Hello all, and welcome to this week’s article for FanFiAddict’s series on Neurodivergence in Fiction. I cannot understate how appreciative I am for the overwhelming amount of support and enthusiasm I have seen for this series of mine; thank you! For the next several months we will be bringing you a guest post every Wednesday from a neurodivergent author. This will hopefully highlight some of the challenges that come with writing for a largely neurotypical audience, while also giving valuable insight to the craft itself and providing a window into the neurodivergent experience — at least through the lens of fiction.
This week, we are joined by Jesse Teller who gives us the low-down on his newest release, an autobiography entitled Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 1: Teardrop Road, while also providing a raw and eye opening glimpse into his life with dissociative identity disorder.
As always, if you need to catch up on any articles, check out the landing page for the series here.
And, without further ado, here’s the article.
So I guess if we’re going to talk about my new release, two things. First, get ready for the title. It’s a thing to endure. Next, we’ll go down a path of pain, confusion, Steve Martin, a dog, and a Jack and Coke.
The title of the book is Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 1: Teardrop Road. I told you the title was quite an endurance trial. Reality of the Unreal Mind cannot be told in one volume, although there have been people who’ve read Teardrop and said, “After the first volume, I wouldn’t need a second or third.” For those people, the first volume contains enough pain, hope, madness, and beauty to tell a life story. Let’s not talk about two or three.
I started writing Teardrop about four years ago on my blog, just little posts about my life, as I tried to describe to people what it was like to live in my mind. At the time, most people didn’t know I had DID. It’s not easy to hide. The truth is, you don’t even know to hide it. But I was talking to my oldest friend yesterday, at my new favorite pizza joint, known me since I was in seventh grade. I’m 45 now. Her name is Aimes in the book. She’s read all three volumes and she said it made a lot of sense to her, that everything made more sense to her. But when she was living with it, when she was seeing it, all she knew was that I had a troubled past. So certain things didn’t seem out of place. I’ll give you an example. An outgoing alter (alternate personality) would be captivating a room of my friends, telling stories, wild gesturing of hands. His name was Shadow and he knew how to talk to an entire room of people and just you at the same time. He was foul-mouthed and loud, funny, had everyone laughing. And then I’d go to the bathroom, or go get a drink, run out to my friend’s car and pick something up, I don’t know, anyway, I’d leave the room.
When I walked back in, I would look around completely confused, trying to figure out who the people were in the room with me. Sit down in the corner, share an awkward smile with anyone who looked at me. And the room just went on, because they all had this notion that Jesse Teller’s just crazy. In the middle of a conversation, let’s leave this room for a minute, in the middle of a conversation, there would be a sigh, a twitch of my neck, maybe a slight kick of the foot, my voice would change, my vocal patterns would change. That’s not where things get startling. My morals would change. The people I cared about would change. A moment ago I was talking about a friend as if he was a slice of gold sheared from heaven, now this new voice with a new look in his eye and a new way of sitting didn’t trust that friend at all. But Jesse Teller is just crazy, so nobody questioned it.
As people from my childhood and young teens read, things start to make sense. But back then, they all just accepted the fact that I was insane. Okay, we’ll move on to the Cruel Shoes. Let’s talk about Steve Martin.
’70s, maybe ’80s, possibly ’60s. He’s a really big comedian at the time. He comes out with a book entitled Cruel Shoes, with a short story about a woman shopping for shoes, unhappy with every pair that’s shown to her, until Carlo the shoe salesman tells her that’s all the shoes in the place. Let me try to get this right. “Unless you’d like to try the cruel shoes.” If that’s not it, it’s damn close. It’s a pair of black and white pumps, both left feet. One takes an immediate right turn and there’s compartments for each toe that bends them in impossible directions. The other bends back like a rocking chair. Did I mention they were both left shoes? The rocking chair shoe has razor blades and a vise to hold the foot in place. It’s the best analogy I can find for living with DID. Everybody’s mind is a pair of feet. Everybody’s feet need shoes. My stepfather had a mind for work boots. My mother, sensible loafers. My son wants a pair of tennis shoes with steel toes. They make those. Everybody’s mind needs a pair of shoes, but a DID mind can only fit in the cruel shoes. The toes are pushed in all different impossible directions. Try having the motives of 25 people running through your brain at the same time. You put your other foot in a pair of shoes that bends them back like a rocking chair. Then you don’t see the world the way everybody else sees it. You can’t understand why everyone’s not screaming. You can’t understand why everyone else likes Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs. Razor blades and a vise to hold the foot in place. I guess that would be Shadow and Guardian. And back like a rocking chair would definitely be Artist.
I have an alter that when he comes out, my dogs will drop to their backs and expose their bellies. My Rott loves Shadow so much, but the moment Thirteen shifts out, the Rottweiler will just walk away, completely bored. Sometimes when I’m upset, the Rottweiler will come to me to ease my pain. Sometimes when I’m upset, she’d rather not be in the room.
Now imagine raising children. Now imagine you’re sixteen and you’ve got a girlfriend, sometimes. Sometimes you can’t pick her out of a crowd. You learn a kind of swaying dance. Have you been to a wedding reception where they do the dollar dance? If you haven’t, it’s kinda crazy. Bride and groom get on the floor, somebody comes up to them with a dollar, and they dance with the bride or groom for a certain amount of time before the next person comes up with their dollar. It’s kinda like that. Imagine you’re somebody you’re not. Somebody walks up to you having a perfectly reasonable conversation, talking about things you have no knowledge of, and conversations you’ve had with them where they are quoting things you do not remember saying. You just dance with that person for awhile until their time’s up. Somebody else has paid a dollar, and you’re somebody else.
Writing for readers with typical minds is not hard in the least. It provides no challenge whatsoever. Not for me. I’ve been through 19 years of therapy. Every different shade of my mind knows every other intimately. Has a completely unique relationship with that alter. I know the personal and intimate details of 25 different people at the same time. When you know that many different people, how they think and how they dream, it’s not hard to understand most of the people of the world. Do I want to know the mentality of an abuse victim? An adventurer? A criminal? I have people in here who can tell me about that. My characters are very real. They’re as real as the people I’m telling the story to. After 19 years of intimately studying 25 different minds, you have a pretty solid handle on all of the archetypes that a human can contain. It’s why my books are not designed for men or women, but for everyone. It’s why almost everyone can find something they can relate to in one of my books. Because the book is being written by an alter named Adam, and Adam, by knowing everyone else, every other alter, knows most people in the world. When you have a firm handle on what makes people unique and all people the same, then it’s not hard to write for the entire world.
When I was asked to write this blog I was pretty excited. I had just released the first book of my autobiography. I was pretty high, pretty terrified. An average person can feel multiple emotions about one particular event or person or thing at the same time. Imagine how many different emotions I was running through when all of my alters had multiple emotions about the release of Teardrop Road. Overwhelmed cannot even begin to explain it. The only thing I’ve ever found that can truly explain what it’s like when you’re experiencing scores of emotions at the same time is a poem that my wife wrote called “The Marrow.” I think I’m gonna add it to the end of this blog. Read the poem and try to imagine 25 different pieces of your mind experiencing that at the same time, and you’ll understand what it was like for me to be asked to write this article for this blog site.
They gave me a list of ideas they wanted me to talk about. I’ve hit two so let’s punch the final one. I can’t be quoted, but it’s something along the lines of why do you write. At first, I thought the best answer would be therapy, that my books are therapy for me. But I’ve been thinking about it now for a couple of days. I dropped Teardrop on June 23. It’s now June 29. So I’ve had six days to think about it. Three if you live a 48-hour sleep cycle like I do. And I think the best reason I can tell you for why I write is that I write fantasy in pursuit of normalcy.
There is within my mind an alter called Artist. Artist created for us all an internal landscape, a place for us to hide when we’re not in the body. Shadow has a burned-out, abandoned city filled with fires and broken windows. Guardian, a medieval camp filled with wounded soldiers waiting for a battle.
But if you walk out past all of that in the internal landscape of my mind, you find the Wasteland. Rocky tumbles of jagged rocks that span off in every direction, and hovering above it all is the image Artist uses to personify himself. Standing before him is no joke. Most times he’s 80 feet tall. When he’s hurt or broken, he’s smaller, but in his greatest grandeur, he’s 80 feet tall. He’s black and covered in fur, a perfectly muscular image of an athletic male. And from his back sprouts a pair of butterfly wings. The butterfly wings are fur-covered and colored in tiger stripes. In this form he calls himself Smear Lord of Ire. It’s explained why in Teardrop Road. Smear creates around me hallucinations all the time.
For instance, I’m in a room right now where every inch is covered in tapestries or curtains. I’ve got a Jack and Coke in my hand. I haven’t been drinking, I’ve been talking to you, so it’s getting a little watered down. I’ve got two dogs in the room. And wildly colored furniture all around me. That’s what everyone sees. That’s what’s here. We designed this room to look like the inside of a gypsy caravan cart. And as much as I want to see that, I can’t, because Smear Lord of Ire haunts me with hallucinations. He knows he’s being spoken about, so he shows me marionettes hanging from the ceiling, a hard wooden floor scuffed and chipped, where there’s right now only carpet. The whole room sways and bucks as imaginary wheels carry this room down an imaginary road, pulled by horses I can hear snorting through the walls. One dog is made out of solid ice, although I can see his heart throbbing red light. He smokes in the warmth of the room. My Rottweiler is comprised only of the blooms of flowers. She hasn’t drank any water for awhile, so all her blooms are closed. But when she drinks from her bowl, all of those flowers will open. Sometimes when she walks through the house I can see bees swarming around her, collecting her pollen.
When I leave this room, I’ll walk down a hall made of gel that’ll wiggle and shake as I walk past it. I’ll go into a garage, open the door and light a cigarette, and in the sky there he’ll be, hovering above me, Smear Lord of Ire. When he’s angry, he’ll breathe fire. When he’s not, he’ll just hover and stare at me. I’ll smoke my cigarette, talk to my wife, just as I talk to my kids, and my mail lady when I’m outside and she comes by, and I’ll completely disregard all the wild things happening around me. And if I want all of this to quiet, if I want this room to stop bucking and shaking and weaving and bobbing like a caravan cart moving down the road, if I want the bees to stop following my Rottweiler, and if I want my other dog to finally warm up, I have to write a bit of fantasy. And when I have, when I’ve written a bit of a fantastical story, then Smear Lord of Ire will give me just an old dog that used to be a chocolate Lab, and is now covered in white and brown fur. He’ll give me back a Rottweiler that I can pet without disturbing her petals. He’ll give me back a room with a carpet. He’ll take his marionettes and leave. Because I will have written a bit of fantasy. And he will be sated.
Now, he needs to be heard. He craves his stories being out. There are nights I cringe in my office as I type as fast as I can while Smear Lord of Ire screams down at me the stories he wants me to write. And I wait for people to read them so that the creature that created the Wasteland, the war camp, the monastery, the burned-out city, the desert, so that the creature that changes this room into a gypsy caravan cart, will finally find some peace as people read his stories.
I think I’ve covered them all. I was asked to talk about what it’s like to have a mind like mine. I was asked to talk about the difficulties of writing for a typical mind. I was asked to explain why I write. And I guess somewhere in there, among the Jack and Coke, the 25 different rooms, and the seventh grade friend, I may have explained to you why you might want to give Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 1: Teardrop Road a bit of your attention. I’d like to sign off now, let you go about your day. I hope sometime today you’ll think about the 80-foot-tall butterfly man that breathes fire. I hope you’ll think about the frozen dog. And I hope you’ll think about Teardrop, and the glimpse it gives into the unreal mind of Jesse Teller. I’m gonna share my wife’s poem with you now. I want you to feel the flood of emotions when you read it. And you’ll understand what it’s like for me to know that the beginning of my story is out there, within reach of you with just a click.
By Rebekah Teller
There’s an ancient rhythm that is running through your bones.
It’s the heartbeat of the river that is calling you back home.
If you walk up to the water, let your footprints wander in,
You can feel the passing current. Let it wash across your skin.
Then you wade out to the middle and approach the wall upstream
As it pours over the edge where the river takes a leap.
Come and face the thunder that is swallowing your ears
And step into the waterfall free of doubt or fears.
Then the power of the ocean and the peace of morning dew
And the joy of a blue sky all come rushing into you.
Then your body is a river and your bones are living stone,
And your mind becomes a forest for the churning waves of foam.
When you look out through the curtain, water will obscure your sight,
But let yourself soak up the view.
All you see is light.
Step back into that waterfall as it floods you with glee,
And you can taste the marrow of what you are meant to be.
About the Author
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy.
His writing influences include Stephen King, Steven Erikson, Robert E Howard, George RR Martin, Piers Anthony, and Paulo Coelho. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to understanding the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.
He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.
Author Website: https://jesseteller.com/
Author Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jesse-Teller/e/B01G0ZB7JG?ref=dbs_m_mng_rwt_byln
Author Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15269506.Jesse_Teller?from_search=true&from_srp=true
Teardrop Road Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B097SVLH33/
Teardrop Road Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58416737-reality-of-the-unreal-mind-vol-1