Sunday Sunday SUNDAY

This Sunday night is the premiere of The United States of Tara on Showtime. At 10pm, I will be surrounded by family and friends and watch as a series on television tries to bring awareness to the illness I’ve struggled with since the age of four. Writing that makes me want to jump up and scream in excitement and call everyone I know and cry in relief and crawl into the fetal position from anxiety and suck my thumb all at the same time.

Along with the voices of support, I’ve had emails and a few comments from people in the DID community that are angry at the writers of the series and angry and disappointed in me for being a part of it. To them, I say this:

I hear you. I really, really hear you. You would like it if the show was easier to watch and didn’t highlight the hyper-sexual teen alter or the cruelty of the male alter. You would like it better if they showed more about where Tara comes from and why she is the way she is. Me, too.

Stay tuned. Watch a few more episodes and see how the character of Tara is handled and how she evolves. There is both humor and drama, as it should be. My life has had its ups and downs and whether I like it or not, I had alters that were very sexual and took advantage of any man they could. I see in Tara’s kids some of the same things my kids had to deal with. I had a Molly-Homemaker alter and I now cringe at the thought of how hard she tried to make everything perfect and I feel sad that she was perpetually disappointed at the impossibility of perfection. And my husband at the time had to try and guess how to deal with me when I switched. I’m betting you have some of the same alter-types I did. And that the character Tara does. And yes, it’s hard to watch, being a person with DID. But for me, that’s because it’s accurate, not wrong. You call it sensationalized and maybe you are right. I don’t agree with you but I think that is a matter of personal opinion.

But what I love about the series is that it’s TALKING about mental illness and DID. It’s making people ask questions and have conversations and maybe, just maybe, creating an environment where people with DID aren’t thought of as freaks. Where they aren’t told to keep it all a secret and perpetuate the cycle of hiding and secrecy and lies. And that is what I’m excited to be a part of – moving forward. Removing the stigma attached to mental illness, or at least lessening the hold a bit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by someone I barely know and even people close to me to never talk about having a mental illness because it will hurt my chances at (fill in the blank). Just for telling people what I am. Just for owning what I am and how my brain works. The message is – if people really know you, they won’t think you are acceptable or good enough. They will think you are evil or weird and turn away from you. And that feels bad whether you are mentally ill, the ‘wrong’ color or sexual orientation or ethnic background or too fat or too small. No one should be discriminated against for being themselves.

I don’t feel the series is doing a disservice to DID or mental illness. I’m so THANKFUL that Steven Spielberg wanted to do a series about a woman with DID and I’m so THANKFUL that Diablo Cody read my book and asked me to be a part of it. And even though the character isn’t based on me, I identify with every personality that Tara has. In the same way I had to learn and accept that I was all the personalities that I was and own them and bring them together. And understand that everything I had ever done and everything that had ever happened had happened to ME. All of it.

So maybe you don’t identify with some of her personalities or the extent they are portrayed but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Let’s leave the door open for everyone with DID or any dissociative disorder to feel like they are being represented in some way. This is the maiden voyage. It’s just the beginning. If everything isn’t perfect, let’s not get too hasty and throw the whole thing out. Let’s wait a while and see the evolution. This is the first time this subject matter has been tackled on television. Let’s support their efforts and hope there is more to come.

For me, it’s a dream come true.

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If you are looking for my book, you can find it here.

18 Responses

  1. Leah, this is such a perfect response from you to those who are, in your words, “disappointed”. I look at it from the perspective of a woman who knows nothing about it except what I know from you as another opportunity to learn. That’s what the whole point is – to learn. It’s different in perspective from you and from Tara and from anyone else with DID.

    I’m here to listen and learn and support you. You deserve only the best and I hope Sunday is a fantastic experience for you as you’re surrounded by loved ones.

  2. I saw Tony Colette and Diablo Cody today on The View (ahem) and the second Diablo Cody said that she had spoken to a mom, I knew that this must be the TV project that you had alluded to way back when. I was so excited to see that your project has come to fruition and I wish you the best of luck with it. We don’t have cable so I can’t see it, but I’ll be following the TV sites to see how it’s going.

    Congratulations! This must be so very exciting!

  3. I cannot wait to watch this series, and while I will have no way to personally gauge its authenticity, I have a feeling it’s only going to get better and better as it goes on and on, especially if you and people like you, who clearly know how to gauge its authenticity, are involved. Very awesome, all of this.

  4. I’ve seen the premier already, thanks to my cable system’s On-Demand sneak previews. My interest has been piqued, so I’m definitely watching the rest of this season.

  5. For the first time in my life, I wish I had Showtime. Do you know if the episodes will air online at any point? I would definitely pay to get them off iTunes.

  6. This is going to be really interesting to watch. I watched the premier last night and so far it looks really good to me. I can certainly identify with it. And I agree with you about raising awareness and lessening the stigma attached to the DID diagnosis. I wish you all the best…and have a really great party.

  7. Sorry to bounce in here again…but I’m so relieved and frankly, surprised at the amount of support and information that Showtime has just linked up (In the last 24 hours!) to their United States of Tara web page. I can’t see how anyone with this diagnosis can be unhappy with the outcome of this series…regardless of the way in which it is portrayed. The public perception will definitely be impacted.
    Anyone that has a desire to learn more and understand more will be able to find adequate information without learning how to do a Boolean to find it.
    This is good…this is really good. *all smiles in SLC*

  8. I too am DID / MPD.

    As I mentioned to Diablo Cody on her myspace.. it was great. Sure I knew it was show but I also knew some real person was behind the information because it is soooooo real and so right on!

    I found out about my DID because I got off all the medications that were sedating me for years because of a surgery… I woke up to find journals and logs and chats that were me… BUT NOT me…

    My doctor knew all along but did not think I was stable enough to deal with the information so he would put me in the hospital when it would get real roller coaster like and I needed a stress releaving break.

    Long story short… I read books, I watched Sybil, 3 faces of eve… read and read and read..

    Tried to find help.. it was a relief in one way that now I KNOW the reason for so much lost time, the being accused of things I honest to goodness had no clue about, it made things come together even though I was still so not in control.

    It helped my kids (though it was confusing too) to know there now was a reason for so many different things.. like one minute telling them they can go do something… then suddenly I would be frantic wondering where my kids were and my husband swearing I gave them permission but I didn’t remember.. He thought it was just the bipolar or mood swings..

    And that “waking up” and not realizing how you got where you are.. but too scared to tell anyone what you are feeling because they will lock you away for sure!!

    It has been nearly three years since finding out about my DID / MPD.

    I finally found a person who would attempt to treat me.. seems in my venture to find information what I found was how many do not believe it exist.

    I knew early on of 3 and the others slowly but surely made themselves known. We are up to 5 others besides just me.. we suspect at least 2 more.

    There are still fragments and a LONG road to go on and I am not entirely sure I like this stage of some pieces merging and not being able to just pick the parts I like to merge with and tossing the rest 🙂

    Yes I too have a Molly Home Maker… and a 5 year old who is perfectly content with only colors and dolls.. and oh dear.. the southern slag teen…

    Ironically I do have a Terra 🙂 and apparently she is actually my “angry with the world, no one does ANYTHING right, male hater”

    It seems each alter and age is nearly pin pointed at each traumatic time in my life… well the big ones.. there are times I feel like most of my life is just one major roller coaster of drama and trauma!

    I have so many labels it isn’t even funny..

    SO.. after all that.. THANK YOU!!

    I look forward to the rest of US of Tara 🙂

  9. I saw two episodes at a screening last week in San Francisco and LOVED IT. It has a lot of Diablo’s voice in it, but it couldn’t have happened without your willingness to share, grow and learn from DID.

    Thank you — now we can all learn (and laugh) and erase the stigma and embarrassment of being “different.” 🙂

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