United States of Tara

Hidden Gifts

rainbow-jpgThis past year or so I’ve been trying to find the gifts in whatever life hands me. When I’m stuck in traffic, maybe it’s that I got to hear something really great on NPR before I reached my destination. If I dropped and shattered a favorite heirloom glass serving bowl, maybe it’s that when I swept the floor I found the missing earring I’ve been looking for under the fridge. You get the idea. The game is thus: can I find the gift no matter how deeply it’s hidden, because I really and truly have to believe in a God that cares about me so much, He would only give me a trauma wherein a gift is hidden just for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I could do this Life.

When I meditate in the mornings, I frequently have an old trauma come forward in my consciousness. It will be something from when I was young and vulnerable. Abuse of all kinds. Situations where I’ve been holding on to guilt and shame and anger. Most of them I felt like I’d already dealt with and let go, but I stopped being surprised to see them months ago. And what I’m learning is that I can’t really fully release them until I find the gift, even if I’ve dealt with the trauma. And with some of the stuff? It’s hard. HARD. Finding a gift when someone has sexually assaulted you is a tall order, my friend. But so far, in my own experience, it can be done. It may not be fast. It is definitely not easy. And who knows, I may run into one in the future that takes the rest of my life, but it won’t stop me from trying because the pay off is worth it. And just in case it’s not clear, this gift is NOT in any way from the person who perpetrated the crime. That person did not do me any favors in harming me. No. It’s just that my God is so powerful, He can turn anything for good on my behalf.

Which brings me to this election cycle and this past few months in particular. In case you don’t know who I am, I’ll sketch it for you.

I’m the most white woman possible coming in at 100% European octane, who has been in relationships previously with women and believes in marriage equality and safe living for all, and who fell in love with a half-Mexican man. I was abused and assaulted by those I knew and some I didn’t starting before age four. I went through most of my life challenged with mental health issues like bipolar and DID [ I was a consultant for the Showtime series, United States of Tara ] and I am a passionate mental health advocate. I have physical issues like Lupus. I’m a mother to four children and have two grandchildren. I was raised in an LDS family, left the church for about twenty years, and then came back to it about two years ago. I live in California in a warm seat of liberals with a local economy that does alright and even though I was raised by an ultra-conservative father who sent me to John Birch camp one summer, I lean more left than center in most things. My husband has a full-time job with benefits which makes it possible for me to work from home on a part-time basis mentoring and doing energy work for others who have compound physical and mental challenges. I also write, shoot photos, make jewelry, paint, and do pretty much any craft that exists.

Between my husband and myself, we have a lot of family, including many minority and gay family members and friends who live all across the country. We mostly live paycheck to paycheck but have modest 401Ks. We have three month’s food storage smack dab in my bedroom requiring me to get in bed by crawling over canned goods because we live in a tiny condo and there’s no other place to put it. We will not have a gun in our home. Neither of us has a Bachelor’s degree but two of our kids do and one will soon and the other one doesn’t seem to need one because he’s already making more per year than we do by a very large margin. We don’t care about material things and are usually late adopters. The largest TV we’ve ever owned is so small you can’t read the questions on the screen when you watch The Chase.

I volunteer for my church on a weekly basis and can’t imagine my life now without it, although I’m also deeply conflicted about multiple beliefs that are held by most members. I hate crowds and having conversations that mean nothing. I’d prefer an afternoon on my couch reading, snuggled up to Joe instead of heading to a fancy party. I’ve been known to be awkward in public settings because I have a hard time regulating my language if someone says or does something that rubs up against what I consider imperative like protecting the underdog or exhibiting blatant racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or anything that implies that person thinks they are better than any other person on the planet. I’m getting better at picking it up when it’s not so blatant.

That means that this past year I’ve been repeatedly hit by Donald Trump and his words and promises. I’ve been in fear. I’ve been angry. I’ve been confused. I’ve been worried about my friends and family that aren’t white and straight. I’ve been worried about the future and what it means for someone like me with preexisting health issues and how protected I need to be walking down the street alone because my body is now not my own and is open season for leering men who want to grab me and assault me (which is how minority people have felt for, oh, ever.). And I’ve been wondering how to just forget all the things Trump said he’d do now that he’s going to be the president like so many people suggest because of course HE’S NOT REALLY GOING TO DO any of those things (but I don’t believe that) and I’ve been wondering how it’s possible to expect all the people who are now committing violence in his name to just stop because he says to, IF he says to.

These are not hypothetical worries I have. They are very real. And I’m that 100% creamy mayo white lady living in the lap of liberal territory. I can’t imagine how my Muslim immigrant friends feel or my Mexican and Black family and friends in red states feel or my LGBTQ and Latinx friends feel who married someone of the same gender or simply hope to use a bathroom in a public place without getting beaten up. And what keeps me up at night are the thoughts about how this is trickling down into our youth. The stories of what the kids are doing to the other kids at school. I mean, you remember school, right? It’s a nightmare even when you’re popular and the going is good. Imagine how those kids are feeling. (And then donate to Kelly‘s Being Black at School because they are doing the work.)

Circling back to the beginning of my post –> where is the gift? That’s what I go to sleep asking my God. Where is the gift in this? And He didn’t answer. For months I’ve been asking and frustrated and angry because it felt like He wasn’t playing by the rules.

Wait on the Lord, I’d hear. Wait.

Election night, as Joe and our son, Tony, and I watched the election results come in, it was about the time Florida kept going back and forth that I realized, I mean, it HIT me, Trump could win this. The only hope I’d had for months was that Trump was about to get his hat handed to him with a thorough trouncing and then things would go back to normal. I needed that so bad.

Normal is not coming. It’s not happening. Normal doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t think it ever did but I didn’t know that in my bubble. All my worst fears came true. Trump won and reports of violence started pouring in. It was like someone took the cap off the slow leak of terrible things that had been happening and everything burst out. Conservatives pretty much across the board had one of three things to say: 1. Stop complaining. 2. Things are not that bad. 3. Voting for Trump doesn’t make me racist. Minority liberals had one thing to say: 1. I’m terrified.

Over the past three days I’ve been in a crash course of learning what I didn’t know. Normal for me looked like living in a bubble of information that I already knew. It meant not having important conversations with the conservative members of my family to see how they felt. It meant not looking deeply into why so many people in the middle states were hurting. It meant discounting the importance of listening to my minority friends who had been worried for MONTHS that this was going to turn out bad. It meant looking at everything through a simplistic telescope. It meant being slightly smug that I was smarter or “got it” and those in the red states didn’t. It meant being able to lie to myself that I knew everything would turn out how I wanted it to. Needed it to.

And then, that is not how it went down.

Joe and I wept that night and off and on the next day and the next day and even today. We listen to someone elses story, witness their pain and grief, and feel that connection that only comes from surviving trauma. Make no mistake about it, this has been a PTSD experience for thousands. This is severe trauma that taps into survival fears. The Flight/Fight response. People are fighting for their lives.

But there’s been a gradation of grief that has begun to dissipate from time to time and every now and again something extraordinary happens. I find a gift. I realized today that I had a few I could list and as I started listing, more and more came. It was as if my God was saying, “Hey there. Here’s your gifts. You thought you would just get one or two? Sillyhead.”

That’s often how it goes. He gives me way more than I was expecting.

  • I had to dig deep to find out what I believed about the world and in doing so, I know myself better.
  • I have an opportunity to shore up my boundaries about what I believe is acceptable and think up strategies for what to do when I see them being crossed.
  • My own capacity for being there for others has increased. I can be more present.
  • I have to open my eyes to see where I failed and what my own part is in this, which creates room for me to change, grow, and improve.
  • I’ve been shown where I dropped the ball in relationships, giving me a chance to reconnect and do better.
  • I’ve been brought closer to members of my family who I haven’t had any serious conversations with in quite some time.
  • I realize I’ve made it through terrible, horrible things in my life and no matter what happens now, I’ll find a way to be ok and I take it upon myself to help everyone I can to find that peace also.
  • I reaffirmed my determination to not be a victim in my own story. No one gets to decide but me what kind of person I am or how I will respond to a situation.
  • I see more ways to be emotionally useful to others.
  • The training I’ve had in energy work repeatedly comes in handy in supporting others.
  • Joe and I had conversations about emergency preparedness and survival that we should have had long ago.
  • The potential for growth and important learning is happening right now. Like, RIGHT NOW.
  • It’s ok if I don’t know how to do everything right the first time around. I can always learn if I stay open to it and don’t get defensive.
  • I’m more ok with other people feeling uncomfortable while they’re learning. It’s part of the process.
  • I’ve had a sneak peak into my own soul and I pretty much liked who I saw.
  • To Do:
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Take a Self-Defense class.
  • Learn how to peacefully protest.
  • Learn the art of agreeing to disagree so conversations can continue.
  • Choose even more deliberately where to spend my energy and which direction I want to go.
  • Try to get more “in-between” moments with the kids where the real connections happen.
  • Tell everyone I love them

None of these things changes the situation at large. Nothing I’ve learned makes it easier for anyone else. It only changes what’s happening inside me, but with those changes I can come from a place of peace and that might be helpful to others while they navigate this tricky and deeply upsetting terrain.

I believe real conversations are the only ones worth having, and I intend to make as many of them go as deep as I possibly can. It’s going to take a long time to release all the trauma that’s happened, not just for me but for so many this past year, especially because it’s ongoing. I have hope I can do my part now because of receiving so many gifts with which to process it all. I’ll keep waiting on the Lord, but I’m also going to do everything within my power to help those around me. It’s a sacred responsibility.

Two Things

1. Quick interview with me re: United States of Tara season 3. They used a photo Tony took of me.

2. Quick recap of boring stuff for my personal records, GO. My health is poop. The maybe-you-have-fibromyalgia along with your other 10-gallon bucket of other diagnoses has turned out to be pretty much, yeah, you have that. I couldn’t open my jaw for about 5 days and it was really painful for about 2 weeks. My headaches are nuts. I feel my ovaries 24/7 with some hours making me want to poke my eyes out. I have pain all over no matter what position I’m in, which has been going on for years, but this flare up has been outstanding as far as high on the pain chart goes. I’m frustrated I can’t do all the things I’d like to do. I’m not as helpful with Gma as I want to be. And I have a healthy dose of shame and regret that my current condition is taking any of Joe’s concentration and energy away from Gma Jean. Bahblahblah. Notes to self = Approach as of April 1, 2011 – incorporate yoga, acupuncture and massage. Perhaps increase Lamictal and/or Trazedone or possibly add something else back in to the cocktail. Vicodin does pretty much nothing and acetaminophen works about as well with less risk. Heating pad is my constant companion. Let’s just keep moving forward because A, what other choice is there? and B, when you reach 77 different diagnoses, which surely I have at this point, they all kind of run together, the names become meaningless, you decide labels don’t matter, it’s all about how you feel and quality of life, and you qualify for a party, right? Since your frequent buyer punchcard is full?

Book and Mag Update

Hello Friends! Thank you so much for your support of my book and magazine. I feel so lucky to be able to do things I really love and be able to support myself. Want to submit to Issue 2 of LPCHmag? Go here.

Season 2 of Tara starts on March 22nd. This season is SO GOOD, you guys. We get into the reality of family support of a member having a mental illness and co-consciousness with personalities, meaning more than one personality is out at the same time.

You can see an interview Showtime did with me on the Tara website. Look for it on the right side of the page. The low camera angle did me no favors, but I’m studiously not looking at it and trying to focus on the positive, which is that I didn’t have a booger hanging out my nose.

You Can't Take Me Anywhere

Yesterday I went to the Tara set and met some wonderful people. I got to see how they shoot and watch the monitors and listen with the headphones. I sat by the writers and chatted and joked around. My first time ever on a set, and I think I nailed it.

For example, Toni Collette (I adore her!) (Super talented!) came to shake my hand right after I wiped my nose with my fingers and then wiped them down the side of my jeans. I turned around to meet John Corbett just as I was hiking my bra strap back up my shoulder. He does seem to be one of the nicest guys ever. When I was introduced to Keir Gilchrist, I was just coming out of one of those surreal moments where you can’t believe you are really where you are, doing what you’re doing. So, I was kind of staring off into space for a sec, jumped when I realized he was right there and then shook his hand very enthusiastically. Which, he loved just like any other 18ish guy would.

I was around Brie Larson (Used to be a pop star! How cute is she with the french fries and shit!) the most. She was joking around with some of the most awesome writers to ever grace the earth, Brett and Dave, and I was in a nearby directors chair, surreptitiously listening and trying to appear like I was busy with something on my phone. Which I was not. Because my battery was almost dead. So, I’m just sitting there, half turned their way and randomly clicking buttons on the phone’s keypad, which is CLOSED. And then I thought to myself – this is pathetic. And it was. I put my phone in my pocket and turned more their way and started interjecting laughter and smiles at what I hoped was appropriate timing. Ha ha ha! You know the scene in 16 Candles where Anthony Michael Hall’s character is sitting on the bleachers at the dance trying to start up a conversation with Molly Ringwald’s character? Ya, kinda like that. The three of them were so witty, I had no hope of keeping up. So, instead I blurted, ‘I love your tattoos!’ to Dave in the middle of their dialog regarding a Craigslist murderer. It went really smooth. You should know that this little incident is not their fault at all. They were very, very nice to me. I just happen to be a dork sometimes.

I also met Rosemarie DeWitt, who was beautiful, very nice and friendly. She was recently in the movie Rachael Getting Married. (LOVED it. Very good flick.) With her was Ron Livingston and I had to actually bite my lip from leaning over and whispering in his ear, ‘I hate my job and I’m not going to do it anymore.’ in my very best Peter Gibbons‘ impression. Or, ‘Uuumm, yaaaa. Peter. I’m going to have to go ahead and ask you to come in this weekend.’ Both, hysterical. To me. I’m sure he’s never had anyone do that before.

At one point, I went next door to do an interview they filmed to use in the season 2 promos and on the Tara website. I was a little nervous at first, but everyone there made me feel so comfortable, it went fine. I said Um a lot and kept checking the ceiling to my left after every question, apparently waiting for the answer to float down softly like snow. Which, could happen on a set. Look for that, friends. I’m adding awesome interviewee to my repertoire.

The director of the interview wanted to shoot some B roll footage to cut to during the times when my talking head gets boring to look at in the editing room. They told me to not look at the camera and just keep doing what I ‘normally’ do. Hm. So, I stared at the screens and looked at some footage. Then, I held the headphones to my ears and stared even harder at the screen, accompanied by a small but distinct furrowed brow, showing real concentration which almost burned a hole on screen one. After about 6 solid minutes of that excitement, the director asked me to talk to the writers and do some pointing, which the writers were very good sports about. The dialog for that conversation went something like this –

Me – Um.
Brett – Now let’s look at this page in the script. See where she says, ‘Can I?’
Me – Now I’m pointing, too. Yes. Pointing right there.
Brett – Let’s turn to this other page and see where I’m pointing?
Me – Yes, I see that. Right here?
Director – More Pointing!
Me – Oh, look. Look at the screen!
*I point furiously, from screen to screen then back to script, sweat forming on my neck and glistening on my forehead.*
Brett – Yes, I really see you pointing now. You’re pointing at the screen and now at the script.
*My arm is stuck in some kind of pointing pattern up and down and up and down.*
Director – -sigh-
Cameraman – I guess there is a reason you guys are writers and not actors.

And, scene.

The thing I noticed when meeting everyone on set, and this goes for meeting anyone anywhere for the first time that knows I’m MPD, is that they say hello a little cautiously, with some curiosity in their eyes. They study me for just a second or two, trying to decide if I’m an ACTUAL crazy person about to do ACTUAL crazy things or if I’m mostly tame. I enjoy that moment immensely. And one of these days, I tell ya, I’m gonna do something completely bizarre after shaking their hand, like start ticking my head to the right repeatedly and saying, ‘Not NOW, Satan. Not NOW!’ I’ll wait til I meet Steven Spielberg to use that one.

Ask Leahpeah, United States of Tara Edition

Did you meet Steven Spielberg?

Sadly, no. That is definitely something I would have mentioned on my blog and elsewhere had it happened.

What was it like to work with Toni Collette?

I’m sure it’s great. I didn’t actually meet her, either. I really always went through Diablo Cody.

Were your transitions between alters as dramatic as those depicted in the show? Are they always a complete personality change, or can it be more subtle, like a mood swing?

I’m not sure what you mean by dramatic. I haven’t noticed any head twisting or body convulsions during the switch, which is how I think most people assume it is like. Tara just closes her eyes and switches, maybe with a tilt of her head.

Or do you mean a dramatic difference between who she was and who she became? In that case, sure. That’s the way it works. That’s why you have alters, because they are so different. But, if you are in public, chances are you aren’t going to switch in an obvious way unless it’s pretty dire and unexpected. And mostly, everyone inside would want to try and act like everything was normal, and try and imitate whoever was out last, especially if you are with other people. People staring and asking questions can be really uncomfortable.

That being said, if you switch to an alter who doesn’t have co-consciousness with the other alters, and they were triggered to come out by something traumatic, they might not have the knowledge or ability to act like who was just out. And that could look pretty strange to others and be confusing for the alter.

Is it possible to transition to another alter and not have the other person (husband, kids) know?

Sure. If you have a few alters that have been really working to communicate and agree for awhile and aren’t holding resentments against each other and pretty much know the secrets of the other ones, they can act like each other pretty well. If you having DID is something your family doesn’t know about, they might just think you are having pms or something. Or that you are maybe on drugs. You never know.

When one alter is dominant, are the others aware of what’s going on at all?

Sometimes. Maybe. Yes. No. It all depends. : ) Everyone’s internal system is different. They might have some alters that are aware of some, but not all. Or all. Or none. It can be very complex. Or not. It all depends on the person.

When you become integrated, do you remember everything that happened to all the alters?

Pretty much. The reason you can become integrated is because there are no more secrets from any one inside. If you all have the same information and you are all the same age and you all want to become one, you can. I don’t know if I know EVERYTHING that has happened in my life previous to integration, but I don’t know if it matters.

Since your mind split again, do you think all the personalities you had growing up will come back or how about new ones?

I have no idea. I was surprised as hell that Claire was back again. I assume that she is back for a reason. And I guess if there was a reason for the rest of them to be back, they would be. But I can’t think of a reason. And as far as new ones showing up, it could happen. My mind automatically creates these alters for me in times of great stress or when I have overwhelming feelings that I don’t know how to process. I don’t ever know when that will happen, so I can’t prepare for it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Do your kids know you are a multiple again?

Yes. They all know. Joe and I thought it was the right thing to tell them. They have been through so much with me and if there was a chance that I would be switching in front of them, and they weren’t prepared, I believe that would be a worst case scenario for the trust we’ve built up between us.

What does your husband think about it? Is he mad?

Joe has always been a very understanding and supportive husband. He married me knowing that the future could be uncertain. He suspected long before I did that my splitting again would be possible. I’m sure he is worried and sometimes anxious about what this might mean for our relationship, but mad? No. Not as far as I know. But it might be best to ask him.

Why are you being public about it?

Since 2002 I’ve been online and public about my mental health issues. I don’t hold things back because I know there are many other people out there who suffer from some of the same things. Because mental illness carries such a stigma with it and it’s been a taboo subject to mention, I wanted to go where few were daring to go and be a place where people could discuss it. Ultimately, that was the reason for starting RealMental.org. I wanted more of a community feeling centered on mental illness and the real people that live with it every day.

When I split again awhile back, I was unsure what it meant and unsure if I would stay that way. I didn’t talk about it for a long time in case there was nothing to talk about. But, when it became obvious that Claire was back for good, it was something that had to be included in the conversation. Keeping secrets is always detrimental to my mental health and I really try to not have them.

Is your life going to be worse now?

Worse? Different. More complicated, maybe. But, every alter I have is a part of me. I’m just being myself. And I hope that doesn’t mean it’s worse.

I went to buy Not Otherwise Specified and it’s not there anymore. Why?

UPDATE: Get it here.
I’m working on reworking all my journals, adding in missing years, and making it into what I hope will be a really great book. I don’t know when it will be available, but you all will be the first to know.

Thanks for all your support over the years, Leahpeah family.
xoxo

UPDATE: More on USOT

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.

LA Metblogs Interview (Two Things)

David Markland from la.metblogs.com did a fun email interview with me the other day about my involvement with Tara. You can read it here.

There is something about this Neil Patrick Harris site that is really, really funny to me. (Nato, don’t click that link. Liberal use of the F word ahoy.) If you don’t mind salty language, this is one of my favorites. And this one, too (because I hate that word and that somehow makes it hilarious). This one? Makes my brain explode.

Party Re-Cap

We had a great time the night of the United States of Tara premiere party. Diablo brought her fiance, Dan, who might be the nicest guy I’ve ever met.

taraparty_2

We had old friends and new friends show up for the taco bar before the pilot aired. Buttery Nipples were the shot of the night. We talked and talked and it was all around good family fun. Also, we smoked mint flavored tobacco in the hookah in the backyard.

taraparty_3

My favorite photo of the night is not mine. It was taken by my friend, Susan Myrland. She and her husband Doug drove up from San Diego to be there. Susan caught Diablo hanging my yellow-circle-obsession mobile up to the hook on the ceiling.

This post really has no ending, except maybe something like – have friends over for a dinner and a movie night. It’s fun! I guess I’ll close by saying that Diablo was very sweet to pose for a slew of photos and somehow managed to have a genuine smile and angelic aura around her in each one.

taraparty_9

taraparty_1

taraparty_4

taraparty_5

taraparty_6

taraparty_7

taraparty_8

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.

______________

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

United States of Tara

Today marks the first day of production for The United States of Tara. I’m so excited for this series. Not just because it’s about a mother trying to cope with a dissociative disorder and raise her child (which is an awesome premise for a show) but also because they’ve asked me to work with them over at Dreamworks and who wouldn’t be excited about that?

My job is basically to answer questions as they come up for the actors or writers on how to keep the show authentic and real. This I can do. Nothing like having a job where you just get to be yourself. And I even get my name in the credits. That kind of blew me away.

Toni Collette is playing the woman with the dissociative disorder which is all kinds of awesome. I’ve loved her ever since seeing Muriel’s Wedding, still one of my favorite movies. The pilot is being created first, of course, and there is no guarantee that the series will even get made unless the public wants it. But Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody are behind it so it feels like it’s got the backing it needs to really fly. Only time will tell. Look for the pilot in a few months time coming to Showtime. You can get updates from Diablo Cody’s MySpace and I’ll do what updating I can here as well.