The book put a name on what I was experiencing the edges of. There were other people out there like that. Chris Costner Sizemore had an extreme case. I decided that what had happened to her was too scary, and proceeded to make sure that there was harmony throughout the Collective, once it formed. The beginning stages had already been set for serious fragmentation -- I was Joan at school, Joanie at home. Two different cultures. Two different names. Eventually, two different girls. (One boyfriend tried calling me "Joanie-Joan". I abhorred the nickname. It felt wrong. In retrospect, it may have been self-preservation, to keep my selves separate, to keep the strategy working.)
After reading the book, the outlook on the world changed in a slight but significant way. Circumstances were no longer forcing us to keep creating new selves by default, and collapsing them into one or the other of us -- we could choose to create one of us to face something, and we could keep conflicting stuff that needed to be kept isolated separate from the rest of our day-to-day operating personalities. We could choose. We could control it. We could sit and talk to ourselves, and no one else, no one outside the Collective, ever had to know.
This proved invaluable when the depression first started hitting. I would later learn that I have a family background of depression, and that Dad did not get diagnosed or treated until after I left the house. The major opinion of home on mental health professionals was that they were more nuts than the people who went to see them, they would discover problems that you didn't actually have, make any already-existing issues worse, and that if one had problems, one would do well to keep them politely to oneself. And so the little poisonous thoughts, the ones that said, "You suck. Life sucks. Why not just die?" did not get aired to my major confidante, my mother, and remained rankling inside. (My riposte to Dad's homily about "a permanent solution to a temporary problem", which would have been, "Depression is a permanent problem," was fortunately never brought up in family discussion.)
Without Mama to turn to, and it being one of the things that Wasn't Discussed In The Family, not my sister either, who did I have left? My high school buddies? Ha. I learned within the first week that some things were safe and some things were not, and something that deep and vulnerable would not have been safe to talk about. That left ... me. Myself. I. Her. Them. Us. We.
It started out as writing in a notebook to myself, stream-of-consciousness. I wrote what was on the mind, and then the words started coming out weird -- not like an alien, but like a note passed back and forth in class. Two different streams of thought intersecting, in two different handwritings. It was a delight, having a friend I could tell anything to, someone who loved me unconditionally, someone I could trust absolutely. I was fourteen.
Gradually, two handwritings became three, and more. There was a babble on the pages, writing swapping from tiny to loopy to angular to smooth and everywhere in between. There were names, self-images, a whole cast of characters, all engaged in the somewhat scary struggle to get "me" (the main front personality) through high school intact -- and most importantly, alive.