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Not Otherwise Specified, a memoir of one woman’s struggle with multiple personalities goes beyond the conventional story-telling of one’s life, of detailing one’s family and one’s hardships and the lessons learned along the way. This retelling of the fascinating yet heartbreaking journey into the many minds of mental illness will grip you instantly and leave you wondering how someone could have survived to tell the story.
I read this book as a daughter and as a mother, as someone who grew up under some of the same paternalistic religious standards that when abused can wreck the lives of those whom it is supposed to help the most. Here Leah shows the circle of being a daughter and then becoming a mother herself, the intricacies of those relationships and how laying blame is not the way to move forward or to become healithier. She beautifully illustrates that half of the cure for illnesses whether physical or mental is to take them seriously, to recognize that the illness does exist, and no one can come away from this story without seeing straight into the demon of a impaired mind.
Having experienced a mental illness myself I think the fact that she tells this story with such clarity speaks to her ability as a writer. There is so much confusion and doubt and frustration that accompanies the daily ritual of dealing with depression and anxiety, even more so with eating disorders. That she is able to detail those experiences from the perspective of separate personalities, that the descriptions are so exact and recognizable is profoundly astounding. I could not put the book down because I had become almost emotionally attached to each person in her body, feeling the pain of one personality and the joy of another.
This memoir will do nothing but provide a better, more sympathetic, more compelling face to the mysteries of multiple personalities and should help eliminate the stigma of mental illness in general. Here is the human side of a seemingly unimaginable tale, one that left me
looking at every person I meet with a little more sympathy. If only every book could leave me feeling that way.
Heather Armstrong, www.dooce.com
My first session with Leah felt a little bit rushed to me. She announced that she was “multiple”, told me some about her inner world (i.e., names, ages, and functions), and told me she/they were ready to integrate. I must admit that my past experience working with people with DID followed a somewhat different pattern. Usually, after a couple or more years of therapy, testing (of me), trust building, catastrophe and catharsis, the decision to integrate was finally broached, then negotiated, and finally completed. To have someone walk into a first session and say they just wanted a little help integrating was a shocker. But, Leah meant it. And, of course, for her it was not a quick decision. She had worked for years with another therapist in California, she had written a good portion of this book and she had used her art for years as an integral part of her therapy.
Even so, we did work fast and effectively. Introductions were made, fears were laid to rest and integration proceeded smoothly. While our relationship was brief and her final integration unusual ( in that I was very new to her life and system); her story in many ways was not unusual at all. At the heart of it was a deep sense of shame. A shame of such monumental proportions that it must be hidden. Secrets of shameful events were guarded and kept under wraps. Whenever the mind resorts to such creative but extreme measures as the making of alter-personalities, one finds secrets so shameful that the rage naturally engendered by such events is disguised and displaced. In every case you will find a “Samson” or a father (or some other powerful, significant adult) who does “things” to a child that simply cannot be talked about. These things must be hidden or denied or distorted.
I felt honored and privileged to be among of the first to read Leah’s manuscript. It is a work of great integrity and honesty. It takes one to that private place where you see all the confusion and desires and complexities of the human condition in the raw. It was started, I believe, to serve Leah in the very difficult task of facing herself (we should all be so brave!). I hope now it will serve others in their own journey to health and integrity.