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POP INTERVIEW: Thomas Smith Discusses Living with a Loved One’s Multiple Personalities

Multiple Personality Disorder, sometimes called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is often a soap opera plot line but little understood in reality. Journalist and author Thomas Smith explained the life few have experienced with his partner Darrell’s many personalities, the subject of the book they co-wrote together, Which One Am I?

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Multiple Personality Disorder, sometimes called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is often a soap opera plot line but little understood in reality. Journalist and author Thomas Smith explained the life few have experienced with his partner Darrell’s many personalities, the subject of the book they co-wrote together, Which One Am I?

which one am i

Some people don’t want to date someone because he or she comes from a different social upbringing. Or it could be like the time I once read online, a man saw a woman was using a Blackberry instead of an iPhone. People run away from dating for any reason! Why did you want to stay with Darrell when you learned of his disorder?
Someone won’t date a woman because she owns the wrong brand of phone? I find that pathetic, shallow and somewhat vulgar. Stories like that make up one of the reasons I choose to no longer work in Hollywood.

Ironically, it’s my entertainment business background that made it easier to accept and deal with Darrell’s DID. Back in the late Seventies when I was first beginning to perform, I met Monkee Micky Dolenz. When we were talking he was the most intelligent, soft-spoken man you’d ever hope to meet. Give him an audience, though, and suddenly he turned into wild and crazy Micky Monkee. “Ah!,” I thought to myself. “That’s how it’s done.” That was only my first experience with the phenomenon of people switching personalities because there is hardly an artist I’ve ever met – and I’ve met more than my share – who isn’t different on stage than off. I do the same thing whether I’m reading from “Which One Am I?,” singing a song, teaching a class or just speaking in front of a group.

This willful switching isn’t confined to Hollywood, by the way. To become someone different is common among educators, politicians and whoever puts themselves in front of other people. I’d already accepted that this is a phenomenon that happens all the time since I do it as well. There isn’t much of a jump from the perspective I already possessed to accepting someone who switched inadvertently.

What are the challenges of dating or marrying someone with DID?
For me, not many as I’ve already laid out. I did get lucky in some respects in that he has no destructive or self-destructive personalities. We have been in contact with many other multiples and their caregivers where we try to help out those who aren’t as lucky as we are. There is one example of such a multiple in “Which One Am I?” in the “Bee” chapter. One of the people Darrell knew in Long Beach was another multiple, a gay man who had an uncontrolled alter he called “Sexual Maniac.” Not being able to control the sexual impulses of the alter who may or may not have been practicing safe sex may well have led to the death of Darrell’s friend.

A really common problem is the defiant teen alter personality. Sometimes that teen inside may not like the caregiver and that causes all sorts of problems in a relationship as you might imagine. While many of Darrell’s people inside are teen-aged (J.D., James, Steve, Billy Bill, Carol, Star, Diane), none of them have been defiant towards me.

Saying that, this is the root of a caregiver’s role: The caregiver has to find and establish his or her role in the pantheon of people inside as well as with the person they are with. We liken it to being the step-parent in a large family. It’s the same dynamic, though the grocery bill is lower.

When he changes into another personality, is it quick?
Sometimes the change is quite quick. We were just looking at pictures taken at our first reading of “Which One Am I?” Both Billy and Jimmie came out. There’s also one picture of James. One poor lady had Darrell autograph her copy of the book and the kids inside were all fighting to get in on the action. She’ll never be able to read his inscription. It was done in four or five different styles, some of them pre-school.

Does he change clothing and accents?
Darrell used to change clothing, especially when the girls wanted out, but when his late husband Robert Dann was alive, Robert put an end to that. The kids do have different tastes, though. The older kids are much better at matching than are the younger ones.

He does change accents a bit. Star, the mulatta, is pretty Urban in her slang. Billy Bill is, for God knows what reason, Welsh. There is also an Italian and a Frenchman. Neither has a name because neither Darrell nor I speak either of those languages so we can’t communicate. Darrell did tell me, though, that the day before yesterday one of the kids behind the counter at our local coffee house said something in French and the Frenchman answered back. If that one keeps talking, maybe we’ll be able to get a name for him.

Do you have to start over with the conversation or change it because the other personality won’t have the same humor?
Everybody inside can hear what’s going on unless the dominant personality inside, 2-year-old Billy, doesn’t want them to or doesn’t think they are ready. For a long time, 10-year-old Dot didn’t know that Robert Dann had died because Billy didn’t think he was capable of handling the news. I’m told that now Dot has been brought up to speed.

If one doesn’t have the answer to a question, someone else who has the knowledge may take over. There are a couple of stories in “Which One Am I?” that Darrell himself doesn’t know. They were told to me by one or another of the kids inside.

Multiple personalities are a huge part of the entertainment world. Nicki Minaj has her own city of personalities she uses as a performer. Does this ever make you upset, or do you not mind people getting into character through their alter egos?
We haven’t had the pleasure of catching Nicki Minaj, though now that you bring her to our attention, we certainly will do so. People getting into character isn’t a problem as I believe I laid out a couple questions back. What upsets us is misrepresentation. That was our problem with, for instance, “The United States of Tara.” Having grown up in and around entertainment, I certainly realize there have to be short-cuts taken in any narrative because you only have so many minutes on the screen (23 per ½ hour show, if I remember correctly) and there is a format that must be followed. That doesn’t mean writers and producers have to lie, which is what we felt “Tara” was doing. During research for “Which One Am I?” we did talk to both the multiple and the psychiatrist who advised the series, both of whom are referenced (and I believe quoted) in “Which One Am I?” Their explanations always boiled down to: “You have to understand this is how Hollywood works.” After 40 years in the industry, I certainly understand how Hollywood works but that doesn’t mean the way it works is right.

Because we felt so defiant against the misrepresentation of DID portrayed in “Tara,” in “Which One Am I?” we chose to map out the historical representation and misrepresentation of minorities in Hollywood in order to give the reader and researcher a sense of where DID representation may be headed in the future. In “Which One Am I?” readers can follow Blacks from “Amos & Andy” to the present day; gays from “The Boys in the Band”; and multiples from “The Three Faces of Eve.” As we said in the book “Before there are characters there are caricatures.”

Do you really believe anyone is to blame for his DID? I was thinking he might have just been born with the disorder like people are born with any disease outside their control. Nothing to be ashamed of either but a fact of life.

This is a question that interests me because you hit on a couple of the assumptions and theories posited by psychiatrists. My journalistic training doesn’t allow me to question previous findings, so I have to go with the science.

Historically, most DID cases have been traced back to severe emotional, physical and usually sexual abuse occurring before the age of 6. After that age, the human brain has developed enough so that it processes fear in a “normal” way, which is to say differently than does the brain of someone with DID. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however. Chris Costner Sizemore, the subject of “The Three Faces of Eve,” reportedly became a multiple at a much later age after viewing a deceased relative at a funeral. We can choose to take this with the proverbial grain of salt. Though Sizemore’s later autobiographies don’t point to the marker of earlier abuse, she may well have someone inside who doesn’t think she is ready for the story and perhaps never will be. Also, at the point in time when Sizemore was diagnosed, the study of DID was very much in its infancy. Her doctors may well have missed it.

It is also posited that the trauma of the birthing process may cause the brain to split personalities. There doesn’t seem to have been much research on that aspect yet. Given all that, our suspicion is that it was the beating R.D. administered to Carolyn in order to abort Darrell’s birth that may have caused his split because Billy claims he has always existed. Given where the science is right now, that explanation seems plausible to us.

You said in one interview you have a quiet side and then an outgoing personality for partaking in the business world. Myself, I can be very shy or outgoing depending on the situation. No single person is going to be one way all the time unless he or she might have a specific mental illness, like severe depression, for example, being withdrawn, quiet and feeling down all the time. So in a way, does everyone have a bit of DID in them?
Yes. Every person’s brain has the ability to dissociate to one extent of another. We may see this phenomenon in the stories of accident survivors who often report experiencing the sensation of seeing time move in slow motion. The same can be said of those in battle. Dissociation is one of the human brain’s mechanisms for helping keep us safe and sane. In your situation, you are most likely just reading your audience and using what parts of your personality make it easiest either to fit in or to get what you want out of the situation.

You said you’re interested in working on a book about gifted adults. By that, do you mean working children with talents, Mensa eligible children, savants or simply children who are considered wildly intelligent?
I’m using the psychological definition of gifted, though it’s a slippery diagnosis because it keeps changing. Basically we’re talking those in the upper 1-2 percent of the intelligence range by test. The modern definition does stretch that to include working children with talents, the artistic, the creative and, of course, potential Mensa members.

As it turns out, quite a few of my school mates ended up in Mensa. Surprisingly, we have also encountered several Mensa-belonging DID patients. I say surprising because generally the intelligence of someone with DID gets spread between the personalities. That’s what happened in Darrell’s case. He always tested very low on intelligence tests yet he’s one of the brightest men I’ve ever met.

Ok, super wordy question. 🙂 You talked about how you are interviewing people you went to school with. As an observer, and I don’t mean to disregard your opinions of your classmates in any way, I noticed the kids considered hyper intelligent when I went to school were typically not so but people who slaved away studying. It seemed anyone who, in addition to their parents’ demands of joining every club, extracurricular activity and sport known to American families? All they did was memorize material and spit it out like a computer demand.
Ah! Memorization! How schools have changed since I was a kid. I certainly did my time slavishly studying. I was thrust into the Gifted Students Program as it was then called during its infancy. The idea was to keep us from being bored. The only way the administration knew how to do that was to pile us up with work, much more than the average student received. Still, during the Sixties and Seventies when I was in school, we were given the concepts and allowed to work things out for ourselves.

This need for rote memorization is on the Japanese model of education. Sounds like something schools would need to do to “teach to the test” and is likely run-off from G.W. Bush’s discredited “No Child Left Behind” program. It saddens me that our education process has come to that.

When I actually spoke to some of these students or more generally, witnessed other students or teachers talking to them, they could barely hold a conversation. That is, if they spoke, because the only hung out with each other talking nonsense. In fact, they often said really dumb or ignorant things. Therefore, with this overload of truly dumb or mediocre people being classified as smart and possibly, some genuinely brainy kids being tossed into the “slow learners” classes – not my case, but I saw this happen a lot with kids who spoke and wrote with wisdom beyond their years – don’t you think a lot of the problems you mention being within the “intellectual” crowd as teens and later adults, such as anti social tendencies, is really due to our society’s dumb ideals?
This is a hard one because you don’t really provide me with examples of what you consider “dumb” or “ignorant.”

If intelligent students have a hard time keeping up their end of a conversation, I could easily point to our media-saturated world as one reason. When you measure your success by the number of friends you have on Facebook, how will you ever learn to converse? It could also be that Gifted Students are often anti-social. When I went to the 10th reunion of my highschool class, I was at first surprised that no one else from my pod of friends had chosen to attend. I can’t tell you what it was like at my 20th, but can say that I had the same experience at my 30th reunion. After that experience and after doing a bit of research, I found that it’s a common trait that Gifted people shy away from others, hence my working title, “Tribe of Loners.”

Is this due to our society’s “dumb” ideals? Yes. This is very similar to what DID patients experience. Society tells us that “normal” is one thing, but your brain tells you that there’s a different, better way. In my own case, I’ve always been told by my family that things I want to do have never been done and so therefore it is impossible that they be done at all. “Which One Am I?” is just the latest example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told people are surprised that I finished it. They were surprised when I published it. They are shocked that we’ve taken it on the road. In order to protect myself from implanting nay-saying voices into my subconscious, I just told tell people what I’m doing until I’ve done it.

That we often wrongfully declare some patch of kids these super beings so they grow up thinking they’re better than everyone else and live the remainder of their personal and professional lives with sickening elitism, so this in turn promotes sticking to themselves because no one else is good to hang out with? And not saying this applies to you at all but the others you mention, as 90 percent of the “intellectuals” really aren’t, in my experiences.

It’s not at all that others aren’t good enough to hang out with. Really it’s just about seeking out your own tribe. This is most visible amongst adolescents. You know as well as I do that teens always need a group, a pod or a tribe of like-minded individuals. As was Darrell’s experience, the loner is never alone because he or she wants to be.

We even do this in adulthood. Think of the phenomenon that is Fox News. Have you been around these people? Have you watched the channel? The network is constantly telling it’s viewers that their prejudices are fears are correct. “Is the President a Muslim?” Yes! “Is the government coming to take away my guns?” You betcha! “Is it okay to be a beer-swilling know-nothing who protests government intervention while holding up a sign that says ‘Keep Your Government hands off my (government-funded) Medicare’?” Absolutely! Fox Viewers are a tribe unto their own. They are called The Tea Party.

What have people been telling you, good and bad, about the book you co-wrote with Darrell? Is it constructive criticism? When people love the book, what do they love most in the story?
We were never shy about sharing our book from the earliest versions to the published work. As you might imagine, we’ve received a whole lot of criticism, both good and bad. Some of it didn’t surprise me. “Which One Am I?” was never intended to be a best-seller. I discovered early on that the average American reads at an 8th Grade level. After that I looked at the New York Times Best-Seller list and found authors I would never want to emulate: Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele. I’ve read them – or at least tried to – and always end up feeling the author is insulting my intelligence. “Which One Am I?” is intended for those DID caregivers like me and for new students coming up who have only “Sybil” as reference. While “Sybil” was fine for its time, we felt an obligation to bring its 50-year-old science up to date.

A few Beta readers wanted me to take out all the science and psychological history and just tell Darrell’s story. That would have been the easy way to write it, but it really wasn’t what we wanted to do. We needed to put Darrell’s life into historical perspective. We were really intent on explaining not just what it was like to live with DID but also both how his DID came about in the first place and, most importantly of all, why. The answer to “why” was something missing from every other DID memoir we read.

As a journalist by training and trade, I tried my best to stay out of the story. It because evident about half way through that that wasn’t going to be the case. In order to give readers what they would want – which was to see the kids inside in action – we had to give them something of the present and Darrell’s present life includes me.

Towards the end of “Which One Am I?”, I admit to giving up trying to be the objective journalist. Besides, Darrell’s experiences and what we were discovering about his family history had made me re-think my own experiences and history. If Darrell’s life story had that impact on me, what impact could it have on others? People seem to be liking most the story of Darrell and me. “This is a love story,” our friend Mary Barnick wrote in her introduction. That’s the first time I’d heard anyone say that and, though I’ve been told that several times since, I’m still embarrassed by it. It seems that I’ve failed in my quest to tell Darrell’s story objectively, but I’ve succeeded in something I never saw coming.

Entertainment

What’s Brian Tryin’? The Crispy Sandwich Maker by Apod!

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This weekend I tried out a new product that’s been crowdsourcing on IndieGogo. (The link is here.)

It’s called a Crispy Sandwich Maker, made by Apod.

I always love trying out a new gadget, so it was fun to see how this one would play out.  What makes this one a bit different than most sandwich makers is that this only requires just one single slice of bread to make a compact, easy to eat snack that can be sweet or savory. It can be used over a gas stove flame, or, with caution, a campfire, although the design’s arm length better lends itself to a smaller flame like a home kitchen stove.

Because I love a s’more, I decided to do an interpretation of that using  nutella spread and marshmallow spread. My friend John and I were happily making these little sandwiches in the kitchen while I friends taste tested the results along the way.

While the product description says that it requires no oil, we did decide to butter the bread to give a nice brown color to the sandwich, although it could easily be done without it.

The results of the nutella and marshmallow spread crispy sandwiches were consistent and delicious. After about two minutes per side, sandwiches were golden brown and the inside filling was oozy and delicious.

Then it was on to make a savory snack in the form of a crispy ham and cheese with dijon. Again, about two minutes on each side over the flame was just enough to brown the bread and warm up the savory fillings.

This was a fun gadget to play with, and the results were delicious. All in all, everyone gave the results a thumbs up!

To be part of this indiegogo campaign, visit this link!

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Design

Get The Look! A Buyer’s Guide To Brian Balthazar’s Philadelphia Home Redesign

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As the world was forced to spend more time at home, Brian Balthazar found himself in a position where he had sold a house before the lockdown and had to find a new one.

“We sold our home with all the furniture in it, so not only did we find ourselves struggling to find a new place, once we found one we didn’t have any furniture to put in it.”

And so, Brian and partner Dennis got resourceful, turning to refurbishing and buying store floor models. They were inspired to make bold, fun choices in color and style when they started shopping around for wallpaper.

Below is the segment as it appeared on the Today Show, and further down, a rundown of where you can find the pieces or ones with a similar look!

THE DINING ROOM

Let’s start with the Dining Room!

Move the slider dividing the image to see all of the before or all of the after!

Brian saysThe dining room was the first space we wanted to do. I haven’t had a true dining room since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted a big table for dinner parties! There were no tables within the price range we wanted, so we found a floor model at one of our favorite go-to stores, Arhaus. We easily saved 75 percent on this table by getting the one that they weren’t going to carry anymore. The chairs are from Wayfair.  On each side of the fireplace (not seen in the photo, but visible in the Today Show video) are two black tall lanterns flanking the fireplace. I got them at Target. I can’t currently find them on their app, but similar versions pop up every year. Get thee to Homegoods! Homegoods and Homesense (same parent company) are my go-to spots for home accessories for virtually every room in the house. You never know what you’re going to find, which is part of the fun.

But let’s focus on the real WOW element to this room – the wallpaper! This pattern is called Bellewood, by RebelWalls.   As you will soon see, I’m sort of obsessed with their patterns. To me, this room is magical with the added whimsy of this forest pattern. (They also have a more muted version with grays and even one with blues.) I also love that by hanging the paper from the chair rail up, you almost get the feeling that you’re standing on a balcony overlooking the forest. I surrounded the whole room with this paper, which I love, but you could easily add the same magical feeling by just doing one feature wall. Their website shows how it can translate to a bedroom or office. You might be intimidated by hanging wallpaper but don’t be! This pattern has so much going on that it really looks perfect when it goes up!

ON TO THE GUEST BEDROOM!

GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
THE GUEST BEDROOM

Brian says: The guest bedroom is on the top floor of the house, so it’s got roof lines on two sides that make it a tricky space to navigate if you’re not careful. The planning of this space alone resulted in a few bonked heads. On the upside, the wall where the bed goes is tall, so it was an obvious place to create some visual pop. Again, the wallpaper takes the spotlight.  Called “Nude Roses,” also by RebelWalls, I love this design. Floral wallpaper was ‘big’ in popularity back in the 1920s when this house was built, but the patterns at that time were smaller, repeated more often, and were often really bold in color. This interpretation is so fun to me! Gone are the small roses in favor of oversized blooms, and the bold colors are more subdued pink and gray hues, with touches of dark green and creamy whites.

While roses can inherently feel feminine, the plaid bedding (30 dollars for a queen set from Target) are a surprising complement that keeps everything from feeling a little stereotypical. The side tables are mismatched – partly because we didn’t want to go too “matchy=matchy” – but also to save some money – the one on the left side (hard to catch here) was from West Elm. Normally $199, we got it for half off as the floor model. The one on the right we found in the trash. It was perfectly fine, clearly someone had just gotten tired of it! Nothing some disinfectant can’t fix. That gave us some extra money to spend – To reduce the softeness we went with industrial lamps and edison bulbs. The lamps  are called “Ginyard,” from Wayfair. The headboard was on sale at Arhaus. The dark gray takes balances out the pink hues well. The pillows are from Target and Homegoods.

For the 360 degree view of this room, watch the Instagram reel below!  You’ll see the dresser, on sale for $599 from Arhaus, a lamp from Homegoods, and mobiles from Amazon which we fashioned into a ‘piece of art’ that keeps you from hitting your head on the angled wall opposite the bed. Watch the video to check it out!

 

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THE GAME ROOM

BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT BEFORE
BASEMENT BEFORE
BASEMENT / GAME ROOM

Brian says: The idea for the basement game room was to create a space that feels like a lounge you might find if you went out with friends. When you go into this basement it definitely feels like you’ve gone someplace unique! Believe it or not, I found out the Today Show had invited me to to record my house tour just a few days in advance, and so we turned around this spot in just THREE days! There was literally no pool table at the time, (although it had already been scheduled to come on Friday, the wallpaper came on Saturday, (as well as the floor tiles!) and by Sunday we were covered in paint and glue and drinking wine to celebrate it’s completion! I recorded the final video that Monday.

Some people might not think to take a bright basement and make it dark, but that was our first instinct. Clubs are dark and moody, and we wanted this to feel like that. We painted the walls Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore, which is a very dark gray that seems to take on different hues based on where you paint it and the light that shines on it. We painted the ceiling black. This was Thursday night! Then Friday the pool table came. The floor tiles (“Tweed Indeed” in black by Flor) hadn’t arrived until the next day, so when they did arrive I meticulously trimmed four tiles to fit around the pool table legs so it looks like they were there the whole time. I had ordered the pool table online weeks before from PoolTables.com and by sheer coincidence it was scheduled to arrive in time for me to shoot the redesign. This was the second time I have ordered a pool table from them (which was initially scary because you’re not even seeing it beforehand!) but it always arrives in perfect condition to your specific selections. I love that the felt jet black and keeps things dark and moody. In the time that has passed since this photo was taken, I’ve added more of the carpet tiles to make the carpeted floor area darker and bigger.

But once again, the wall mural steals the show in a marvelous way! This mural is called “A Priori” from Rebelwalls, and is inspired by The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power, a famous fresco by Italian artist Pietro da Cortona. Fitting, because this house is Italian in style on the outside. You can’t see it from this photo but the wallpaper runs up part of the ceiling as well. It truly gives the room a wow factor when you enter it. The lamps are from Homegoods, (we’ve since added some industrial floor lamps for extra mood lighting) and the piano was something we brought with us. The bar tables are from Amazon ($72 each) and the stools we brought with us – they were discards from someone who didn’t like their original bright colors and thought they were dated! We covered them ourselves with gray plaid fabric and they’re better than they were new!

 

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the rooms and find something you like!

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Entertainment

Well Sh-t, Leslie Jordan Has Shared Three Videos Of Himself Dancing In One Week And They’re All Perfect

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Doing much better now, Leslie.

If you’ve never believed that “good things come in small packages” then you’ve never seen Leslie Jordan’s instagram. The 4’11” actor known for his iconic roles in shows like Will & Grace and American Horror Story has recently developed a whole new fanbase who loves him for his viral Instagram videos. Usually starting each video by greeting fans with “Well shit, how y’all doing?”, viewers have grown to anticipate Jordan’s hilarious recounting of stories from his time in show biz or growing up in the south. This week, however, the Tennessee native has shared 3 videos of himself dancing within 5 days and honestly it’s precisely what we all need right now.

The first video was posted on August 12th and shows Jordan taking part of the “Git up and dance challenge” which swept the internet about a year ago. Even though he is a little late, the video is still perfection.

On August 13th, Jordan does a dance to “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from Hairspray a with special guest dance partner Katie Couric!

Finally, on August 15th, Jordan does an epic “tootsie roll” and challenges Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills star, Lisa Rinna, to do the tootsie roll herself. Of course Rinna commented with a big “ON IT ❤️😂.” Who could say no to the viral star?!?

The moral of the story here is that the world is going through some tough times right now but maybe, even for a few seconds, we could all feel better if we’d just dance it out. Thanks for the inspo Leslie Jordan!

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