Back To Myself

Originally posted at RealMental.org.

When I was integrated in 2002, I knew it would be for forever. I’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get there, in that office, with the right doctor, to be integrated. There was just no way that I’d ever be split again. I knew it with every fiber of my being. And I was so grateful, thankful. Felt so blessed.

And then I felt SO STRONG. Holy shit, I was a newly ‘whole’ person with super powers. I could do anything and I did do anything it took to create a life worth living. Always working towards the goal of living so close to my kids that they could live with me half of the time. That goal was everything to me.

Through a comedy of errors, there were a few really bad weeks a couple of years ago that almost put me back in the mental hospital under surveillance. The disappointment of my kids not wanting to live with me was the worst pain I’d ever been in and I didn’t want to live. But, I didn’t have to go in hospital and I got on some heavy medication instead because I could feel my mind beginning some separation and it scared the shit out of me. I was so scared I barely could speak it out loud because what did that mean? That my mind was splitting? How could that happen? I was integrated and always would be. Right? Right??

The Invega put me in a mental coma. I couldn’t feel or emote. I certainly wasn’t splitting any further but I wasn’t doing much of anything else, either, which was just what the psychiatrist was hoping for. I was stable. And I couldn’t wait to get off Invega because I had lost my self. The bad and the good and the scary and the great. I had an echo in my skull.

I was scared to get off but I thought about it almost every moment I was awake. With every appointment to the doc, I took a little speech I had prepared to say to her – to allow me to prove to her that I didn’t need it anymore, even if it came with the consequence of the mind splitting being there forever. I had to have myself back.

In December 2007, I went to see friends and while we were driving down the snowy road, popping into thrift stores, I said it out loud to her that Claire was back and maybe she had never left and I didn’t realize it, but I had been lonely for her. And she just said, ‘Ok. Is that ok?’ And I told her I didn’t know for sure, but I thought so. And then we talked about her daughter and my kids and wondered when the snow would end and I felt relieved that I had said it to someone and nothing bad had happened.

In May of last year, I told my doc that I was going to try and get pregnant, so I could no longer take an anti-psychotic drug. She was VERY skeptical, but I persevered and with shaking hands and legs, I walked out of her office with so much relief I could barely make it to the car before weeping. And I slowly found myself again over the next few months after the jaw clenching stopped. I had bad days and some good days but I was always hopeful because I was having days and feelings and I could laugh again and my kids recognized me.

The huge emotions of the past year were slowly being processed. And with every therapy session, I almost talked about how my mind had not just split a little, but actually, Claire was there with every bit of her self as ever. But, I didn’t. I didn’t say the words because I was still scared about what that might mean. If Claire and I were so close together in my mind that we shared all moments with each other and all feelings, desires with each other, there was really nothing to disclose, right? I told myself that a lot. And I thought about what my kids would feel like if they knew. Would they pull even farther away from me? If I spoke the words out loud, would it make it a truth that could never be undone? And that would mean I failed. Because if I wasn’t ‘well’ and ‘integrated,’ then everything I went through and everything I put my kids through was for nothing.

I told my husband. And he asked if there was anything he could do to help my apparent sadness over the truth of it. And I told him no, but thanks for being so loving, kind and understanding. And I assured him that nothing would change between us because having Claire being her self with me didn’t change anything between he and I. Or us and him. And I believed it.

I started looking online and in books to find out if what was going on in my mind was something that had happened to any other integrated person. And I found out, yes. It did happen. And maybe more often than people knew. I felt a little angry that no one had told me. Or if they did, I hadn’t listened. So I was mad at myself. Because now it felt like such a failure when maybe it could have felt like just something that happens sometimes when an integrated dissociative goes through something stressful. But I still didn’t want anyone to know. And I felt like a fake.

For a year, every day, Claire and I would do everything together. And I did nothing and said nothing to anyone else that would alert them to that fact that I had become a We again. Suddenly, I needed a teddy bear. My old teddy bear. Molly. I needed Molly. And I searched through boxes in the garage that had been taped shut for years. I felt silly, searching for a teddy bear. I found Molly in a chest and put her under my pillow so no one would see. But, Joe saw. His eyebrows went up when Molly made her way to my chest before I went to sleep and I saw him wondering what it meant. I lied and said I was using a teddy bear to support my bad arm during the night. My arm did need support, so it was only kind of a lie, right? Partly true? I couldn’t go to sleep if Molly wasn’t tucked in my arms but I didn’t want to think very hard about why I needed her there. So, I didn’t. But in that space between being awake and being asleep, I saw a four year old girl who tucked Molly in her arm, put her thumb in her mouth and curled up for sleep.

We moved. Again. For the second time in a year. And I relied heavily on Claire to help us get boxes packed and things organized. It was too overwhelming to think about for me. So, Claire did it. Things went fine. And I didn’t think very hard about why I was allowing myself to fall back a little bit and why she moved forward a little bit and what that might mean. I just survived the way that my brain knew how to do.

We had Thanksgiving and Christmas and I didn’t write about anything on my blog because I didn’t know what to say. I felt guilty. Claire would do many things instead of me and I worried about what that might mean but I didn’t want to think very hard about it and every time I went to see my psychiatrist, I would lie and tell her that my mind was fit as a fiddle, there was no splitting going on and everything was great. She believed that having more than one personality was the end of the world for me and I disagreed and I just didn’t want to talk about it with her. She would try and make me get back on the Invega and I didn’t want to be a zombie again. And I didn’t mind Claire being around and she liked being back around. So.

In January, Tara started on Showtime, and I felt like a fake because I was split but everyone thought I was still a mono-mind and I felt so guilty. I thought about talking about it on my blog. Telling people the truth. But, I realized that almost everyone in my life now has either met me when I was first integrated and only knows me that way, or depends on my ‘wellness’ and integration to keep their relationship with me safe, namely, my kids and family. And I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing. And I realized that my mantra of always being honest with myself and others, no matter the cost, was a sad, old, worn out lie that I didn’t deserve to say anymore, in my head or to anyone else.

And every episode I watched of Tara reminded me that I was a liar. I loved the show. I loved watching Toni Collette. I was so proud to be a part of it. And then I would remember that I was a liar and a fake and I would go to sleep, knowing that I didn’t deserve anyone’s praise for anything. I stopped answering emails from people congratulating me or asking me for help. I didn’t know what to say anymore. And I’m sorry if you are one of the people I ignored.

A friend of a friend wanted to fly in and interview me for her dissertation. She wanted to talk about how trauma that causes dissociation might be similar to near death experiences. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to talk about it. And my mind just wouldn’t work. I couldn’t follow her questions. They were all about how and where Claire came from the first time when I was four and how Claire felt about spirituality and about her role as the connection to the Universe and all things good. I fumbled for the answers. I could hear Claire telling me what to say, but it didn’t make sense. I asked everyone to repeat what they had said and I tried to get a handle on the conversation because I really wanted to help this friend of a friend. And then suddenly it was just like old times. I felt myself moving back, back and the audio going softer. My eyes got a little fuzzy and I thought, yes. I remember this. This is how things used to be and I guess this is how they are going to be again. And I heard Claire talking with such emotion and inflection and she sounded so smart and she knew all the answers to the questions. Things I didn’t know how to explain and things I didn’t even know in the first place, even though we had been integrated for six years. I felt her voice in our throat and felt how much fun she was having being out after so long. Our arms felt like hers. Our legs felt like hers. And we adjusted a little and our body went into a sitting position that was more Claire and less Leah.

The interview was a great success. She was very pleased to have been able to talk to Claire and Claire was very pleased to have been able to talk to her. A few hours later, the friend and her friend left and we were left in the house with ourselves. I asked Claire if she wanted to stay out and she said, yes, if you don’t mind. And I guessed I didn’t. Devon walked into the kitchen and Claire was happy to see him with our eyes, being in front. And Devon knew, immediately, that it was Claire and not Leah in the kitchen. His eyes went a little sharp and he took in a breath a little too quick. And he simply asked, ‘Is there any problem between you and my mom?’ And Claire told him no, there wasn’t. Everything was cool and if he wanted her to go and have Leah come back out front, she would switch right away. But, she hoped he would say no, it was fine. Which he did say. And Leah wondered if it was because he was really alright with it or he could see in our eyes that Claire was hoping he’d say so.

Joe came home a few hours later. He came in, said hello and swept in for his kiss. And he felt like something was just not right. He thought our voice sounded weird and he looked uncomfortable. So, Claire told him it was her. And assured him that she loved him, too, just as much as me, and, trying to make sure he really got the message, she asked him if he wanted to go to the bedroom with her. Leah was fine with that, because intellectually, she knew that it was all her, Claire was her. But Joe was hesitant and said to us that maybe it would be better if he just got to know Claire a little more before jumping in the sack with her. And that was fine. But Claire and Leah both felt bad for Joe because he looked so uncomfortable, so Claire went back and Leah came forward.

My eyes got clearer. The noise in my ears got sharper. And my hands felt like mine and I touched Joe’s face and told him I loved him. He said he loved me, too, but man, that was a little weird. And I felt guilty. But Claire didn’t. And for the first time since she had been back, we had a different feeling at the same time.

I find myself telling you this long tale and wonder why I’m doing it. It’s going to make things complicated. Claire and I have continued to share space and time. We sometimes have different thoughts and different feelings than each other. But we make an effort to always do the thing that is for the greater good. I think she’s here to stay. Maybe I’m glad she is. I can no longer deny what I am. I’m tired of feeling guilty and like a fake. I know some people will not be able to accept this. I worry about my relationships with my kids, if things will change. I worry that my ability to help support our family will get harder because less people will believe I am stable enough to do good work. I worry that people who have been my friend will pull away because it’s too weird. I worry that my family will look at me as a failure.

But more than all those things I’m worried about, the need to get right with myself has become overwhelming. I want to be able to say that I face the truth no matter how hard and have it be true again. I want to say that I’m honest clear down to my inner core. That honesty with myself and others is still as important to me as it used to be. I want to tell people that having a split mind is by no means the worst thing in the world and it feels natural to me. I want to say that nothing has changed, except everything has changed, but I’m still the same person. We are the same person. Maybe things have gone back to normal. That I’m flawed but authentic.

In any case, welcome back Claire. And hello little girl who needs Molly. I’ll keep her on the bed for you for as long as you want.

37 Responses

  1. Leah, First of all what Callie said up there 🙂
    Second, don’t be afraid – when alters come back from integration or from hiding it just means that either you still need them around or that they have unresolved issues. With most DID systems that I have known meds didn’t work for the entire system anyway – sometimes they will work for the Central Personality (I hate the term “Host”) but not for any/all inside people and sometimes (as it seems in your case) they will numb the whole system – but in my opinion meds NEVER cure DID – so kudus to you for going off them.
    It’s not a race – if Claire (or anyone else) needs to stick around just embrace them and try to give them what they need (like Molly)
    And again, like Callie said in her comment above – you are brave and beautiful. And let me just add – you are a Hero – anyone who survived what you have is – DID or Mono-mind.

  2. Thanks for telling us. I hope it helps you to feel as worthy as we know you are, because you absolutely deserve praise for what you’ve done. And the fact that you waited until you were ready is ok – because really, who can judge that better than you?

  3. Lee – Way to be honest. I just want to say a few things. First of all, I love you NO MATTER WHAT! Really. And the fact that I really have no iota what you’re going through makes me realize that I would really be an idiot to try to be your judge or to think less of you for whatever is going on in your head. Nor is my head perfect. So that leaves me being your brother who loves you no matter what. I really do. I love you Leah. And I will always be here if you need me. Your other personalities have never formally introduced themselves to me. I don’t know them well enough to love them, except as some fractured part of your whole. So if Claire is reading this . . . hi, Claire!

    Nato

  4. Oh, this made me cry and cry. Not because Claire is back, simply because I am so sorry for your pain in being afraid to tell anyone, and worrying about your relationships with others. With or without Claire, or anyone else, no one can say that you are not stable enough to do good work. Once again, your honesty and authenticity are what make you so lovable, and loved.

  5. Leah, this makes me so sad and I can’t really explain why. Maybe I’m sad about the fact that you felt such shame and guilt about your biology and were unable to share it with anyone, especially those closest to you. I really did enjoy meeting you a couple months ago, even if you were faking it up good at that point. If I had known then that Claire was back, it wouldn’t have affected my opinion of you, and it doesn’t now. Of course I don’t know the real, full you, but I met a part of you, and I liked that part. I have to tell you, that’s how everyone else works, too, not just DID folks. You let little bits of yourself out at a time – different bits in different situations to different people.

  6. I’m incredibly curious about you and this. I’m afraid to even say anything because I know so little and I don’t want you to think I’m gawking. I just know I really really like the Leah that I’ve met and your words are true and honest. I want to learn all about you and the many parts of you. I just hope I never make you feel uncomfortable with my curiosity.

  7. You’re such a good, honest, courageous person, Leah. You really are. If you ever get another tattoo, it should say that — and put it someplace where you’ll see it all the time.

    This is my first favorite part of this post:

    >But we make an effort to always do the thing that is for the greater good.

    And this is my second:

    >having a split mind is by no means the worst thing in the world

    Because both of those things are completely true. Things might get rough and yes, some people might bail — just like people bail on someone who has cancer or dementia or any other condition that makes life hard. It sucks when they do that. But YOU have a lot of friends and an amazing family who will stand by you. Because we love who you are, every part.

  8. i’ve missed you so very much, but understand that sometimes things just need to be the way they are. i won’t claim to understand the depth of shame and guilt you’ve experienced, but i do understand how sharing a part of yourself can turn people away, and how painful that is. to be rejected for who we are is painful but recoverable. it’s always a risk, when we reveal our most intimate selves to others but worth it b/c it roots out the bad apples and illuminates the ones that support you.

    the tara series is nothing short of amazing leah. i am excited for you and others that have DID. bringing it out into the light, thus allowing for more and more folks to recover and try to carve out some kind of peaceful and balanced life for themselves. YOU have been a part of getting that ball rolling and i hope that makes you proud to be who you are, b/c not many people have that kind of courage.

    one more thing, hello claire! take good care of leah and maybe write a story or two here if that’s possible.

    xoxo to all of you,
    leah

  9. I feel the same guilt, resentment and shame every time I feel myself getting depressed. Then I wait, thinking its just temporary and then I wait a little longer thinking I can control myself. Then its 3 months later and I’m headlong into a depression and 3 months later after a good round of pills, I realize that the shame put me there. When with no shame I would have walked to the pharmacy and filled my little prescription.

    Fuck Shame, do what you need to do. Go Leah!!

  10. What Callie said.

    One of these days I hope to meet you ~ and Claire, and whomever else is there ~ and hug you, and thank you, for being who you are and writing like you do.

    I’ve been reading for quite a long time, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented before ~ too unsure of myself, I suppose.

    I just wanted you to know that I’ve been reading along, hoping for you and celebrating with you, and wondering about you, and wishing wonderful things for you…and that you have given me all of those things, too, and you never even knew it. So thank you.

  11. As a retired counselor I often miss the work and think about the people that I knew. I never thought that integration was the goal so much as self awareness was. Your strength and ability shine.

  12. You are so aware of what’s going on with yourself. Can we ask much more of ourselves? I love reading your posts and think you are an amazing woman. All of you!

  13. Hey my friend(s).It was great to be there when Claire came to “out” that day. I know this whole integration thing has been a source of concern for you for a very long time. As you know I believe that for our “We” integrateion has come naturally through having a voice and being able to speak about the traumatic events from our past. I absolutely don’t believe that I have to be “completely integrated” to be a healthy stable person. Other parts of myself have not only kept me alive, but also deeply inriched my life. You know I am careful about how much I share and who I share it. I don’t tell everyone I meet about the DID just as I would not tell everyone I meet about having cancer or if I were diabetic. I have found that people who have had a chance to know me and experience me/we being healthy and stable are far more accepting. I think that Joe and your kids may feel a bit uncertain and concerned because having Claire more present is different than how they had been experiencing you. I also believe that both Joe and your kids will love you deep no matter. I have seen thier love for you endure. In reality, Claire has always been there and in my opinion always will. She is a part of you. A beautiful, strong, intelligent, and solid part of what makes you Leah. I honor “all” of you and I know I am blessed to call you friend. Breathe deep……
    Light,
    Robin, Soarin, and our “We”

  14. Wow. You guys have been just so wonderful. I have things I want to say to every single one of you but I’m a little overcome at the moment. I’ll work at in the next few days. I want to express to you how much I appreciate your supporting and caring about me. It means so much. xoxo

  15. Thank you so much for telling us who you are now. I am so honoured that you have trusted us with this, and I am so proud of you for screwing up the courage to do it.

  16. I’ve just found your website. Knowing little about DID myself, there is one thing I know for sure. You are brave and strong and courageous…and I can’t help but admire you. Who wouldn’t?

  17. I have just found your blog (through dooce) and this is the first post I read. And then I read your biography. And though I am a complete stranger I am in awe at how strong you must be. And I keep thinking about how to put in words all that’s on my mind. You are an amazing person and certainly the most courageous one I have ever heard of. I hope things will work out for you and Claire and your family and that all of you will be happy because you deserve it.

  18. leah– hugs to you. no matter which part of yourself you’re accessing or expressing, or companioning… you are an amazing and talented woman. Don’t forget that. and btw I have a teddy bear too.

  19. You are amazing.

    I don’t know you very well, so sorry to be industry-focused, but just to say, “United States of Tara” is a awesome accomplishment, and you should be proud of it, no matter what.

    And honesty is such a strength, isn’t it? Very powerful. So congratulations on many levels.

  20. I have just found your blog, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I don’t know much about DID, but all that I can say is, please, continue to be courageous. Know that The Creator of life is on your side. Don’t be afraid to receive His love and help. Nothing is impossible if you belive…it shall be well with you!

    Hugs to you and stay blessed!
    Fania

  21. Ever since I met you, you have been amazing and have been doing amazing things. I don’t expect that will ever change.

    I’m glad you decided to be honest. I think honesty is the only thing that ever heals us. Think of what a big ugly old bandage Heather ripped off by talking honestly about PPD. I think you are just part of a grand tradition of women bloggers talking about what matters.

    Hugs.

  22. I am so impressed with how hard this must have been to experience and articulate. I’m proud of you for doing so, and I hope the people you love are being good to you.

  23. Being a success or a failure has NOTHING TO DO with how many personalities you have. It’s just how you handle it– and even that is just whatever it is. I think you’re just perfect because you’re you in whatever shape or organization!!

  24. Hey Leah and Claire,

    Been reading you for a few years. I have your first book and have so enjoyed your humor, openness and brave willingness to answer questions. I have depression and found myself stopping reading exactly when you describe Claire coming out. I just know i recognized the despair, shame, guilt and it was too Real and Raw and I was having a pretty intense depression at the same time. I don’t know what that means other than I found it it interesting.
    I am in awe of your bravery and willingness to share so much. I truly believe there is nothing wrong with you. Your brain does things differently, you have a unique coping skill? I have to agree, it seems to me that they are there for a reason, they have always been there to keep you safe. We all have aspects to ourSelves that we hold inside or keep away from some friends or family members. I know it isn’t the same, and I don’t mean to minimize your very different feelings…I think i just want to relate to you somehow so I can offer up some validation/normalization. Everyone above said it so much better. LOL
    You are a trailblazer, one of only a few who have been there and back. I just know that I am in awe of you, and inspired by your honesty. I feel undeserving. I just want to hug you and know you all.

  25. Leah, you are a brave young woman and I’m glad we met at Grace’s. And this stranger’s impression of you is that you have a kindness and sweetness that is genuine and deep and by welcoming Claire back you are perhaps in a more comfortable space. Perhaps it is just meant to be. Naive of me to say, I suppose, but you will never be alone and that must be nice (mostly!).

Leave a Reply