108. Dubiosity 2, half lie

The boy with the hairball was caught up in a knot. His doctor identified the alien nest in his gut. That was the easy part. The  hard part was breaking through a warped psyche that treated hair as food. The hairball was a comfort for Eric, and though it blocked his intestines and threatened his life, he was not anxious to get rid of it. “It’s like the truth…like an alien baby that I need to carry and give birth to.” I nodded and wondered how psychotic a thought this was. He continued, “I know it seems bizarre, but every eyelash, each nose hair, and every delicious long head hair represents a truth I could not speak to my family; in essence, each is a swallowed truth. And if I disgorge this massive nest of truth, I just don’t know how I’ll live with the consequences. I’ll have to talk to Derek.”

“Who’s Derek?” I inquired tentatively, wondering if Eric had mentioned him previously.

“Um, uh, he’s my helper. I talk with him when I’m in tight spots.”

I could see Eric flush and avoid eye contact. I proceeded cautiously. “So, Derek is a friend, from school, yes. Where does he live?”

Big deep sigh. “No, not around here, not a friend from school. He’s a… well, he lives in my head. I guess you’d call him another personality I have.”

“Okay”, this was not my first rodeo with a personality alter. “So how long have you known about Derek?”

“Since grade school. He listened to my pain. When no one  else was around, he comforted me. I guess he’s like a really big invisible friend. Do you think I’m nutz now?”

“No. It’s not a word in my clinical vocabulary. What I think is that you developed a coping strategy to deal with overwhelming pain in the absence of supportive family. You did something to avoid going nutz. I actually think that dissociated personalities are very creative solutions. The biggest problem with alters, however, is closing them out, putting them in the unemployment line.”

Eric was in rapt attention. I could tell that he was not used to being transparent or being taken seriously. In his past he’d overblown his reality with school bullies who ground him up with his own words and gestures, mercilessly mocking him. Here he was desperately revealing an inner sanctuary to me, fearful of being betrayed but so hopeless that he’d try anything now, including suicide. “I, I, uh, I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, what I mean is that as you heal your old hurts by sharing with me, your buddy Derek will no longer have a job to do. You won’t need him, see? And eventually you’ll say goodbye to him. Some folks use pills or sex or alcohol to cope with their pain. Eventually, if they get the help they need, it’s goodbye to the substance or compulsive behavior. Does that make sense to you?”

“Yeah, and when you say it like that, I don’t feel so sick or crazy.”

“Eric, the funny thing with crazy, is that truly crazy people don’t ever wonder if they’re crazy. Because you do, I know you aren’t. Did you follow that?”

With a laugh, “yeah.” Another deep sigh and a knowing smile. “So you think I’ll be okay one day?”

“Absolutely. Other people in your life will continue to suck, but you don’t have to fix them, not your parents, your siblings, your classmates, the bullies on the bus, the liars at the NRA. You are not responsible for anyone but yourself. By staying in your head, you will be a lot more sane. You can’t fly two planes or two brains at one time, kid. Okay? That’s dubiosity.”

“Okay. Is that really a word?”

“It is now. If you continue to talk openly and fearlessly with me, you won’t have to scurry off to whisper with Derek any longer. That’s dubious, which leads to dubiosity. I just figured out where Derek lives.”

“Really? Is this a joke?”

“Well, a really bad pun.”

“Okay, I guess I can take it. Where does Derek live?”


“Ouch, is this some sort of pun therapy where you motivate your patients to get better by coming up with the most awful puns imaginable?”

“Yes, welcome to Pun Island. The Pun is about to begin.”

“Cough, cough, hack, hack.”

“Dude, are you okay?”

“Just coughing up a hairball, man.”

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