Missing Person

"You're not who you think you are," the detective said. His warm eyes and lush eyebrows made him seem more friend than stranger.

Maggie rolled her eyes. "I do know who I am. I'm Maggie." She paused for a moment. "Are you saying I was kidnapped? That there's some period of my life I can't remember?"

"I wouldn't put it quite that way, but you're not that far off," came the reply.

Friendly or not, this guy is full of it, Maggie thought to herself as she traced a circle on the floor with her toe. He says just enough to keep me listening but he's vague enough to be useless. I knew shouldn't have hired him.

When she had stepped into the detective's office twenty minutes ago, she had been hopeful that he would be the right person to help her. She'd tried everything else already: talking to her closest friend, reading a ton of self-help books, confiding in her guidance counselor at school, and, at the urging of her parents, even seeing a psychiatrist. But three years and four prescription meds later... nada. Nobody seemed to understand what she was trying to say.

Hiring a missing-persons detective was admittedly a stretch--a really really long stretch--but Maggie figured that it just may take a wild idea to solve an unusual problem: she couldn't figure out why she felt like her personality was episodically disappearing during the day. The only other options left were to either do nothing or join her friends on the weekend and drink to oblivion. Not such a bad idea considering how this is going, she thought.

Maggie waited for the detective to elaborate on his reply. He had been vague so it was his responsibility to clarify. Besides, she didn't want to appear too eager. It's not like I'm completely confused or anything, she reassured herself. So what if he doesn't figure it out? A wisp of annoyance arose in her.

The detective said nothing and shifted in his old wooden chair, eliciting a creak that resounded through the large room. The air was thick and warm and hung over them like a drape.

"What do you mean I'm not who I think I am?" she finally asked.

"Your parents gave you the name Maggie when you were born right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "So who were you before that? Before you developed the personality of Maggie?"

She was searching.

The detective went on, "You were alive for nine months in your mother's womb. And you may have been in this world for hours or more after your birth without a name, which according to you is your identity. Who were you then, before you were Maggie?" The chair creaked again, punctuating his question.

"I... was a baby." She spoke without finding meaning in her words.

He didn't relent. "You didn't know you were a baby then. You learned to call yourself a baby. Try this. What was your experience then?"

Maggie grew angry. "How the hell am I supposed remember what it was like to be newborn baby?!" She glared at him.

The detective was unfazed. He'd seen it before and he'd surely see it again. Anger was a common reaction in this stage of the discovery process. Sadness came later.

"You don't have to remember," he explained. "You just have to see that your personality--what you call Maggie--is an overlay on top of what you are, what you've always been."

Maggie wanted to ridicule such an impossible theory. She wanted to stay angry and prove the detective wrong. But she couldn't. She was tired of fighting. His words rippled across her mind, shaking her.

The detective continued. "Maggie arrives every time you wake up in the morning. And she leaves when you go to sleep. In fact, she comes and goes all day long. Most people don't notice that because they are their name. They are their personality. The reason you reported yourself missing is because you're starting to wake up from Maggie."

She had to ask. "So I'm not missing after all?"

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is the author of Michelangelo's Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. He is the creator of Meditation Starter Kit and a course on The Three Bodies. He is a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, DC metro area.