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The Voices Inside Me: Natalie In Toyland

Thursday 16th March 2017 by Natalie Kipper

I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was about six. This was partially a formality as I had shown signs of it much earlier on — hallucinations (both visual and auditory), along with delusions and other troublesome symptoms. That diagnosis of Childhood Onset Schizophrenia was a blessing of sorts though, as I was able to learn (admittedly with some difficultly) that I saw and heard things that others did not. It took time, and a lot of bullying, but I think it let me adapt to living amongst normal people much more easily than if my disorder had shown up later in life.

I found a great deal of comfort in toys. The one magical thing about my case of Schizophrenia (I don’t know if this is typical) is that toys had personalities. I actually like this part. Stuffed animals are my favorite; they are the most understanding and amicable. Dolls and figures have a tendency to be a bit, um, set in their ways. I have over two hundred plushes and each one is a friend to me. My brother calls my room, “The Room of a Thousand Eyes,” and that is not much of an exaggeration.

I have been asked before if I had a favorite amongst my fluffy friends and I genuinely do not. At different times I may favor one for cuddling over the others but I do rotate every so often to make sure it is fair. There is, however, one plush who actually isn’t inside my room but in the hallway outside. His name is Klaus and he is a large, very old brown bear that I received from my Grandfather upon his passing. Klaus is a very special boy because he is assigned a job (which for the record, he volunteered for). He guards my room from the scary things I see. Sort of a “Guard Bear,” I guess. He takes it very seriously and I offered him time off once, but he declined and sounded a little offended with the suggestion. I do make sure to salute him and thank him for his hard work every night as I head off to bed, as well as every morning when I head out to start my day. His “voice ” is slightly gruff like an old man but he has a delightful guffawing laugh. It isn’t like my Grandfather’s, in case you were wondering (his was a softer voice), but I can totally see Klaus being some other plush’s grandfather.

My ability to “hear” toys  was sort of a secret super power but not without its flaws. I have a tendency to buy toys that are damaged and then repair them, rather than buying a one in perfect condition. I feel bad for them and want to nurse them back to health.

While the plushes can communicate to me the way as humans do – with words – sometimes, it is as if they are projecting their emotions instead. When the damaged ones come into my care, more often than not, they are too timid to talk and even their emotions are weak, like a flickering candle struggling to stay lit on a windy night. The longer they stay in my care, the more they open up and the majority of them do eventually use words. I have a few that never went on to use words but they are in the minority.

In my high school art class, we had a bin full of dismembered and otherwise abused action figures that other students had used for sculptures and things like that. I spent a good portion of my class time crafting new limbs for the poor dears and talking soothingly to them. Yes, I previously stated that I am more a of “plush person”, but I couldn’t just leave them there. It felt like I would be leaving a wounded soldier in the gutter. I still have them, standing (albeit with some difficulty) on a shelf above my desk. Whenever I look at them I feel a mixed bag of emotions: sorrow because they have suffered, pity because they are not what they used to be, and finally, relief that I could be there for them. I am glad that, while they are but shells of their former selves, they are not sitting in the bottom of that bin waiting to be further torn apart.

I remember watching the original Toy Story in theaters. I was so traumatized by the neighbor kid, Sid, abusing and dissecting his toys that I had to leave. I was bawling. It was like watching a graphic horror movie. I understand that that was sort of the point, only it was intended to be harmless because the victims were toys rather than people. But when you anthropomorphize toys, it becomes just as upsetting and seeing it at a young age really threw me for a loop. I don’t watch gory movies but think of one that involved the victim being innocent and vulnerable, like a young child or a small animal, and then overlay that victim with what torture methods Sid used, like ripping off the head and affixing it to a different body or burying different limbs in the sand box. It would be awful, right? To this day, I can’t watch that movie without fast-forwarding through that part.

I know that I am more than just my disorder, but it takes up a lot of my energy trying to deal with it. Even indirectly, medicine drains most of the vitality that I have. At nighttime, most people my age are out and about or hell, at least awake doing some sort of activity. By 8 PM, I am barely coherent.

So, this is my life. I am well aware that many, many people have it worse off than I do but I am not them. I am me. And I will go back to sitting here, cuddling Cupid the stuffed cat and letting my mind wander.

Nothing to see here, folks. Well, not for you anyways.

Natalie Kipper

Lover of plush toys, Disneyland, and playing JRPGs on the sofa. Fond of using quotes from 'Frasier' and 'The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.' Owner of (possibly) too much manga.