I stumbled here to write a post about letters, how they’ve become so important in my journey with DID—letters of apology (I’m sorry!), letters of inquiry (What happened!), letters of explanation (Here’s my best!), letters of separation (This isn’t good for either of us!), letters of reconciliation (I miss you!). Letters have been a place to connect the dots, reconnect through pain & misunderstanding, & disconnect the cycle. Then, Louis CK made a comeback.
On my 28th birthday, I self-published a chapbook, a decision to leave the traditional poetry scene & return to self-publishing, a decision that would predict the separation I’d receive from the poetry community I was once so connected with, as a poet, but also as a performer, reading organizer, an editor, a collaborator, a friend, etc. The next day, my ex-girlfriend (LR) published her essay detailing my struggles & abuses during our relationship. As many people outside the poetry community struggled to understand & several in it were forceful to make clear, the actions outlined in her essay, regardless of intent / memory, meant that I was no longer welcome in the poetry community.
Anyhow, I had emailed that chapbook to friends, family members, folks I’d hosted or published, etc. After her essay, the responses poured in, many asking to never receive emails like this, one just saying “ewww,” another accusing me of planning to distract from LR’s essay with this chapbook; these emails were actually how I found out about the essay. Though I had no way of knowing she’d publish this essay, especially at this particular time, I now see her essay, at least in terms of my poetry career, as the public mechanism I needed to further my journey towards diagnosis, reflection, & management, as it shed the weight of the secret & allowed me to explore poetry for its most kinesthetic purpose—a tool for exploring my inner world(s).
Initially, my previous community, both poetic & the wider, seemed split in three camps—1) the ones who immediately dismissed / ignored / shunned me 2) the ones who supported me, not in my previous actions, but in my future betterment & journey 3) the ones that severed ties with me because I no longer had anything to offer them / were worried about the social repercussions of involvement with me. It was the ones who encouraged me to get help & to get better, if not for my own sake, for the betterment of society and safety of others that I appreciate the most. With their help, these last two years, I’ve remained focused on what I can control—my own behavior, my steps towards integration, my actions in my dearest relationships, and my own contributions to the world, artistically & otherwise—& I have been able to clearly see where my choices have been effective & in line with my values, as well as when they’ve veered off the proper path.
What does this have to do with Louis CK? Like I hope for him as well, I didn’t abandon my craft, instead turning to its ritual, its aesthetics, & its skills to explore my past, disorder, & mistakes. I can’t say I was surprised when Louis’s abuse came out. One of the things I always appreciated about Louis’s work was how he admitted his demons, perversions, & psychological shortcomings. Certainly, that doesn’t excuse his behavior nor does it rectify the harm he’s caused; instead, I think it provides a glimmer of hope to his own ability to process his behavior & ultimately to prevent it from happening again, especially through his work.
His public comeback, in my understanding, isn’t a problem in terms of making art or having a career or anything like that; the problem comes in terms of safety for other comedians / show-goers & respect for the victims, as well as his own rehabilitation. Also like Louis C.K., I tried to “come back” in the public arena too soon. I continued to publish for awhile, stepped back, & then made the mistake of “coming back,” at least in terms of publishing, with the pen name I still carry now. I naively & selfishly forgot that I could write poetry without publishing, could share work with loved ones who asked for it through self-publishing (why I started this blog, AN NEWSLETTER, & the reconfigured website), & could harness my writing practice to further the work of rehabilitation & accountability. While I wasn’t developing “power” or putting others at risk in public spaces, I later realized that this move was the wrong one.
Admittedly, I haven’t always been good at thinking of “public perception.” It was always clear to me why I switched to the pen name, that it was me, & that it wasn’t plopping anyone in harm’s way. As I’ve said before after three years of therapy and psychiatric evaluations, I was diagnosed in early 2017 with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Part of my process in dealing with & understanding this disorder & the problems it has caused in my past has been writing poetry. My thesis, What Is Who, at the Michener Center for Writers was a part of that process. I took on the Biscuits Calhoun persona, not as a way to hide or to avoid punishment—which is why I only use actual pictures of myself, include my real name in my bio, and never denied LR’s essay or experience—but instead for many other important reasons, contextualizing & accounting for my own journey / situation.
1) So LR wouldn’t have to see my name anymore. After we had gone our separate ways, someone sent me a screenshot of some tweets LR had posted about me; mostly I saw them as her expressing her hurt, frustration, & recovery in her own way, not requiring my public response; after all, like I’ve said in previous posts, once she told me to never speak to her again, I felt compelled to do so. However, the tweet that felt like one I could do something about involved something about being sick of seeing my name places. Naively, my response was to “change” my name in public / social media spheres, so she didn’t have to see it.
2) To separate my artist life & teaching/personal life. At the time of the name change, I was beginning to write about the abuse, my newly-diagnosed disorder, & other more taboo issues. I was also on my way to marriage, along with starting a family & career in education (or so I thought at the time). At my therapists’ suggestion, I looked for ways to protect those “personal” life points from the content of my art; this, too, proved futile, as it became clear that my disorder keeps me from being ready for a family or a career & that the two—my art & my personal life—are necessarily linked.
3) To acknowledge that I am a y’all / you-all. Like I discussed in a previous post, the writer ATW introduces the usage of you-all as a gesture to acknowledge the multiple-condition of DID. When I was battling the acceptance of my diagnosis, this alter allowed me to fully embrace that multiplicity, introducing an alter that symbolized a side of me that felt necessary & important. At the time, my alters were running wild, popping up erratically, & taking on lives of their own; Biscuits Calhoun—a throwback to my more confident, eccentric, but still coherent days—was the “alter” I had created & thus could control (which leads me to…)
4) It is an alter I actually get to control. As I handled the changes in my public life—in poetry, in performance, on social media—one of the things that saddened me the most was the ability to fully control my output. In the same way discussing my disorder is contextualizing my past, not justifying it, this persona is the contextualization I need so I can move beyond the troubles past through art. As I start over, as I really dissect my selves, I need poetry, art more broadly actually, to push me towards integration, understanding, & reconciliation. Clearly, this is the big one for me, the one that drives me forward. Tyler Gobble is burdened with the past, the disorder, society, etc.; Biscuits Calhoun is the side of myself tasked with handling, processing, & artistically representing that journey moving forward.
5) A tick towards accountability. This new “public persona” has proven helpful, too, for my family, my loved ones, & my friends to follow along, hold me accountable, & witness my development. In this list on Everyday Feminism, there are steps towards accountability, & I have been trying to be deliberate in following those actions, thanks in large part to the compartmentalization & continued artistic drive the Biscuits Calhoun persona afforded me, balancing my journey with my diagnosis & the continued pain of LR & others.
In all honesty & self-reflection, I don’t see Biscuits Calhoun—focused on self-publishing for a small group of friends & family, relegated to private events, utilizing art as a personal endeavor—as a threat to anyone’s safety or journey, though of course I’m always open to other opinions. DID, mine in particular, manifests nearly solely in my domestic or personal spaces, where I am most open to those alters and stressors that causes the switching. In talking about situations like this, many people sight “power” as a need to banish abusers, so we don’t hurt other people in the community. I appreciate that as a concept, though as one of the banished, I realize practically how important it is to maintain a support system, continue making art, & maintaining the social skills & awareness that the 21st century requires.
I also avoid stressful situations that can cause the switching—stressful big city conditions, hostile situations, & unthoughtful use of substances / stimulation. With the accountability of my wife, my therapeutic community, the small artistic community I’ve maintained, & my loved ones, I feel focused on my intentions & my true character, no longer worried I’m some sneaky psychopath. Yes, the situation that happened with LR & many of the episodes she revealed are awful, pathetic & disgusting. I like to think, as my wife and many others have convinced me, I can hold both in my character, especially in terms of my disorder—my demons & my angels. My disorder unfortunately unveils the difficult, darkest parts of me; I do believe with the management skills I have learned these last few years, I am capable of holding that side of myself accountable & being the progressive, kind (thought admittedly “rough-around-the-edges”) guy that I & my loved ones feel is my true self.
With Biscuits Calhoun, I’m not attempting to elude punishment or “get off easy;” more than ever I’m interested in giving LR & my community the space to process this situation, myself the artistic tools & social resources to understand this disorder, & my loved ones the continued loop they seek through my writing all at the same time. With all that said, what frustrates me most is how I see the continuation of this situation in terms of the public shaming, aftermath, & hurting people who have done nothing but hold me accountable & love me. If the true intention is to hold me accountable for what I did to LR, to take away the power / possibility to hurt others, & to protect the women in my life, much of what’s been happening—the bullying of my friends, the lack of communication, & the dangerous assumptions—are actually doing the opposite; the online discourse about me has done much to take away the two driving factors in my life—poetry & community—& maybe rightfully so, but what I hope folks realize is how the online bullying & widespread fear that inevitably follows negatively affects innocent people who have done nothing more than trust in my healing and love another person, not to mention possibly derailing my own recovery / adjustment, causing problems it claims to want to avoid.
Inside me, absolutely, will always be those states who choked LR in that parking lot, that once had to punch myself in the face to stop self-harm, that has blabbered & yelled & tossed harm; I’m learning to accept, as well as confront & manage, that. I couldn’t be more sorry to those folks that have encountered those states of me. In statements, folks have quoted very specific moments & quotes with great confidence, a luxury I don’t have, & I’m sorry those troublesome things are so memorable & haunting for you. Thus, I will not deny these things, but I will say sorry for them, & through Biscuits Calhoun on this blog & in my work, as well as Tyler Gobble in my home & my personal spaces, I will process & share what I learn. I’m sorry those early misguided questions & bad decisions were a part of that flailing, but the version of Biscuits Calhoun writing this now, for the first time in a long time, is sure of what he’s doing.