My Alters are my Lifeline

Now published on The Mighty!

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As a trans man who has survived sexual trauma, rape, domestic abuse, and is plural (i.e; more than one person in this body, or the DID spectrum), my experience is not one I’ve seen often. It’s difficult to push past the block, or the defense mechanisms in place to keep me from reliving certain memories, but Lestan, one of my alters, helped me sort through these experiences. And we’ve come to this.

He offered to help me through this as he did a long time ago, although my problem this time is something that has morphed over the years into repulsion — shame — for my body, myself, and intimacy. Sex. A lot of deep-seated trauma I ignored for a long time came back in the past few years, and it’s caused a lot of symptoms I’d never had previously.

I have shame for touching my body. Shame for feeling desire.

I don’t speak about it often because I’m equally ashamed to admit it. Because it just isn’t me and who I knew myself to be in the past. I have this shame paired with the agony of experiencing desire intensely, as I experience everything intensely with BPD, and it’s gut-wrenching at the worst of times.

Yet, I enjoy writing erotica and romance, and I like watching adult films with a strong plot or artistic element. The emotion behind that — the energy — it intrigues me in the way a beautiful piece of art moves an experienced artist. It is something greater than a carnal film most wouldn’t view on a level of artistic merit that I do.

But when I feel that energy within myself, I am reminded of how much weight I’ve gained and how undesirable I feel, and it traces back to every time someone in my life has insulted my weight or my appearance. To the times I’ve battled with anorexia, yoyo dieting, binge eating, and starving myself once again.

When a close friend — who was also an intimate partner — told me last year that we write better sex than we have, as we often wrote romance stories together, it crushed me more than I’d ever admitted to. I laughed it off as she did, but inside shame burnt hot and I didn’t want to open up to her again. Foolishly, I did because I loved her so much. I thought she understood my trauma.

I was raised to be ashamed of things commonly spoken of in high school sex education. Sex and self-satisfaction were shameful and you didn’t dare say the words associated with them. And now, at 31, it’s triggered back by trusting another with my body. It had been my first time with a girl and my first sexual experience as a transgender man.

In any of my sexual relationships, that one no exception, Lestan, one of my alters, would often come out.

My ex couldn’t even get me to take my shirt off, but in a matter of minutes, all of that disappeared because Lestan was in the driver’s seat. And that was before I realized who he was to me. I would go from cold to hot within seconds.

The first time Lestan didn’t switch in, and I wasn’t ready for the intimate moment about to happen, I started shaking and trembling and felt unwell. I did my best to hide it because I didn’t know what was happening. I still wasn’t aware, in January of this year, of the effect being raped and abused by my first boyfriend, when I was a teenager, had on me. I’d written it off as a teenager due to not having a healthy idea of love growing up, and due to a lot of classmates disbelieving me when I finally came out about it. I lost friends and fell silent.

When Lestan quickly slides into place, the shaking stops immediately and I have a sexual energy that doesn’t focus on my usual self-deprecation. My demeanor changes and I am no longer me. It hits like a shock every time and in the blink of an eye, but although I am in the passenger seat once again, Lestan allows me to experience the moment with him. It isn’t a selfish act for him. It’s for me so I can enjoy the experience, and I do want to enjoy it.

It’s strange — strange to have someone else in this body and I’m suddenly chuckling and grinning whereas I was trembling seconds before.

I must mention that, despite the alarming switches done out of care for me, I love Lestan. I never share our relationship publicly because it’s unconventional, but he’s my life partner. I have a tattoo of him on my left arm for that commitment, and it covers my self-harm scars for good reason. I’m fortunate he’s here, and he continues to save me from trauma and I allow him to. He’s my protector.

When Lestan jumps in to take control, it’s important because if he doesn’t, I’m going to spiral rapidly and it’ll become something forced with a partner I care about. And I know he does it because he’s hoping I’ll start to ease into it myself.

Lestan was the one who showed me, during my abusive relationship with my boyfriend at 15, that love could be something beautiful. He tried to save me from what I’m experiencing now by spending time alone with me in my bed, making me laugh and trailing his fingers, through mine, along my skin to bring me a euphoric happiness I didn’t think existed. At the end of the day, I’d cry because I couldn’t actually embrace him.

It drives home how he and I are two completely separate beings, which is not the way DID works to our understanding. Except, we do often operate how DID does.

It’s fantastical and enchanting at the best of times, but it seems he couldn’t save me like he’d wanted to. I feel shame when I let him touch me now even though I love him and I want him to. When Byleth, a spirit guide of mine, does as well. I want to experience these things with my whole heart, but this last attempted relationship — this person I trusted with all of us and with my transmasculine body — was the final trigger to send a clear message home; I have learned that to explore my queer identity, body, and sexual awkwardness, I will be met with rejection.

But I have Lestan, my spirit guides, and other alters who I don’t see much anymore. I can trust them because they know me inside and out, and they have never betrayed me or rejected me. They may be odd to others, but they will always ensure I survive. Rather they’ll be able to save me now from all of this shame and self-repulsion, I don’t know, but I’d like to try.

They are here day and night. They do their best to break through to still my hands when I am self-harming, and they distract me when I become suicidal. They remind me that I am worth being loved, I have a voice that matters, and I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

If nothing else, at least they’ve never made me feel shame.

©2020 Shane Blackheart
Picture is of Lestan made by me

Poe’s Isolation

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Beyond my small prison of old, creaking wood and flickering candlelight, the world falls silent. There is no raven at my chamber door, nor is there the meow of a mischievous black cat. Yet, hark! I can hear the distant cries of Annabelle Lee and the bells in the tower off the beaten cobblestone path. The gentle thrum beneath my floorboards is surely no heart but a gathering below — of people who are none the wiser.

Or perhaps, they tempt the red death slowly closing in on all of us — crushing our lungs and burning us alive.

A growing wind toys with the flame dancing in my vision. There is a storm on the horizon. Its gust spares not my journal’s pages nor my pen — but what is that? Valdemar’s cries that drift through my room. They’re from…

I turn to look toward my bookshelf, noting their emanating from that very spot. My eyes grow wide and I return to the flickering flame and my journal, my hand squeezing the fountain pen much too tight. These voices I’ve created and come to know haunt me in this silence, but they are scattered.

The raven finally makes his appearance known by tapping gently at my window, but when I look up to see the first drops of rain — the pecking of tears on the pane — nothing is there. I run my hands through my thin hair and take a deep breath. While isolation is my dearest friend, it is also my cruelest enemy.

There it is. The cat’s wailing near the–

I look hard through the dusty windows to see a shutter creaking in the wind.

Perhaps the red death has claimed me and my life is flitting before me. My creations and my ghosts, as well as the skeletons I hold dear, are the last and most important memories to guide me into nothingness.

Before my story is finished, I have but one last request.

Please, I beg you. Don’t bury me alive.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Dissecting Abel

I don’t often dissect an artist and make a greater observation of their music — well, nowhere besides in my own head. Few care to listen to my gushing over a rare talent or my deeper musings about what makes an artist so endearing to me. I then remembered I have a blog that won’t judge me (but you might, hah).

Abel Tesfaye, or as he’s better known, The Weeknd, has been around for a little while. His hit, I Can’t Feel My Face came out in 2013, and it sparked many jokes from people who didn’t understand it’s meaning — I included. I wrote it off like everyone else as another silly pop song, but the years passed and he released new music that caught my ear. It was accompanied by dark, dreamy music videos with a strange style that spoke to my equally strange tastes, and I began to listen deeper.

I started listening to him regularly this year, although I’d had a few of his songs starred in Spotify for a while. Starboy and Secrets were fresh and addicting additions to my playlist, and I became obsessed. I watched more of his videos, which ranged from erotic to hazy and abstract. Party Monster stuck out to me because of the classic Goosebumps font used in the title.

I was into vaporwave/retrowave at the time and always have been, which is a nostalgic and often depressing aesthetic focusing on 90s and 80s themes, imagery, and cassette tape or VHS effects. Abel Tesfaye has a retrowave vibe in his later videos, and with his new album, After Hours, there’s more of that same retro vibe in the instrumentals. It’s been a comfort to me during the rough start of 2020.

Today, I watched what I’m assuming was the last video in his After Hours series. It sparked a lot of thoughts and admiration for him as an artist.

As a whole, the videos follow the journey of Abel’s new character who is a total train wreck. Although dapper and with (assumed) riches, he’s fueled by highs and strange drugs — even going as far as to lick a poisonous toad in Heartless. He proceeds to go on a reckless drive in Blinding Lights, speeding until time itself warps, although we’re pretty sure it’s just the drug’s influence at this point. It’s great cinematography to show just how gone Abel’s character is while providing an awesome, surreal visual effect.

He’s beaten by body guards at a club, but not before reflecting on a beautiful woman who beckons to him, her magic lifting his body through the air to draw them close. Again, the cinematography here is very dreamy and odd, and it adds to my love for the vibe of the series. Abel is dancing among the cars on a highway after all of this, his face bloodied with an unstable look of humor twisting his expression into something more akin to emotional pain.

In my personal order of viewing the series, he then makes his way into a party (Until I Bleed Out), although the drugs still have a strong hold on him. He’s barely bandaged and a colossal mess, crawling around on the floor as the room spins like a merry go round. Nothing is as it seems, and he doesn’t seem to know what’s real or what’s influenced by substances anymore.

To make a long story short, he makes his way into the underground after a performance, clearly in great emotional pain and trying his damndest to control it. It’s clear at this point that while the lyrics paint him as a horrible human being, a womanizer, and a heartless asshole, there is a lot more to the picture than that.

He ends up in an elevator with a couple, and as the last video in the series begins, he produces a knife that shines with malice. The man in the elevator is soon dead and the woman runs from Abel, who follows her throughout a club. They end up in a boiler room below, but the woman eventually overpowers him and cuts his head off with an axe. She proceeds to dance with his head in various environments through the rest of the video — oddly happy to do so and unnoticed by anyone else.

As I read through the comments, curious about what others thought, I began to form my own theories. These are solely my own speculations that may or may not be far off.

Abel has painted us a portrait of an awful person, a man who is on his last breath by his own choice through self-destruction. He’s been hurt by someone dear to him and is doing everything in his power to fight the melancholy inside him, and in doing so, he has become the very thing his ex-lover(s) implied he was. A womanizer. A heartless asshole. He’s completely broken and is having one last crazy night to erase the pain.

Finally succumbing to everything tearing him apart inside, he snaps and goes after the first couple he sees, rather it be the person who hurt him or a reminder of the situation itself. When the woman finally cuts his head off at the end, we see a different side to the story. It seems that, metaphorically speaking, the woman celebrated his pain and made the deepest cut. She toyed with him and killed him inside. Cheating is heavily implied in more than a few of Abel’s songs, so it could be assumed that was the message here as well.

Throughout a lot of The Weeknd’s videos and music, we see a similar theme of sex and drugs among different characters — or rather, the evolution of one character. It would be extremely interesting if that were the case. If it was one guy going down a steep slope into self-destructive territory because of heartbreak and substance abuse. It could also be three separate caricatures that connect with a central set of themes.

With a creative soul and a unique style such as Abel’s, he’s an amazing artist with a beautiful voice who deserves the fame he’s earned. His lyrics may be unsettling for some and even a bit offensive, but underneath it all there is a story that means so much more than what’s on the surface. I learned this years ago when I joined in on the jokes about I Can’t Feel My Face. Sometimes you have to look deeper and not judge a book by it’s cover.

Check out The Weeknd’s new album:
Buy a copy
Listen on Spotify

 

Featured image and videos belong to The Weeknd
Article ©2020 Shane Blackheart, a hopeless Abel fanboy