I knew I had a book when…

In January 2001, more than a year before I began therapy with Dr. L, or thought I needed to, he gave an autobiographical assignment to our meditation group that exposed my lack of any glue to hold my story together, and I objected to the project. I felt pressured to make sense of a swiss-cheese life filled with holes I hadn’t examined. The enterprise fizzled and more urgent concerns filled my days until well into my exploration of Parts eight years later. By then, I had begun to intentionally piece together memories, making bridges back to child Parts I had previously been unable to reach. “I think I’m constructing a narrative of my life that was blank before,” I told Dr. L, although I wasn’t writing it down yet.

Major memories were jostled in August 2010 when I re-visited Moline, my birthplace in Illinois. With the exception of a 1977 airplane stopover in Moline, I hadn’t been back since 1957. Steve and I took photos of my old home on 39th Street, St. Mary’s School, the woods, the Mississippi River, the creek. The house had changed but was still standing. It still had the power to bring up so much fear and sorrow.

When I returned home to LA I began writing, committed to creating my coherent narrative. I wrote of neglect and assault and denial, of my parents and my siblings and how whole families are affected by trauma, and everything I wrote about hit a wall. I finally had to acknowledge that I couldn’t tell my story without including my Parts. In fact, my Parts are my story, my only way to a coherent narrative.

I soon found that speaking of alternate identities in writing classes labeled me, and it was a lot to overcome, facing my craziness in new ways. As I found the courage to tell my story, I knew I needed considerable skill to get it right. When I finally allowed my conversations with Parts and their conversations with Dr. L into my manuscript, I knew I had a book that not only clarified my journey but that potentially demystified dissociative disorders, which are not always, (and maybe not even usually,) as sensational and dramatic as in the movies.

Revisiting home


The porch is gone and the screen door. The peeling clapboards look like siding and roof is new.

Insects flew right in the torn screen door. Even the cat found entry: It was a broken place.

Muffled sounds from the house faded away under the porch. It was quiet.

In my refuge under the porch, the dirt seemed sifted, soft as talcum, as a kiss.

Hazy particles swam filtered through shadows in dusty clouds and held me.

The porch is gone, also the screen, and the house no longer cries for paint.

It must be better in this new unbroken place.


I have just started reading Jill Bialosky’s stunning History of a Suicide and already, only ten pages in, I sense her sister’s feelings as inescapable. Clearly, I am identifying more than I should with the woman who took her own life. At one time, I feared that Cat, my angry and unpredictable Part, would kill me when I wasn’t paying attention. She gave me plenty of cause to think that. Then I would have the splintering, shattering sensations of who am I?  Because it’s so settled to decide to die, it drops into place so neatly and extinguishes the terror so explicitly. It’s such an obvious, happy solution. It also scares the shit out of me, this me, the not-Cat me. This part knows that no outside person, no family member can ever comprehend the breadth of that experience or save my life. As much as I love them, they were irrelevant to my predicament. When our loved ones intuit that their words are empty and they cannot pierce our emotional pain, they are right. I have so much sorrow now for the person I was, who knew she had to be alone, and for all those who still are.

Deceptive Simplicity

I have just read Brenda Miller’s Blessing of the Animals and I am struck dumb by the symmetry and loveliness of her writing as I struggle through Philip Bromberg’s The Shadow of the Tsunami for at least the second time, left-braining what is probably an intuitive leap, an understanding of self, which self, at which moment, what and how it is. Then I encounter Brenda Miller and the deceptive simplicity of a lived-in life. I am awed.