We consider keeping track of who is fronting to be an incredibly important form of self care. In text chats*, we tag every line with who says the line, for example, starting the line with [Lucia] or [Emma]. We are not always able to determine who says each line, but when we have trouble with a significant number (ie. more than half), it is a signal that we are either blending or that we have new fronters. In either of those cases, it is generally a sign that our equilibrium has been interrupted, often by stress, sometimes by other changes in our life. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but is almost always something worth investigating further.
Last week, we had a large amount of difficulty determining who was fronting for a significant amount of time. This was a signal that something had gone wrong in our life and served as an excellent early warning sign that we should take steps to correct it. We traced back what had changed since the previous week and found two changes, at our doctor’s recommendation, we lowered our estradiol dose from 2mg to 1mg and there was a large increase in stress due our manager at work. Our stress related to our manager was already being dealt with to the best of our ability so the only question which remained was whether to raise our estradiol dose back to 2mg. After talking with several people, combined with our doctor’s recommendation that it was fine to return to 2mg if anything went wrong, we decided to raise our dose again to 2mg. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up the next day and our plurality was working again as expected. Our current belief is our plurality beginning to break was a combination of changing our HRT dosage and stress and that it was a combination of blending and new fronters who are still around waiting to be named.
In 2014, we had a period of several months where we did not pay attention to who was fronting and allowed everyone to blend together. We were under immense stress and rather than using our plurality to rotate fronters to spread out the stress, we didn’t pay attention to who was fronting and allowed the system to choose whoever it felt was best. Those months represent the worst months for our mental health of our adult life. As we started to pull our life together again, we began paying attention to who was fronting once again. This allowed us to negotiate switches ahead of time and to plan out who was going to handle each day and who would serve as backup in case they were unable to handle the stress. In the process, our communication dramatically improved and we began caring for each individual headmate much more, ensuring nobody was allowed to take so much stress that they broke.
By paying attention to each individual in our system, we are more able to notice when external stressors are affecting us. If any of us are under stress, others in our system can notice it and determine the best path for us. Sometimes, the answer is to have someone else take over to complete the day and plan for a relaxing weekend to recover. Other times, the answer is that we allowed too much stress to build up and need to take a sick day from work for recovery as soon as possible. The alternative is to allow our system to automatically swap in someone who is less stressed without us being consciously aware of this. In this case, we would be much less aware of how much our stress level is affecting us and may continue pushing ourselves due to this lack of information. In the past, this has allowed stressors to build up to the point where we have experienced involuntary rapid switching.
All of this together makes paying attention to who is fronting a very important form of self care. It is by far the best system we have found to alert us when our stress levels are higher than they should be. Whether new fronters are around or we are blending, it is a signal that something has changed. Unless there are obvious positive changes in our recent past, this acts as a strong signal that we are pushing ourselves too hard, at work, with personal projects, or too much socialization. This gives us a chance to plan for a calm, relaxing weekend where we have a chance to recover. We are very fortunate that our plurality gives us the ability to recognize unsustainable paths so early and do our best to use it to improve our quality of life.
*Outerworld interactions are trickier since they happen faster and more automatically. For those, we have the option of determining who is fronting by looking at our spreadsheet and going down the list asking “am I x? no. am I y?” Unfortunately, this in time consuming so we rarely do it unless we believe we have a new fronter and want to confirm this.