Ask Leahpeah 'Questions' Edition

I’ve accumulated some questions from readers in my inbox and now, armed with a small Dr. Pepper and Feist playing in the headphones, I will attempt to answer them in a way that is readable.

Do you ever “miss” the other personalities? Or, because they are all a part of you now, do you not long for them? I was thinking that in many ways Claire had been your best friend – someone to always bounce ideas off of and such – do you miss having that?

Before I became integrated, it was a heavy topic of conversation, the ‘what happens to everyone if we become just one’ question. And some of my personalities had a great fear of getting left behind and one in particular thought that if we did integrate, we would be defenseless against ‘all the bad guys.’ It takes a lot of faith in your therapist to make that leap because you don’t have any real idea of what it feels like to live life as a ‘mono mind.’ Post-integration, I realized that there is no way to explain what it feels like to be a whole person just like it’s not possible to explain what it feels like to be split to someone that is not.

Since the day I was integrated, I’ve had to get to know myself all over again. Some things you know instantly, like you suddenly feel like you have the power of 10 people and you can’t believe other people walk around like that every day. Other things are not so sudden but you’ve been doing them for so long, it takes a little time to figure out. Do I really like to eat yogurt every single day for lunch? Nope. Do I need to wear only slippers or can I invest in a pair of tennis shoes? Tennis shoes might be nice. Do I like having piercings in my nose/ears/navel? Maybe. And you kind of go through things that you think you know, to figure out what you really know.

So, to answer your question, it isn’t possible to miss Claire of any other personalities that I had because all parts are here and accounted for. I still talk to myself. I just don’t answer myself anymore. (Ha.) But I have had to work on the balance of characteristics and the things I mentioned above are all real things I had to figure out for myself. And if I go too far one way, like take out all my piercings in an effort to display to my family that I am now ‘healed’, it might feel too conservative for me when I stop and think about it and I might miss certain playful aspects that I used to have and then decide to go ahead and pierce my nose again. (Really. I might.)

Now that you are integrated, are you just fine? Do you still struggle? Do you worry about becoming un-integrated? Is that even possible?

I did worry about becoming un-integrated at first. Theoretically, if there was an extremely stressful or traumatic moment, my brain is fully equipped to make that happen. However, the longer I’m living my life this way, I don’t think it would happen. There would be a split second choice where I would get to decide if I wanted to shove those stressful feelings away or keep them shoved away or if I could handle them. And I’m pretty sure I would decide to just be in the moment and accept the situation. But, I can’t say for sure since nothing has happened to test my theory.

You explain in the prologue the difference between MPD and DDNOS. After you went all those years as just “Kate”, and then Claire started popping up in your life when you would “zone out”… and your kids would tell you that you left the house, and you couldn’t even remember doing that, and Claire would come out in therapy sessions and you wouldn’t know it, etc. … for those months were you actually suffering from MPD and not DDNOS?

DDNOS stands for Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is also a dissociative disorder. However, MPD has been fully scoped out and has definite parameters whereas DDNOS is a catch-all diagnosis that encompasses pretty much everything else where someone dissociates. I suppose the moments where I ‘lost time’ are closer to the usual MPD cases, but because I also had times through the years where everyone was communicating or some parts where communicating, it can’t be slotted as a classic case of MPD.

In my opinion, just about everyone have moments where they dissociate. I watch my kids do it when they watch TV. People that self medicate do it. Strictly defined, it means ‘unconnected’ so anytime a person is unable or refuses to live in the reality of the moment, they are dissociating. A person with DDNOS or MPD just does it to the degree of compartmentalizing the emotions that go with the situation and then giving that ‘compartment’ a voice of its own. Our minds are truly amazing things.

Do you have any advice for someone suffering from depression? Mine stems from nothing like you went through. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m depressed. There is no good reason for it. Pretty dumb, huh? I have a great life but I don’t want to get out of bed and face the day. You went through so much and look what you’ve accomplished.

When you tell me ‘no good reason for it,’ I think you must have some idea in your mind of a certain level of stress, drama or trauma that make it acceptable to experience depression. I think I would have to disagree. Everyone has their own level of health and what they can handle. When someone tells me that my stuff was harder than their stuff I remind them that there is no real comparison between experiences. Everyone has their life and everyone has their stuff and everyone’s ‘stuff’ is just as hard as they can handle. It’s that simple.

To look down on yourself and say ‘I must be so weak and dumb because what I’ve gone through is no where near as bad as her/him’ is just another way to shame yourself. My advice to you, if you want it (and it’s fine if you don’t) is to allow yourself to feel just as bad as you feel and then ask yourself how long you need to feel that way before you can move on and up to something more healthy, productive and nurturing. It all comes down to a choice but before you have the tools to choose your day, you have to be honest with yourself about why you feel the way you feel and that can be terrifying. And, it might require some type of medication to help balance your chemistry along with therapy to have someone help you discover why you are feeling depressed.

Someone asked me the other day what the hardest thing is that I have to do now. I suppose they thought I’d tell them about some rigorous routine I’ve worked up to keep my mind healthy but honestly, it’s getting up and out of bed in the morning and showering and getting dressed. That is it. My secret for success. I don’t think about it because if I do, I won’t get up. It’s too hard. So, I just do it. I get out of the covers, then swing my legs down, then walk to the shower and get it. Then I turn on the water and somewhere between washing the soap out of my hair and shaving my legs I realize that I’m glad to be up and doing stuff and that today has great potential for being an awesome day. Lather. Rinse Repeat Every Day.

Is “Jac” still the man in your life?

Yes. Jac/Joe is still the man in my life. We got married and had our 1st anniversary in December 2005. He continues to be my best friend and a safe port within which to learn how to be an adult and whole person. He has watched me Become and learn what I like, don’t like, form habits (some healthy) and struggle to make up for lost time in general but more specifically with my kids.

Do you take antidepressants and if so, what kind?

I do not currently take meds of any kind. I have been off everything since Feb 2004. I took all sorts of cocktails over the years and tried many combinations with all sorts of side effects, the funnest being dry mouth and hearing noises that weren’t there and the worst being 25 lb weight gains in 2 months and not being able to sleep/wake up along with a detachment to reality in general and my feelings about anything.

The combination that worked the best for me was Effexor, Wellbutrin and Ambien. This in no way implies that these drugs are a good choice for someone else and the combination of Effexor and Wellbutrin is not usual, so please don’t try that unless it is recommended to you by your doctor.

I very strongly believe that if medication is warranted, it should be used and used for however long it is healthy for that person (i.e. don’t listen to Tom Cruise.) and I would get back on something if I thought I needed to.

Have you ever tried shock therapy?

Nope. It was never recommended to me. I interviewed Andy Behrman, author of ElectroBoy, who has written his account of going through shock therapy. For more info, here is his website.

What do your kids think about you writing a book and people reading it? Do they get teased at school?

I don’t believe anyone at school would know about my book or that I wrote it or that I was their mom. I leave it entirely up to the kids how much information they share about me to their friends. That might change at some point in the future if my book was more widespread but we haven’t had to deal with that yet. My kids have been very supportive of me but I imagine that at least one of them, sometime, will feel the need to lash out at me and/or be upset about our families past and feel embarrassed. It seems only normal. And if/when that happens, I will try to be as supportive of that as I can be.

Have you *actively* pursued finding an agent and/or publisher? If so, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t have been picked up yet. (And when it does, you can go tell your story on Oprah!!) 😉

After the whole thing with the author of A Million Little Pieces, I’m kind of thinking going on Oprah and putting myself out for the entire world to ravage might have its downside. But, thanks for the vote of confidence. I think the people that want/look/need to find the book will find it and when the time is right, a publisher will pick it up. But until then, I’m ok with it being where it is. However, if you happen to know a publisher, feel free to send them my way.