Many survivors look in the mirror and see alters. This doesn’t happen to me, so I can only guess what is going on for them. Perhaps they are seeing the alter who is out at that moment. Perhaps they are seeing an alter blended in with “the host” – the part that others usually see – or superimposed on the “host’s” image. Perhaps they don’t notice anything out of the ordinary because the part that is out expects to see the image of himself or herself in the mirror.
What does happen to me, though, is that I see my mother in the mirror. Her image becomes stronger with each passing year, and it appalls me. Her image isn’t superimposed on mine; I feel I have turned into her. I can see a few differences, but not many. Her hair was thicker, for example.
I avoid mirrors as a result. For a long time I didn’t part my hair because I would have had to use the mirror, and I didn’t use any make-up for the same reason. Just a few months ago I decided that this was ridiculous and started parting my hair for the first time in many a year.
This experience stays in the back of my mind throughout the day. I find myself marking ways in which I am different from her. She never used a computer. She did not exercise. She did not have arthritis. She never washed a window or a floor in her life. She wore red nail polish; I wear none. I have to reassure myself that I still have an identity of my own, no matter what I look like – or what I think I look like.
But it gets worse, much worse. Now I see both my mother and my father in the mirror. I have never identified with my father as I did with my mother. He always seemed foreign to me and I never understood how his mind worked. When I finally figured it out, I still couldn’t understand why he thought that way. Where in the world did he get such stupid and perverse ideas?
I am pretty positive I am not identifying with my father. So why should I see him? Am I really starting to look like him, but without the mustache? That seems pretty unlikely. Perhaps I am not seeing him, but my brother, who did look somewhat like him. My brother died a few years ago and I often have the feeling that I should live for both of us now. Perhaps I have internalized him?
Whatever the explanation, I just don’t get it. My reaction is weird to me. I find my experience just as hard to understand as what I imagine a multiple experiences when they see a change in eye color, the shape of their face, their expression.
Some day I would like an instruction manual for my mind.