Tina Takes Her Life Back
When Tina Garlock looks in the mirror these days, she is no longer ashamed of what she sees.
On the surface, her reflection shows a fifty year old wife and empty-nester mom with a home business, a woman slightly overweight, with frosted hair, hazel eyes, and her father's strong chin.
Yet behind those eyes, and within the nuances of the expressions that cross her face, more is revealed.
A gray-bearded warrior turned healer, who Tina feels may have been a Celtic ancestor returned to aid her in her journey through this life.
And three boys.
The first, in his mid-twenties, has a history of having been taken out of school and put to work at far too young an age. Yet today he enjoys his role of provider, and can be counted on to bring in and manage finances and resources.
The second, in his early twenties, suffered abuse at the hands of the church - possibly to the brink of death. Today, he has found spirituality as opposed to religion, and is known for being the embodiment of gentleness and compassion.
The third, in his mid-teens, has a history of medical abuse, and is mistrustful of conventional medicine. But today he is interested in alternative health care, and can be counted on to question popular thinking and to speak his mind about it, especially in matters of safety and health.
Each morning, Tina spends ten to twenty minutes in progressive relaxation and meditation. Here she retreats inside, to check in with the warrior and the boys, and discuss everyone's needs and wishes, and plans for the day.
Tina was once diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
"The multiple brand, except for the disorder part, would come the closest to fitting," she reflects. "There's no way I have an identity disorder. I know exactly who I am, and I'm always me. The same is true for the warrior, and the boys."
The popular labels as diagnoses of a mental disorder, she rejects outright. "There is no disorder here," she says - "nothing to see here, folks. I'm simply a plain old, everyday, garden-variety multiple."
Wait...what? Does that even exist?
"Oh, yes, it exists," says Tina. "And it's kind of like what being gay was in the 1950's. Almost all of us are still in the closet, and it's actually way more common than most people know."
The warrior and the three boys, use the same terms to describe their way of life. "I Am A Multiple", they all declare. All have long since rejected the more popular rhetoric that goes, "I am part of a multiple system, an alter. And my host(ess) is the core."
To Tina, the warrior, and the boys, "I Am A Multiple" means "I share this body and brain with others." Nothing more, nothing less.
Do Tina, the warrior, and the boys, have any disorders/mental health issues at all, then?
"Yes," Tina says. "We all have PTSD, in different forms and to different degrees. We thought for many years that our warrior escaped this, but it turns out he's quite claustrophobic. He hides it well, but it's there. He fears being trapped, in any sense of the word."
When asked if this is generally true of people with D.I.D, Tina gives an answer that she says is unanimous:
"We have no idea, because we don't have D.I.D. You'd have better luck with that question, if you put it to someone who has the disorder."
So, to rephrase the question, is it generally true of multiples?
"I'm afraid we don't know that one, either," says Tina. "We do know a few other non-disordered multis....some who became multiple due to trauma, and others who just figured out they were multiple, without having experienced any trauma or abuse whatsoever. So, we can't say what is 'generally' true of people like us. We can only speak for ourselves. But please remember, again, that gay people in the 1950s were thought by so-called experts to have 'turned gay' due to trauma. That might be something to keep in mind, if you want a genuine answer to that question. Actually, it's a rather bigoted question, when you stand back and look at it! I mean, would you ever ask someone if thus and so were generally true about men/women/white people/black people/Catholics/Jews/Hindus...?"
Has the sailing always been this smooth for Tina and The Guys?
"No," says Tina, "it hasn't. From childhood until about the age of 30, I was very ashamed of this. I felt like a freak. And The Guys felt even more shame than me, because they felt they weren't supposed to exist at all, not in a female body. They felt like they certainly shouldn't come out front and take over, and I felt like I shouldn't let them. So while these spiritual best friends were saving my sanity and sometimes my life, we were all condemning ourselves, and I was also condemning them. Because that was what society trained us to do - and for no other reason. It was hell.
"We didn't even know what to call this situation, because we certainly didn't fit Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve. All we knew was that we had this terrible secret, and the thing that made it terrible was that it wasn't *normal*.
"Then I gave birth to two children in two years, and was overwhelmed with postpartum depression. When I sought help for that and answered all the intake questions honestly, was when I received the diagnosis. Instead of getting help with the acute depression and the chronic PTSD, I was hounded to integrate first and foremost, and told that nothing else could be solved until this was. That was still hell, but on a deeper level. If I hadn't been married, my kids would have been removed from my care. I was released out of a psych ward, into my husband's custody. That certainly didn't help our marriage, to say the least. It was just all very wrong."
So what happened -?
"Well, after years of being overmedicated and dragged back through my childhood again and again, being an unavailable mom because I was trying to get help in order to be a good mom, my kids graduated high school within a year of each other. Now that I no longer had to fear losing my kids, I said I Quit. I fired my psych doc and my therapist, and my doctor in turn fired me. Thankfully this was before one had to basically present a Patient Resume in order to find a doctor, and - having private insurance now thanks to my husband's work - I found a doctor, presented my symptoms (which by now were all covered under insomnia and PTSD), and he prescribed a few meds instead of a few dozen. I tapered off the remaining meds I didn't need, had never needed in the first place. No therapy any more, no psychiatry - only regular med checks. And I steered clear of bringing up anything related to multiplicity! It was such a blessing. That was when I feel we all started to *really* heal. From the huge burden of shame we'd been carrying - not from our multiplicity."
So...the kids. Did they ever know? And how did it affect them?
"They did find out, at one point. Because I confided in a neighbor - and I shouldn't have. The next thing I knew, there were rumors around the neighborhood, some in the form of 'prayer meeting requests' - and it got back to the kids. So my husband and I told them. Kids, your mom has multiple personalities.
"The kids asked me what all our names were, and I told them they already knew. To everybody else it was Tina, and to them it was Mom. Period. They didn't pry after that, and none of us offered up any information. Whoever was out, was in the role of Mom, and we considered it a very important job title to be performed with as much consistency as possible considering our med changed. Our own individualities were never important, when it came to the kids. It was not about us, it was about them, and they needed a mom.
"Again, I compare it to being gay. I, and the guys as well, would certainly have told the kids, hey, your mom is gay. But we would never have discussed any intimate details with them. Some things, we felt kids just didn't need to know."
So, your family is okay now? You and your kids, and your husband?
"Miraculously, yes. My husband and I have been married 25 years. The kids are out on their own, with good jobs and renting their own apartments. One is going to college, and the other is engaged to be married. My husband is getting ready to retire, and I work from home as a writing consultant and editor. Most people who know me, know I was once diagnosed as a multiple - I'm afraid to be more out that that. Not ashamed - afraid."
So why take the risk of speaking out like this, and why now?
"For others like us. For other families like ours. For any future grandchildren we may have - who's to say one or more of them won't turn up multiple?
"I do realize that for some people, multiplicity itself is a hardship, and therefore a disorder. For those who choose therapy, I do know that with the right therapist, it can be very helpful. But - the disordered multis are the only multis the public hears about. There are others, for whom multiplicity is simply a fact. Nothing more, nothing less. I want these future grandkids that I dream about, to grow up in a world where to be multiple does not automatically meant to be persecuted. Sadly, that world does not exist.....yet."