ask leahpeah

"Dear Leah,

Your participle is dangling.”

Well, that explains a lot.

Tonight, Joe and I are going to the Geek Dinner. Anyone else going?

Also, I added the new front page for Project Cathartic. I’m still working on the religious survey questions, but they are SO going to get done before the end of my lifetime, I swear.

Today is one of those days that I could spend only crying and wiping my nose. Instead, I may do laundry and shower. It’s a toss up.

Ask Leahpeah 'Questions' Edition Part II

Would you consider yourself a good mom?

Wow. That is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked. Not just because of my mental history and what I had to do in relation to my kids, but because when does any mom have an easy time of saying, ‘Hell yes. I’m an awesome mom!’? You think about all the mistakes you’ve made and how inadequate you feel at times. You remember when you lost your temper and yelled and how you watched their little faces crumple in an instant or when they came to tell you something and you were busy talking on the phone to your friend and you made them wait so long that they left the room and then forgot what it was they were going to tell you. Missed opportunities. Failings. They are so easy to spot.

I guess we’d have to figure out what makes a Good Mom. I know I make a lot of mistakes but I always try to apologize as soon as I figure out that I made one. I try to make sure they eat healthy and get enough exercise and don’t spend all their time in front of the TV and computer. I listen when they talk to me and try really hard to keep the preaching and lessons to a minimum. I work hard to try and provide them with a home and the other things that every kid needs. Have I touched on all the main areas of what it means to be a Good Mom? But more than all of those things, I love my kids like crazy. And, I like them. I think they are the greatest people in the entire world. I would rather spend an evening with them playing games or hanging out that do just about anything else with anyone else. Sure – I make a TON of mistakes along the way but I don’t think that makes me a bad mom. I think it makes me human.

You talk about integration on your site, and I understand that to be the melding of all the personalities back into one. My question is: “How is that process done?”

The actual integration process was done in a therapy situation over the span of a few weeks but the preparation for that took years. There are certain values that have to be met first like no more secrets between alters and everyone being the same age. All the parts have to agree that it is the best choice and have no reservations. As you can probably guess, that sometimes takes a long time. But, once those things have been done, it’s surprisingly easy to slip everyone into the same space. I don’t think I can really describe that part because I have no idea how it happened, I just experienced it, except to say that it felt empowering and I suddenly felt strong and capable. As it turned out, in the beginning it was a slightly over-inflated sense of self, which had to be evaluated and examined to be healthy.

If you had it to do over again, would you still chose to be integrated, or would you rather be the seven?

Yes, I would choose to do it over again. I would never wish to become un-integrated. I’m much happier and healthier as one as opposed to seven. I answered this question more fully in a previous post.

I’m curious as to why you think this happened in your life? Was there a defining moment when you separated from yourself? Or did it just happen? I know that you were molested, and that often will create the separation process as a means of survival, but I’m curious as to where you feel that process began?

The reason I initially split was not because of molestation, although that did happen repeatedly afterwards. I split because of some medical procedures done to me starting at the age of 4 where no anesthesia was used.

You said you aren’t taking any medication anymore. How do you not get depressed? I think if I didn’t have my meds I would kill myself.

I do get depressed. Case in point would be yesterday. I spent the better part of the day feeling very low. Some of the thoughts in my head: “I am such a failure.” “I will never feel happy again.” “People hate me and they should. They should hate me. I hate me.” “I’m not good for anything.” If someone had handed me a loaded gun, I would have considered what to do with it for a moment.

But, I know myself too well now to not understand what is happening. The truth is: I’m having a bad day. And me having a bad day feels like that. On those days, my perception of life is all screwy and I know that. So, where earlier in my life, pre-integration, I would have felt all of those thoughts and feelings weighing on me so, so heavy and not been able to get out of that dark cloud for 2 months, literally, now I can think through it.

I tell myself the truth. So, “I am such a failure.” becomes “Today I feel like a failure.” Which is totally different. In the first one, I’m telling myself what I am and in the second one, I’m telling myself how I FEEL. The first one is a judgment that may or may not be true. But the second one is the truth because your feelings are just your feelings and aren’t wrong or right. They just are.

After acknowledging the feeling, the next step is to create something positive from it. Our minds are amazing things and we reach the potential we set for ourselves. If you can imagine something and hold that as an intention, you can create it in your life. If the message I tell myself is “I am a failure.” then it will be true. Instead, try creating something positive like, “I do many things that are of worth.” I was amazed at the stuff I was telling myself when I wasn’t paying attention. Really, awful things that you would never say to another person but there I was saying them to myself over and over. Just start paying attention to what it is you tell yourself. Jot them down in a little notebook.

Hokey? Maybe. But I really do believe in affirmations. They have changed my life. Here are two more examples of what I’ve taught myself to do in a matter of minutes.

“I will never feel happy again.”
“I feel really, super sad today.”
“I eagerly anticipate working through these feelings of sadness.”

“People hate me and they should. They should hate me. I hate me.”
“I feel like I have no friends today. I feel unworthy of love. I don’t feel love for myself right now.”
“I am learning to love myself and those around me more every day.”

Back to the loaded gun. Yes, the thought of killing myself would go through my mind. But it wouldn’t stick. I know myself too well. I know that in 5 minutes, that mamma bird is going to fly by the window and I’ll look outside and appreciate the green of the lawn. It may only last a second but it will happen. Or I’ll glance up to see what time it is and my eyes will catch the frames over the fireplace where my kids’ faces are smiling at me. I know that the deep, overwhelming sadness I’m feeling will pass if I help it along. And I would hate to miss out on the good stuff.

I think the problem for me was when I didn’t acknowledge the truth of the situation. I was not supposed to be sad so I told myself that I wasn’t. It was a lie. I knew it was a lie and once you start telling lies to yourself, you get caught up in this self-medicating and distraction nightmare. If you aren’t supposed to feel sad and you do, then go grab the meth and smoke it until you don’t feel anything anymore. Oh wait, it’s been 3 hours and I’m feeling something again. Must be time to get loaded/self-harm/fill-in-the-distraction.

You spend so much time distracting and lying that you start to not have a life except for trying NOT to feel. Things pretty much snowball and suck at that point and it could take months or years to recover both physically and mentally. I’m not willing to go anywhere near that again so I do the really hard work of telling myself the truth minute by minute. For me, it’s worth it.

However, if I felt myself getting to a place where I couldn’t talk my way through things anymore and I felt the heavy clouds moving in and camping out for the duration, you can bet I’d be putting myself back on medication in a second. Meds once saved my life and that is what they are there for. But as long as I can continue using the methods that are working for me now and I don’t consider crying for 4 hours straight while I’m feeling so awful every so often (usually not more than once or so a month) a problem, I won’t be going back to them anytime soon.

Ask Leahpeah

Hello Leah Peah,

I don’t get your new headline picture. I liked the other ones that I have seen. I liked the one with the trees. And the one with the hands. But this one? It looks like a calculator. What happened to telling everyone you are Leah the Peah?

A faithful Readher,

Shane

Dear Shane,

Well, I can see why you would be confused. It does look like a calculator. But, can I tell you what it really is? It’s a calculator. I KNOW! Can you believe it?

If you are a geek, and I’m guessing by the way you said ‘calculator’ that you aren’t one (because all of us geeks LOOOOOOOOVE to say calculator and pronounce it Cal-Cue-Lay-T-Her) you would have recognized that Leahpeah was spelled on the display, but upside down. My friends and I in 7th grade Lov-Huv-Huvved to spell words to each other during math on our calculators. Words like 7734 and 5318008 and 0.8537. (not that there’s anything wrong with that). You’re right, there’s not really a number to represent the letter P but I improvised with the number 5, since back in the day, we didn’t have the possibility of just adding in a P on a whim. Not like they do today with their leetspeak. We did it Old School, baby! And the dirtier the words, the better. But, although I appreciate the vote of confidence that goes along with a new title, I can’t say I’m comfortable with a ‘the’ in the middle of my name. And really, what is a the Peah, anyway?

Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring.
xo

Ask Leahpeah

Dear Leahpeah,

Do you have a favorite song? I love Amazing Grace. I humm it to myself when I’m feeling low and it helps lift my spirits. I’d love to know if you have one.

Sincerely,
Me (really, just me)

Dear Me (really, just you)

I would be hard-pressed to pick only one favorite song since music is my life (along with Dr. Pepper, reality TV, photos of my kids and painting), but one of my favorite songs is by Alanis Morissette called That I Would Be Good. Here are the lyrics:

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

That I would be fine even even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing

That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy

That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you

xo

So – Really?

I’ve gone through some growing pains with this blog. It started out as just a way to stay in touch with my kids when we were living about 300 miles away from each other. About the time I realized that they weren’t reading it that much, I figured out that I really loved writing in here and I wanted to keep writing even if they didn’t read it or if no one read it. I loved writing out what I was feeling and it helped me process all the stuff going on in my day. And then I started doing interviews.

The interviews I do with people are really there because I’m selfish and I want to know what drives other people. I’m fascinated by people. What makes them tick? Why do they do what they do? What makes them what they are? When I find someone that I’m interested in, I pester them until they agree to let me poke them in the brain. Usually it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way is fine, but of course I prefer the former. And if you enjoy them – Great! But I don’t do them every day or even every week. Sometimes I write about just plain’ol me.

So, I can’t really explain it, but now I find myself in the position of lame email stalkers, wonderful loyal readers, casual drive-bys and various family members. Some of those people want to tell me what I should write about and what I should not write about. Some of them think that because they have been reading me for years, that in some way they own a piece of this online persona and they should get to weigh in their thoughts about what goes on here. Well, I have to say to them: sorry, but no. I respectfully decline your offer to tell me what I can and can’t write about. This online persona is attached to a real person – me. I have feelings and thoughts and emotions all my own and they are ME and REAL and will continue to dominate no matter how you feel.

There is this pressure to keep things light and funny and witty. I can do that some of the time but other times I’m depressed, or sad or something bad happened and I want to talk about it. And I can! Because this is my space! Like the past week or two have been insanely hard. The business is growing and we have clients that want work done and not enough people and time to do it. And Joe is going through some major stuff and regrets getting married to me. And there is a divorce looming. And my kids are sad. And I cut my finger really deep. And my ovaries hurt. And things basically suck. So, where can I talk about that if not here? And the minute I think about writing it all out, I get another email from someone asking why I write about mental illness when I can be so funny at other times. Well, guess what? I’ll write about whatever I want to write about. And there are so many blogs out there in the world that I’m sure you can find something that you might like more. So – go. Or stay. Or do whatever. But if you decide to stick around and hate what I write – don’t tell me. I don’t care. Just wait a few days and I’ll have a new interview up or I’ll write about something cute the kids said or post a new photo. It happens. I swear.

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?

Continue reading

Ask Leahpeah

Hi Leahpeah,

I just got done reading your book. Thank you so much for sharing your life with me and everyone in the entire world. There are lots of people like me that are so happy to have someone talk about it. I’m going to take it into my next group meeting and share it with everyone. I looked through the art therapy paintings you have on your website and wondered why you didn’t include those in the book? And I wondered if you ever did any paintings or drawings about getting integrated. I mean, about the actually ‘getting integrated’ part. Because I’m thinking about doing it. And I’m not so scared about it anymore.

Silent Night Owl

Dear Silent Night Owl,

Thank you so much for reading and thank you for letting me know that you liked it. It means a lot to me.

I did do a painting about the actual integration process.

integration

You might recognize the description of the rivulets going together into one large area from reading about it in the book. At some point in the near future I’m going to put descriptions with all the art therapy paintings so they make more sense.

I wanted a way to put the paintings in the book but it was just too expensive. Maybe if the book gets picked up by a publisher they can figure out a way to include them but in the meantime, I hope this will do.

Best of everything to you,

leahpeah

Ask Leahpeah

Hi Leah,

I’m half-way through your book right now – it’s a great read! Thank you for sharing your story.

I was just looking through your flickr photo albums – very fun to see pictures of you as a kid. I wonder, though, why you don’t have pictures of yourself as a teen? I’d be so curious what you looked like during 16 – 18, the part of the book I’m reading.

Kristen in Colorado

Dear Kristen,

Thank you! I did post some pictures of me as a teen on my blog but neglected to add them to the Flickr site. I have added them now and also a few more including me with some friends, my wedding invitation for my first marriage and one with my son, Devon when I’m 18.

Thanks for reading the book!

xo,
lpc

Ask Leahpeah

leahpeah peehead,

why are you such a retard? so dumb? is there anyway i can rtell you how much I think you are dumb? you’re paintings are wierd and you odviouslly have nop talent. There are way better writings on the internet than you and if you think you are going to have lots of people like you you are wrong. you should go back to having more kids like when you were mormon. I hear those women know there places and listen to their husbands and do right in the sight of god. So being a mormon is almost as good as being a good Christian. you are most likely going to hell and you don’t care now but you will someday att sometime. I’ll go the one step further and see if i can ask god to let you in to heaven when it’s that time becuase that is what a good christian person will do. !!

if you want to see my online blog, it is here [redacted] [redacted]

Dearest Reader,

Thank you so much for writing me. I do so look forward to seeing who takes time out of their day to drop me a kind note or a quick hello. I think you should know, though, that I have a certain way of reading letters that may not be what you had in mind. You see, I am a perpetual Pollyanna type and can only read the good and kind. Please let me show you how I read your letter:

Dear leahpeah peehead, < - I’ve kept this salutation intact because I really like it. Why are you so wonderful? So awesome? Is there anyway I can tell you how much I really think you are great? Your paintings are deep and you obviously have great talent. There are other people that write on the Internet but none are just like you. I think you are going to have lots of people liking you. You have 4 kids? I’ve never had any because the state had to neuter me due to my inability to deal with reality. It comes and goes. I hear those Mormon women know how to make crafts, take care of their kids and husbands and do right in the sight of God. So, being a Mormon is the same as being a good Christian. You are most likely going to be invited to many parties this Christmas Season. I hope you don’t get overwhelmed or burned out. I’ll go one step further and invite you to my own festive occasion because having you come to my party would mean so much to me. God be with you, [redacted]

And also with you.
xo,
lp

About Today

Today feels like the world is crashing down around me. Things are up in the air. Everything is too hard. And I have nothing remotely uplifting or useful to say. I weep at the smallest perceived notion and if you look at me wrong, or not at all, or too hard, or act like you don’t want to look at me because i think you must think I’m dumb, forgettaboutit. But today is the day that I actually need this outlet more than other days when I have everything in control and things are lining up at the snap of my finger.

In response to Helene who wanted to know what I do on days that I’m feeling ‘gross, lazy and stupid,’ I’m not even answering your question in true leahpeah form. I’m just going to do it the only way I can today. Because this is what I do when I feel like that. I do what everyone else does. I wake up in the morning, drag my ass out of bed and go to work. I try really hard all day to do the stuff I’m supposed to do and not think too hard about me and how I feel. Unless the plants need to be watered, and then I let loose. And then, when work is over, I go home and watch some TV or paint and then go to bed. If I feel like it, I’ll feel a little and cry a lot. Or if it’s a weekend, I try not to do anything at all.

And the reason I keep getting up and having a day and repeating it over and over again is because not every day is like this one. Some days are fabulous. Some days I’m smiling even before I open my eyes. And I know that sooner or later, the law of averages says I’m going to have another good day if I just hang in there.

And so I do.

Ask Leahpeah

Dear LeahPeah/Kate,

I just read your book. It was pretty good and I liked it allot. But I have a question. If you are being so open and honest or whatever, then why did you change your name to Kate in teh book? Why not just keep it LeahPeah in the book? I mean, I know your name when I came to the website. So it’s not really hidden, is my point.

Signe,
Annon

Dear Anon,

Thanx for reading my book. I changed my name to Kate in the book for three reasons.

1st, when I started writing the book, I wasn’t planning on publishing it under my own name. I was going to remain entirely anonymous (like yourself) mainly to keep anyone from knowing who I was so they wouldn’t contact anyone in my family. That remained the plan for a very long while and most of the book was already written by the time I had changed my mind. At that point, I thought about changing it to Leah, which brings us to 2nd.

Leah was also one of the names I went by. Yes, it was my birth name, but before I was integrated, there were 6 other just as valid names that I went by. So, in deciding to switch it to Leah or keep it Kate, it made the most sense to use Kate since then none of the other 6 personalities would feel bad. After being integrated, I could easily see how it would be fine to change it to Leah which brings us to 3rd.

As I reread the book for the millionth time, looking for errors etc., I tried to imagine how I could change my name from Kate to Leah and still keep the present ‘voice’ of myself as strong as it was. For example, if I’m calling myself Leah before integration and also in the present tense, it might get a little confusing.

I hope that made sense and thanx for your email.

best,
lpc

Today's Ask leahpeah Letter

Subject: stupid questions deserve stupid answers – here’s my question 🙂
From: Maigen T.
Date: Fri, October 8, 2004 10:51 am
To: ask@leahpeah.com
————————————————————————–

This is crazy – but I’m also an artist (who reads dooce – we have so much in common *insert girly squeal*)…and I try to show some of my paintings on my blog – but I have a fairly crappy digital camera. Basically, I always get a bright spot or fuzzyness. Your pictures of your paintings turned out beautifully (not to mention the paintings themselves!). I just wanted to know how you photographed them, as well as the lighting you used.

Maigen T.

Hey there Maigen,

When I shoot my paintings, it’s important to have the lighting just right.
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