Karen answers Anonymous

Comment by Anonymous on January 28, 2009 4:23 pm

Awesome work! Thanks for your time and effort in providing help to others. The book of your life was an exhausting read but definitely knowledgable. I learned more about multiple personality from Switching Time than any other book written on this illness. Most books donʼt include the healing process. My sister has been diagnosed with DID and I thought she was full of crap.  I knew she was abused when we were kids because I witnessed our father raping her.  I never told her about this when I was thirteen and she eleven because at the time I thought she wanted him to do it to her.  I didnʼt say anything because I shouldʼve stopped him and didnʼt.  I have lived with this guilt for ten years and first started feeling ill now.  My sister is in therapy and the doctor wants to meet me. Should I go and tell the truth?  Is it to late?  I watch that new show and my sister doesnʼt act like Tara so she must not have DID right?  I am torn.  What if my sister wonʼt like me anymore?  I shouldʼve helped her long ago instead of judging her.

I needed to tell someone, I chose you.

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing.  You are brave and have taken your first step in your own personal journey!  I admire your strength in trying to come to terms with what had happened to your sister and your feelings of helplessness being unable to help her at the time.  You were traumatized, too!  Please don’t be so hard on yourself, you were also a child at the time, and did not understand the severity of the act you witnessed. I am not a therapist and can’t give advice, but it’s never too late to seek help and make a difference in both of your  lives.

It sounds to me that you are ready to face what you’ve kept within yourself for awhile now. Please do seek help, if not with your sister’s therapist, then with your own.  I can understand why you don’t wish to reveal what you witnessed for fear your sister may get upset with you.  However, her therapist will help her through this.  Knowing the truth is a must, it may free the tension between you.

Please don’t compare the illness of multiplcity with the characters on the show USoT.  It’s just a television show and not an accurate depiction of the illness: dissociative identity disorder.  This show may have some moments of familiarity about the disease, but it’s for entertainment purposes and is not a documentary.  I am not the same as “Tara”, and your sister is not either.  Each case is unique shouldn’t be compare with another. What’s most important is believing in your sister without judging her.

My best wishes for you and your sister for a safe journey towards healing.

Thank you for your compliments and for your confidence in trusting me with your pain.

Karen

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Karen answers C Jane

Comment by C Jane on January 25, 2009 4:25 pm

Let me get this straight. Karen, you bring forth curiosity about mpd. In the answer you provided Jonathan Lee you shared an incident that clearly was not of abuse yet you dissociated anyway. Please elaborate on this fascinating switching alters process. What exactly causes a switch to occur? In that show USoT Tara switches but what causes her too.? I canʼt buy any simple reason for her to do it. Did your alters come out all the time like hers in the show, were they a regular part of your daily life?

You are a great asset to all who must suffer from dissociative disorders. How did your psychiatrist keep up with each alter, is it true he had to treat seventeen parts of you? Thatʼs like a full-time job all in itself. In USoT not too much was mentioned of her therapy. I canʼt wait to see tonights episode. Are you going to see it?

Dear C Jane,

Thank you for your questions!  My alters came out when needed.  I would not switch at random, but the best alter would come out to take care of a particular situation that stressed me or I was uncomfortable with. Not every alter would surface to be a part of my daily life, some days one or two came out, other days as many as five may have surfaced, it all depended on what was happening in my life at the time.  The alters were protectors; they would help me survive, not always in the most appropriate way, but nevertheless they helped  in the best way each of them could. The two adult alters, Holdon and Katherine, would oversee all the alters’ activity and make sure we didn’t get into too much trouble.  Switching into an alternate personality was always a coping mechanism.

In the show The United States of Tara, there were reasons for Tara’s switches, if you watch closely, you will notice that anything unpleasant or uncomfortable that came Tara’s way would cause a switch. For instance, in the department store, Tara kind of spaced out for a few seconds and switched into her alter, Alice. That is how it works. Tara couldn’t handle that particular moment and simply went away. The alter Alice was summoned up, and appeared. Just like that!  Problem temporarily solved.

I, too, often wonder how Dr. Baer kept up with all my alters.  He had to treat seventeen different patients in one, a mind boggling job, and it took quite a bit of his time. Regarding whether Tara is in therapy, there were hints to it, and in the third episode I believe there is a scene where she is in a session with her therapist.

Thank you for all your compliments!  I will continue to watch The United States of Tara.  Although it’s not an depiction of what I’ve experienced, the show continues to interest me.

Karen

Karen answers Jonathan Lee

Comment by Jonathan Lee on January 24, 2009 3:54 am

Hi Karen,

God it’s hard to ask a question on this blog. It took ten minutes to figure it out? I nearly said forget it. This story of yours is fascinating. I gained interest after watching a documentary. I am very interested in knowing more about how you dissociated pain. I read Switching Time. I loved it! Could you please share an example of how you dissociated pain, something not in the book that is simpler to understand. One episode of where people around you didn’t know you were hurt when you were, a blood and guts moment if you don’t mind? I find your brain amazing. Thank you.

Jonathan Lee

Want-to-be-med-student

Dear Jonathan Lee,

I’m sorry it took you awhile to figure out how to ask your questions here.  I’m glad you finally did!  We are in the process of updating our Web site and hopefully it will be easier to ask questions.

You ask a very interesting question, something not written about in Switching Time.  Well, there were hundreds of examples.  It’s important to understand that the purpose of being a multiple and switching to an alter is to help remove the current pain through dissociation.

One day, at age eighteen, while relieving a co-worker who worked on a machine in a plant, my hand was sucked into a conveyor belt where the wheels crushed my hand into a jigsaw puzzle. I didn’t scream, I switched to an alter, called for help, and watched my hand be removed without an ounce of pain.  I even helped remove a few of the belt’s screws with my other hand so it could be removed. It took twenty five minutes to free me.  The foremen immediately wrapped my injured hand in a shirt.  I then quiety asked for a ride to the hospital.  No one knew how badly I had been hurt because I expressed no pain. The hospital didn’t take me seriously, either, since I didn’t appear to be in distress and they left me waiting for hours. When someone finally called on me and removed the shirt to reveal the extent of my injury, the staff moved quickly and I was whisked to the operating room.

At the sight of my injury I switched again, and again just before I was injected with pain medication. There might have been three or four alters who took away and fragmented my pain and traumatic experience.  After a few hours of delicate hand surgery, three broken fingers, and over forty stitches later, I woke not knowing what happened. I kept switching from one alter to another and never fully experienced this particular episode in it’s entirety until after integration.  It’s similar to someone who goes into shock after being injured, however, in my case, my alters took over instead.

Karen

Karen answers Psych Major

Comment by Psych. Major on January 22, 2009 7:47 pm

Karen,

What is the difference between multiple personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder? Why do you prefer to say you had multiplicty, use the name alters, and the words switching and losing time? Curious? Why is the medical field so adament about refering to this illness as DID?

Psych. Major.

Dear Psych. Major,

Multiple Personality Disorder is the old term for what is now included in Dissociative Identity Disorder, but Dr. Baer has told me he prefers the old term because it more specifically describes the disorder I had.  DID seems to be a broader concept, he says.

I myself prefer to use the term “multiplicity” because it simply sounds less threatening to me. I hate to use the proper terminology that defines the illness, because it makes me feel ill. I use the word “alters” to describe my past alternate personalities because this word also sounds better and more friendly to me. I use both “switching” and “lost or losing time” because that is what it is.  My choice of words describes my experiences.

Thank you for your interesting questions,

Karen

Karen answers Marcella’s Second Comment

Comment by Marcella on January 22, 2009 3:17 pm

Finished the book! OMG! I think your therapist and you should have been this show. I am privileged to read this book. I changed my mind on your relationship with your therapist. At the beginning of the book I despised him, at the end I understood. Thank you for allowing your story to be told. I admire you guys! Appreciate all your honesty in the answers you share here and there, on IMDb!

Dear Marcella,

Thank you for your confidence and thoughts that Dr. Baer and I should’ve been on this show, we truly do appreciate all of your compliments. I believe The United States of Tara show was already in the making before we were known. Switching Time was published last October, 2007 by Random House. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have a show about us, but most important is to bring awareness of the illness of MPD/DID.

I am glad to hear you changed your mind about Dr. Baer as you read on. We have shared an amazing journey bound by trust and respect.

Karen

Karen answers Marcella

Comment by Marcella on January 20, 2009 2:25 pm

Hi Karen,Perfect answer to the question about Tara’s legs on the IMDb. It puzzled me. I picked up your book yesterday and started reading it late. What a tormented life you had, even your relationship with your therapist wasn’t all that great. I am half way through the book and felt concern for you. I never felt this way while reading a book knowing the end is clear that the patient is alive. Knowing the ending is a relief. Hearing your wise and thoughtful answers has me wondering if your therapist is still there for you. If not, shame on him! Can’t wait to finish the book. Need to put it aside for today, it’s I-Day.  Is it possible to add your answer about the legs here in your column?

You go girl!

Marcella

LA   

Dear Marcella,

Actually, Tara not feeling her legs to be her own could come from the “switching” of her alters. It’s an interesting part of being a multiple. When a switch occurs it takes a few minutes to recoup. When there is an alter change not only is there a change in personality, there is a change in posture, walking, mannerisms… simply as each of us is different, each alter is, too.

Maybe this will be discussed on a future episode of The United States of Tara.  It happens, and has happened to me, too.  One of my alters was paralyzed with leg pain from the weight of my abusers; there were many times when “Julie” came out and I couldn’t walk, felt paralyzed, and the pain was unbearable.  It took awhile after Julie’s switch before all the right feelings in my legs came back. Patience and faith that I would be normal again was a must during these times.

Regarding my relationship with Dr. Baer, he is no longer my therapist.  We do talk, however, and visit together.  I do miss our previous therapeutic relationship, because sometimes I feel I still need it.  But I’m trying to move on as best I can.

Thank you for all your compliments.

Karen

Karen answers V

Comment by V on January 20, 2009 1:13 am

Hey K,

Great answers on TUSoT board! I ordered your book after reading your comments. I’m impressed! What an honor for a real person who actually suffered from, as you say, multiplicity to share your personal thoughts on a show. A comedy show, no less? Your added information has been of great help.

Don’t get upset with the naysayers, they’re ignorant. A show like this was needed. My beef with it is it should be yours. Richard Baer is an amazing therapist to have dealt with you. I doubt I could treat you? If you walked through my door, seriously, I would’ve sent you off to someone else. Yes, I am a counselor, never had a patient like you, and hope not to. At least not until I have more knowledge. I am privileged to learn from Switching Time. I am in the process of adding a few classes to my list in hope to better understand all psychological illness’. Switching Time, TUSoT has sparked interest and I’m going for it.

Great Job! Richard Baer and Karen Overhill, what an accomplishment!

V

Dear V,

Thank you so much for all of your compliments!  Dr. Baer and I truly appreciate hearing your thoughts on Switching Time and my comments. I am not offended by those who criticize or disbelieve in the illness MPD/DID; it’s just their own personal opinions.  I refuse to get angry over ignorance.  I know first hand the truth about surviving multiplicity.  Sure, it would’ve been nice if my story was chosen for this show, however, my story is real, non-fiction, and The United States of Tara is fiction.

I agree, Richard Baer was an amazing therapist, however, he also had a tough time treating me. I am lucky to have found him. As a therapist yourself, it’s important for me to share that when treating someone like me, there’s never a dull moment, but although it’s exhausting and time consuming, it can possibly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career.  MPD is rare, and not many therapists come across a patient who had suffered so horrifically that she needed to create alters to survive.  Good therapists are always needed.

Please have patience in your continued studies.  In reading Switching Time you have already gained more knowledge than Richard Baer had before I walked into his office. That is one reason we decided to share our journey.  Sure, it was difficult for both of us, but I am very grateful Dr. Baer didn’t chase me out of his office or hand me off to someone else.

I wish you all the best!

Karen