By Artemis (Written in 2014, updated 2021)
The short answer: I don’t know.
The long answer: I really don’t know.
As a mod for livingplural I would get this question constantly. People would ask if they were multiple almost every day, and I could never answer them, because I really, really don’t know. It’s the same way that you don’t know if someone else is gay unless they know they are; you can tell them what you think, but in the end, it has to be something that they figure out.
I am not a psychologist, and I have had no formal medical training in that field. I can’t be your counselor, and we can’t figure out these big issues between us.
Can I tell you what I think? Yes. But in the end, it’s just going to be my opinion. The fact of the matter is, multiplicity is tailor-made. Sure, the DID criteria exists, but even then, it’s pretty bare-bones. There is an infinite way these things can work. You can have fragments, you can have fully-formed people, you can have a mix, you can have no fictives, or your entire system can be made up of fictives, and anything in between.
It might be good, if you’re questioning, to try to reach out to any prospective system mates. Either by writing notes, meditation, or even speaking out loud, and seeing who answers. Sometimes, someone is just waiting for someone to ask them if they’re there. We have had people sitting in the proverbial closets of our minds for over an actual decade before finally recognizing that they’ve been here the whole time. I consider meditation especially helpful for reaching out to people who might not even realize themselves that they’re present.
Are you a writer? Do you hear your characters in your mind, having thoughts of their own? Maybe most importantly, do these thoughts exist outside your story universe? Maybe your character has strong opinions about how you take your coffee, or whether or not you should quit your day job. That’s a pretty good sign that there’s something a little extra there, and something we’ve found helps in getting those ‘characters’ to become self-aware (if they aren’t already) is talking to them not just as a muse but as a person. Instead of thinking ‘what would my character want me to do about my dayjob?’ maybe ask, ‘hey character, what do you think I should do about my day job?’ the key is if your character can make decisions for themselves and are not just being puppeted by your brain. Funnily enough, one way is by imagining them doing or saying something they would never do, and see if they say something about it/get angry at you for imagining it, or just straight up refuse to do it.
If you come to the conclusion that you’re plural, great! Welcome to the club. I have a guide for that. You might be too scared to adopt the label, and that’s natural. It’s okay to experiment with applying the label, as long as you’re being true to yourself. If you find it doesn’t fit or you might find a better explanation, there’s no shame in that either. Plurality can be short-lived or a lifelong companion, or you may just be wrong about your experiences, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.
My best advice would be this: Don’t let other people make decisions for you, or feel like you’re obligated to accept those labels because someone thinks you fit them. Don’t rely on people who tell you they can see your inner life better than you can, because they really can’t. Don’t dismiss plurality out of hand because you don’t feel like concretely defined, separate people either. Midcontinuum and median plurals exist. But don’t jump into a label because you feel pressured to, either. Living true to yourself and acknowledging when you could be wrong is important. So is acknowledging when you might be right.