The Magic of Inspiration


Writing is for me one part therapy with the other part just plain fun. I feel that way about everything I do, whether it be teaching, working in the theatre, or seeing clients for psychotherapy. One of my all-time favorite clients was a lovely woman in her sixties, who was having difficulties adjusting to the death of her husband. She’d recently had a strange skirmish with alcohol, crashed her car, and didn’t remember a single moment of said episode. My job was to figure out if she had an alcohol issue, a grief issue, or was suffering from amnesia

I only met with her five times over a five week period, each visit complimented by a complete change in wardrobe, hair-do, gait, and accent. Yet, underneath all these transformations, I noted her to be a sweet woman with a sad heart. In addition to always appearing in a different weekly guise, she also had little or no memory of what we had discussed the week prior. I was beginning to think either she or I was in the midst of a psychotic break. Finally, a clue surfaced.

The week prior to our last meeting she arrived with a walker, barely able to walk, let alone speak. She was obviously in great pain. I suggested we meet again when she felt better. She agreed, and a few days later she called for an appointment. This time when she arrived, she danced into the room, twirling and giggling for joy, completely free of pain. It hadn’t even been a week since I had last seen her, and her she was—with yet a new persona once again.

Then things began to click. “Have you ever been diagnosed with DID—a dissociative identity disorder?” I asked.

“You mean, a multiple personality? Why, yes. I have,” she answered. “My husband always made sure I made my therapy appointments and took my meds, but now that he’s gone, I’ve been a tad remiss.”

Unequipped to help her at the time, I got her in touch with a psychologist whose specialty dealt with her kind of disorder. I was sorry to see her go, but I knew she was in better hands with someone else. Yet, I never forgot her, and how remarkable a character she was.

She’s the inspiration for my Millicent Winthrop series. Like my client, Millicent is sweet, forgetful, slightly psychotic (she carries active conversations with her pet pugs), and gifted with an ability to sniff out crime and solve it.  She also had the heart of a true romantic, and a kind, sexy, and handsome doctor to fantasize about.

Gwen Overland