book

Stuff!!

People sent me stuff! I went to the PO box this morning and there it was. Thanks to Ashley from Washington State and Leta from Indiana. I’ll get the painting set up and get things started. Anyone else that has stuff, send it! I also got the Traveling Journal in the mail. I’ve been wondering when it would show up. I’m thinking hard about what I want to put in there. But I’ll get it off before too long. Thanks, Paige.

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch

Maggie wrote a great book. No One Cares What You Had for Lunch, 100 Ideas for Your Blog. But each one of those ideas has its own ideas and variations. So, it’s actually like 1 Million Ideas for Your Blog. (You can use that, Maggie.)

In chapter 4, Take Your Time, which, incidentally, has the darlingest, tiniest picture of a glass of wine and a burning cigarette next to the page numbers, idea number 63 is: Make Contact.

You miss real mail. The kind with a stamp placed on the corner of the envelope and your address scrawled out in human handwriting. Get a P.O. box and turn your readers into pen pals. You can send postcards, bookmarks, photos, and small tokens of affection. Agree on themes for swaps and post photos of the results on your blog.

It might be cheating to take this challenge since I already have a P.O. box, but I’m not going to let that stop me. For a long time I’ve wanted to do a painting that has contributions from all over. If you aren’t familiar with my paintings, you can view them here. You’ll see that I use a lot of found objects like leaves, seeds, papers and twigs but I could also be using things like buttons or string or any small bit of a thing you have around the house.

So, send me stuff! Maybe only what fits in an envelope. I don’t want anyone having to pay lots of shipping. Make sure to include your name and where you live so I can give you credit both in my blog and on the final painting. I’ll post periodic shots of the painting getting done here so you can all see it coming together. I’m so excited!!

Send stuff here:

Leahpeah
543 Country Club Dr #B 538
Simi Valley, CA 93065
Updated to add: this address no longer works. Please email me for the address.

Every Day

I keep waking up in the morning and I keep having a day. And then I keep going to sleep at night. And then? The next morning I do it again. In this way I hope to eventually get to the morning when I want to wake up and I actually enjoy the day I’m having. But, by going the through motions, I know I’ll get there.

Friends, acquaintances, internet pals and complete strangers have written me lovely and kind notes. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your kindness. I keep thinking I’ll go back in my email and start replying to all of you but then I get stuck because I have no idea what to say except thanks for your caring nature. Please accept this virtual thanks from me to you.

For the past month, while on bed rest, I have been working on my book. I’m just about ready to hand it over to my agent. I’m thankful to have had the time to work on it because I don’t think I could have done it without being forced to. After I finished getting it up on Lulu last year, I swore I would never edit it again. For one thing, it is terribly hard to edit your own work. It’s hard to have perspective because to you, the writer, everything you’ve written is important. Add to that the fact that this book is actually my life. It has been so bizarre to have editors and my agent send me editing notes in emails about ‘the characters’ and ‘the story line.’ The format of the book being what it is has the potential to be confusing to some readers, so there has been careful attention spent on making sure that the transitions are smoother and easier to understand.

But the hardest part for me has been that my strengths in writing do not fall in the creating fictional dialog and characters categories. I’m strongest in retelling events that I have been a part of. And my book is basically just a retelling of my life. 9/10th of it was written by the personalities themselves and now that I’m integrated, those individual voices are gone. To have an editor tell me that ‘this scene isn’t working and needs more dialog between character A and character C’ or ‘let’s have a scene where you learn this information earlier through this particular therapist’ just makes no sense to me. I can’t go back and create dialog that didn’t happen. I can’t make up a therapist and then have events happen that didn’t happen. Maybe if this was a purely fictional book, I could. But I doubt it. I’ve never been that good at fictional writing. Even when I was publishing columns, they were slices of my life that actually happened.

This editing journey, if nothing else, has helped me understand my strengths in writing, which I’m thankful for. Also, I’ve learned how to be strong and assert myself when I’m not comfortable with changes being asked for and made. The end result is a final version of the book that I’m happy with and will have no problem speaking to people about.

And now that the bulk of that is done and I’m no longer required to be on bed rest, it’s time for two things: The gym and a new job. My first time going back to the gym was yesterday. All I did was walk the treadmill for 30 minutes at 4.5 MPH but from the way my body is screaming, you’d think I’d ran a marathon. It’s amazing how fast your body deteriorates.

It feels good to be active again. Another thing to be thankful for.

Dissociative Disorders

In rewriting parts of my book, I had the chance to get a little deeper into the frustration of how dissociative disorders are classed and diagnosed. Here is an excerpt:

During my stay at a mental hospital in 1999, not only did a doctor diagnose me accurately with DDNOS, but I didn’t make myself forget the diagnosis, which had happened a few years previous. This is after being misdiagnosed any number of times with any number of ailments, some of which were correct for specific personalities but never the entire picture. Diagnosing someone with DID or DDNOS can be particularly difficult if the therapist only sees one or two of the personalities during their visits together. I was lucky to meet some very competent doctors during that first mental hospital stay.

The full definition of DDNOS can be found in the dictionary:
DDNOS is a diagnostic category ascribed to patients with dissociative symptoms that do not meet the full criteria for a specific dissociative disorder.

Because there are only a handful of specified dissociative disorders, there are any number of people falling through the cracks without a diagnosis. Add to that the fact that many states and doctors don’t acknowledge DID as a ‘real’ illness, and you can see why there are so many people not getting the help they need. After all, if your doctor doesn’t believe in the illness you have, how can they help you heal?

This is a serious problem and needs to change. We need better words and clearer diagnosis. It was nice to see that I’m not the only one frustrated with this current diagnosing system and the words that are used. This letter to the editor from Kenneth A. Nakdimen, MD says pretty much the same thing.

If you read my book and would feel comfortable giving me specific feedback, please let me know. I’m getting plenty of feedback from editors about what they think should be ‘streamlined’ but I’d like to know how those of you that have read it feel.

Top Three Questions in My Inbox

Variations of #1:

I thought you were from Utah?
Are you in Missouri?
Where did you grow up?
Did your parent’s move?

Answer:

I did not go to Missouri, although there is nothing wrong with that. Some of my favorite people live in Missouri. My parents have not moved and still live in Utah, where I went to visit them. Now I am happy to be home.

Variations of #2:

What are you working on? Is it a secret?
Did you get a new job yet?
What did you decide to do with your life?
Where are you working?
Do you remember me? I wrote you last year.
Tell me what you’re doing!

Answer:

Yes! Of course I remember you! And thank you for writing me again. I haven’t told you about what I’m doing because everything is kind of ‘in the works’ and not solid yet. If I told you the part I could actually tell you, it wouldn’t be much and we’d all walk away like addicts without our fix. But, since you are so insistent, I’ll try. I’m working on some book stuff that I can’t talk about yet, except to say that I’m not alone in my working on it and some other people are involved and things are getting done way too quickly but not fast enough. And I’m finishing up some paperwork and stuff for doing some interviews that will not just be done through email.

See?? I told you. Totally unsatisfying. I’m going to go gnaw on my arm now.

Variations of #3:

You suck!
Why do you suck so bad?
Why do you delete comments I leave on your blog that tell you how much you suck?
Do you remember me? I wrote you last year.
And – you suck!

Answer:

Yes! Of course I remember you! And thank you for writing me again and again and again. In your last email you told me you wished you could be here when I read it so you could see my face. Well, that is so sweet. I wanted to show you what my face looked like, too. Because, it is so sexy Bershon.

Good Days

I wake up in the morning and before I even open my eyes, there it is: a weight resting squarely on my chest. I cautiously feel around my thoughts to see what this weight is before jumping to conclusions. It’s possible that I just had a bad dream.

Oh, right. I’m just not quite awake yet. Sometimes when I first wake up, I have left over thoughts flying around in my mind. And some of them could be left over from years and years ago. They are just shadows, tiny endings of experiences that hurt me or things that made me very sad. But they aren’t happening right now and that is what I need to focus on.

I imagine a light. Yellow and white but not too bright. It’s warm and healthy. It’s healing. It starts in my chest and expands until it fills my body.

Some of the remaindered and leftover thoughts try to stick around. They pop up and tell me, ‘You are such a failure’ and ‘Nothing you do matters’ and ‘Nothing will ever get any better.’ Some of them go far, far back and are more like, ‘No one cares about you so you better concentrate on surviving’ and ‘People want to hurt you and take advantage of you’ and ‘Everyone is a liar.’ But as soon as the thoughts come up, I look at them, evaluate them and see if they are true or not. They aren’t. What a relief. And I send them on their way.

I know that if I think too much about what I have to do today, it will feel too hard. I’ll start feeling overwhelmed and probably not get out of bed. Once I allow myself to go down that downward spiral, it’s very hard to climb back up and could take me days. The best defense is a good offense. Some days I do better than others.

There are days when catastrophic thinking is hard to shake off, but it doesn’t happen very often. I thank God for that. And The Universe. And Love. I know my meditation routine by heart and slip easily into a place where I feel only Love and a connection to everything and everyone. It’s beautiful. I stay as long as I need to and then climb out of bed.

I don’t think about getting up or showering or even what I’m going to wear. I don’t think about any of those things because I don’t really NEED to think about them. I know how to do them all without thinking. And if I make the mistake of thinking about it, I might not do it. So, I just do it.

As I finish up washing my hair and shaving my legs, I smell the soap. It smells clean and invigorating. I’m looking forward to the coffee. I grab an outfit from the two that I laid out last night: one is for slightly warmer weather and one for colder. That way, I don’t have to think about it when it feels too hard. Of course, I can always change my mind and get something else from the closet if I want. And sometimes I do. But mostly, I stick with what I prepared the night before.

A thought of work will come up and for a second my heart starts to race. I feel behind. I feel like I’ll never be safe and secure. I feel like everything I’ve worked so hard for could be taken away in a second. My breathing gets faster and faster. I start to sweat. I can’t breathe. I’m going to die. But then I catch myself. I tell my heart to slow down. I remind myself to take some deep breaths. And I tell myself that I’ll think about all of that in about an hour when I’m more awake and I’ve eaten some protein and had some coffee.

I go downstairs to begin my day and do stuff.

Hey There, Y'all

I got an email from China (a woman, not the place) who asked me to write about what a bad day felt like to me. She didn’t think that my bad days could be anywhere near as bad as hers because she feels so bad that she “just can’t think or feel or she might die.” I wrote back that it wasn’t a contest of any kind but if she wanted, in a few weeks, I would write about what a bad day felt like to me.

I have a bad day one or two times a month. This is what they feel like to me. I also have lots and lots of Good Days and I’ll be writing about that next week sometime. Everything I tell someone that writes me an email regarding how I get through a bad day is exactly how I do it. I’m not just making stuff up. I actually do the things that I say work, because they work for me. Of course, that doesn’t mean they will work for you. Everyone is different.

I could have not shared this with all of you. But wouldn’t that be hypocritical? To be the one always giving advice on how to work through big issues and get to a good place emotionally? To pretend that I’m always fine and never feeling depressed? Because I do. Sometimes, and this is for everyone on the planet, you have a bad day and you feel like shit. Now, maybe you don’t get as dark as I do. And I don’t even get as dark as I used to. But you probably know what I’m talking about.

Thanks for all the well-wishes and encouragement. I am so thankful to have so many readers that care about me. I sure wish that I had prefaced the entry with a little “Hey There, Y’all” so you would have known and I promise to do that in the future.

Bad Days

I wake up in the morning and before I even open my eyes, there it is. That weight laced with desperation. That sinking feeling that tells me nothing is ever going to get better and I might as well just give up now. Give up at what, I’m not really sure. Not that it matters.

I contemplate actually opening my eyes. But what is the point of that? Why would I want to see things better? Smarter just to lay here and try my best not to listen. And definitely not see, think. Anything. Maybe I can go back to sleep. It’s only 5:15am. Plenty of time to sink back in.

My brain does not cooperate. My own worst enemy. Why? Trying to not think ends up worse than thinking. Pushing away the thoughts that at first sneak around behind and then try to cover my head, soon begin simply jabbing at my gut and my thighs. Prodding sharply. I give in and acknowledge them. And then they cover me up.

Nothing will ever get any better. In fact, it’s already getting worse. It doesn’t matter what I could ever try to do. Ever. All the projects I get excited about and then plan. All the projects that I hope will somehow make a difference in someone’s life. They amount to nothing. Nothing. And no one cares. And why should they? I mean, really? Who am I to try and do anything, anyway? I’m just one more person in the world that thinks farther than they can actually reach. But realizes it too late to save themselves the public embarrassment.

I’m beginning to suffocate. If I don’t open my eyes, I’ll die.

What do I think I’m doing with my life? I should go back to school. I should want to go back to school. I should go get a regular job where I drive to an office and see normal people that do work-type things and drink coffee. I should want to want a regular job. I should make sure I have health care. I should have an IRA and heavy savings accounts. I should take vacations twice a year for 3.5 days each and be happy that I have an office to go back to. I should stop trying to make something out of nothing and give it up already. I’m not really a business owner. I’m not really a project director or designer or good at talking with clients or anything to do with what I am supposed to do. My work is crap. Total crap. No one wants to see it. No one likes it. I could never be one of the people that are talked about later as someone that contributed to something great or amazing or worthwhile because everything I do is so mediocre and inconsequential. Trying to create another place for people to get together online. Who the fuck cares? The code is crap. The design is crap. It won’t ever get done. If it does get done, it will suck and no one will want to be a part of it anyway. I’m not painting anymore but if I did, no one would buy them. And if I tried to paint again, I wouldn’t be able to. I think I’ve lost whatever talent I had before.

If I don’t get out of bed, I will never get out again.

I have spots on my arm that haven’t healed in over 6 months. I think I scratch them when I’m sleeping or nervous. I don’t know why they don’t heal. What is wrong with me? People notice them and I can see in their eyes how ugly I am. Hideous and weird. And fat. So, so fat. And my writing sucks. I write a blog that is just like a million other ones. And I write things that are of no importance to anyone. And the people that do write me, I can’t even answer. At least, not all of them. So many that I can’t even write back. So many people that need help and want someone to hear them and tell them that they are OK. And they are OK. I just don’t have the time to tell them that. I’m such a failure. I should be writing them all back so they know. But who do I think I am writing anyone? What could I possibly have to say that would make a difference? I don’t really know anything. I have no good advice. I don’t know ANYTHING. I only know what I’ve gone through and half the time, it makes no sense to me. We’re never going to have enough money. Rent will be due and we’ll be late. Projects are due and we are late. The electricity will get turned off if we don’t make it by 5pm. Can’t pay the bills. Can’t pay the bills. Can’t pay the bills. Can’t breathe.

In the shower I try to wash it all away. But I could scrub for hours and it wouldn’t work. Hours. There is just too much. Somehow, I’m supposed to go downstairs and begin my day and do stuff. Stuff that doesn’t matter and that I suck at.

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.

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