Saturday, May 11, 2024

Autism Answer: New Memoir Examines the Paths that Lead a Woman to a Diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder

 Malnutrition, Memory Loss, and Multiple Personalities


Book cover


This month Robert D Reed publishing will be releasing the book In Search of Teressa: A Journey into the Mind of a Woman with Many Personalities, written by renowned author and neuroplastician Lynette Louise, aka “The Brain Broad." aka My Mom! 

It is my mom’s eighth published book and her second book published with Robert D Reed publishing. Her first with them was Miracles are Made: A Real Life Guide to Autism - back then the company was run by Robert and his wife, Cleone. Robert has since died and Cleone is now the editor and publisher, and an author herself. I worked with Cleone on the editing of this book and admit that I sort of feel like we've established a sisterhood. Not just me and Cleone, but me, Cleone, mom and Teressa.

My mom has been writing since my earliest memories (hers, too). She writes poetry, songs, academic abstracts and articles, books, shows, theater, and comedy shows. Almost always her stories are created with the intention to inspire and teach, to learn and grow, to surprise and submit uncommon perspectives. Almost always she writes stories based on her own life and those of us closest to her. 

This new book is her first written through the lens of someone else’s life and memories.

The book was written at Teressa's request. Teressa is a woman who - in adulthood - was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (known colloquially as multiple personalities) and who has spent much of her lifetime searching for the answer to a self-proposed question: “Whose fault am I?”

With mom’s penchant for scientific seeking via outlier thinking and poetic prose, her exploration of this question is at once academic and wondrous.

The book contains two parts.  

Part one is written directly from Teressa’s own memories and version of things. The story unfolds in the fashion of fiction.  Readers dive in and are introduced to the unreliable power of memory and its significant role in the creation of who we become. Memory issues plague Teressa from her early childhood and onward.  She also suffers from a variety of physical ailments stemming from unexplained sources. However, it is not until her adult years, as a wife and mother, that she is diagnosed with DID. Nature vs nurture is on display as Teressa’s brain function is influenced by malnutrition, abuse, religion, retreats, and a love story that takes such careful care of her it becomes unhealthy. 

The second part of the book brings the author’s voice and observations to the forefront. As an international brain and behavior expert, my mom is experienced and thoughtful. She is there to write Teressa’s book, but also to help Teressa better understand herself and to take some control of her own healing. Living with her adult autistic son, my brother Dar, mom stays in the apartment above Teressa’s garage. Interviewing family, friends, and counselors, while sifting through documents, medical records, letters, and thousands of journal pages, the ways in which Teressa and her “alters” (alternate personalities) grew to be who they were by the time of my mom’s introduction to her is teased out. 

Instructively, but also painfully, the ways in which professionals were potentially culpable in the deteriorating of Teressa’s mental health begs to be recognized. This kind of breaks my mom's heart. One of those professionals is a dear friend and colleague of mom's. She loves her and owes much of her own career to her. She helps reverse her friend's Parkinson's symptoms while her friend lets her work under her license. They adore each other. Yet, the more she learns from Teressa and those around her, the more of an ethical conundrum she finds herself wading in. All of this she shares with readers. 

"The story of this one woman's life," my mom said to me on the phone, "demonstrates the degree to which our medical choices shape our past, present, and future."
Following clues, experimenting with kindness, keeping an open mind, these are at the heart of both science and art. This book utilizes these tools and engages readers because of it.

Throughout these pages my mom marvels at the parallels between their lives. My mom has a history that is similar to Teressa’s. Including a flirtation with similar diagnoses, in her youth. 

However, the two women ultimately ended up with very different minds. 

“I want readers to come away with a recipe for how to live a life that improves, moment to moment,” mom says regarding a key takeaway from her latest book. “A recipe for improving regardless of your history or situation.”

Both science and art do their best work when keeping an eye on the question they seek to answer, particularly when there is a willingness to adjust it.  “Whose fault am I?” was not a healthy question for Teressa.

“Do you want to be one unique person?” my mom asks Teressa on the page. When Teressa consistently and vigorously answers yes to this question, it is answers to that question my mom consistently and vigorously guides her to seek and find. 

How do we move from being a woman with over twenty alters to becoming one unique person? 

Though a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder is not common, it is intriguing. Surprisingly, it is also relatable.

Despite so much of Teressa’s story being unique to her, a woman who is unstable to the point of presenting “alters” (alternate personalities), it is consistently familiar. Places where Teressa chooses one way to think vs another, I have been there. Most people - particularly women - have. Most of us just followed a different thought or behavior bringing us to a different place, a different state of mind.

As is the power of all great science and art, In Search of Teressa tells Teressa’s story while reflecting for readers aspects of our own.

It will be available to purchase via online bookstores (Amazon, Barns & Nobel, Powell's) at the end of May 2024.

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