sure it was true that our mom (our abuser) was dead. And what if I can’t Switch back in time for the end of session to drive home?

What if, which I suspect, she’s so desperate for love and connection? And wants it from our Therapist? I can feel she does. It feels inappropriate, but that’s emotional intimacy for me in general. I’m scared of her taking over and asking for things she can’t have from him and can’t get elsewhere. I’m scared of her being inappropriate, because she’s been groomed to confuse loving intimacy with sexual intimacy in the past. And I’m scared of creeping out my Therapist and losing him.

I just wish I was doing better and not having to face unknowns. Which is silly, I know. I feel like I should have myself figured out better by now. I hate that it takes so long.

I just want to be a Person. A real Person. One who feels her age and doesn’t feel ashamed of herself.

I don’t know how to do that. I lack the capacity. Tired of feeling this way, and yet all I can do is try and wait.


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1 year ago

I vaguely remember a book I read once. The main character trades away a piece of her soul at the story’s start. The book is then the adventure to get it back. What she learns by the end of the book is that her soul grew back on its own. Had it been damaged? Yes, but through her adventures and relationships, it had healed and grown.

I’ve only been the host of T-E-C for a few years. Before that, I primarily existed for one thing – work. And when I was unable to work, I was lost. My entire identity was (and still is, to an extent) bound to my professional life. I understand feeling like a shell. I still do sometimes. But, like in the story, I’ve found that if I work at it, I can help make the little piece of soul that’s in me grow. And I do that by doing exactly what you’re doing, Flusterette – reaching out, being myself, even if that self is full of emptiness and doubt. When we are seen, it’s like water on a plant. Some amount is needed just to survive, but enough water and we can grow. So I encourage you to continue to write. You’re good at it.

Part of the emptiness might be, or be helped by, medication. When I’m really depressed, I feel more shell-like. Or maybe I get depressed because I feel more shell-like; I don’t know the cause and effect. I’m not saying you are clinically depressed – only a professional can diagnose that. But at least for me, I’ve found anti-depressants can help.

But medication alone isn’t enough. We need community and people we can be ourselves with. That’s a large part of why the cafe came into being. I needed a community, and the website gave me something to do with my work talents outside my regular work life. Y’all might think I’m generously hosting this place, but I needed it. I needed all of you. Yes, even the shells – maybe especially the shells.

As for the child part in therapy, oh, do I have problems letting that happen! (Not that I always have a say in it.) One thing that helps is doing therapy via Zoom, precisely because I don’t have to worry about “what happens if I switch out and that part can’t drive home”? I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your therapist. Heck, maybe print out your post and hand it to them. I’m serious.

Therapy is a kind of intimate relationship. And if your therapist has experience with trauma survivors, I’d think he’d know that sometimes it’s hard for us to know where to draw the boundaries in that relationship. But that’s what he’s there for, to help with precisely that. So, again, I encourage you to share what you wrote with him.

As for Mecca being a spider, I think that’s really cool.

One last thing. You are a person. A real person. One full of emptiness and shame, perhaps, but a real person nonetheless. That little piece of soul you have can grow and fill that shell. I’m still working on that myself. It’s hard. There is no shortcut. But it’s possible, and by reaching out in this post, you’re working on it. You don’t have to just wait. You can be yourself here. You can grow.

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