The Arts & Entertainment (A&E) channel has a new series on cable television called Intervention that is both awful and touching in the same moments. The story of Tamela was especially moving. Tamela, beautiful, strong, smart, a winner in every surface respect, is a “cutter” in her core or, as the National Institute for Mental Health labels her illness, a “self-mutilator.”

Tamela pulls apart disposable razors and cuts her skin in intricate patterns just enough to draw blood. Sometimes she digs too deep — as we saw on the show — and needs to attend the hospital to be stitched back together.

The unfortunate common thread of all the stories told on Intervention is one of the “Absent Father.” The fathers of the those profiled on Intervention were either physically or mentally impaired or they were completely missing in the lives of the lost even if they were in the same room. Intervention teaches us that active, attentive, involved, fathers matter in the lives of their children.

In Tamela’s case you see how much she yearns for a connection with her father and he is either unable or unwilling to offer even a touch of affection for his daughter, let alone look her in the eye. I have never seen a more obvious case where a simple hug would go a long way to help a daughter start healing. Tamela’s father refuses to touch her even when she begs him for a human connection.

The most interesting aspect of Intervention is how smart these people are who get lost. They are not degenerates like you see on Cops. They are not wackos like you see on the evening news. These people are well-educated, caring, volatile-at-times, but always human and hurting and forever yearning to get out of the hole they are digging whether they realize it or not.

We recognize, and connect with, their want for a better life. Intervention proves every week just how easy it is to get lost. The line between succeeding and failing is as thin as a page of Isaiah. Being smart or rich or well-connected doesn’t mean we won’t get lost one day and when that day comes we want someone willing to pull us up out of the hole because many of us do not understand the first rule of holes is to stop digging.

All of us need someone able to pry the shovel from our fists and that is what Intervention beautifully documents every Sunday night.

29 Comments

  1. Blame this more on the yuppie generation of parents. Parents who will do anything at any cost to get their child into said university and who in general from the time the child is barely out of the womb are more concerned with them going to the right school than with the education they actually will receive there.

  2. I’m a Christian, and I would have to say, Tamela’s parents gave Christians a bad name. You can’t just spout the bible at someone and say “See, the bible says what you need to do”. People have to realize that by “putting something in God’s hands” often means God will equip you, or someone else with the ability to help with the problem. And yeah her Dad, I was furious with him, he backed away from her when she made the trip back to Arizona. Give your daughter a hug you moron. That show broke my heart.

  3. The episode of Intervention which featured Tamela made my heart break. Not only have I personally suffered similar abuses as a child, I am also a Christian and it destroyed me to see how Tamela’s father was still, after all this time, unable to be there for his daughter.
    He treats her like tainted goods. It makes me sick.
    Tamela was victimized as a child – she was sinned against by another. She commited no sin, no crime.
    I was furious at the comment her mother made at the dinner table about how sin is what makes you feel bad about yourself. That comment strongly suggested that Tamela’s family blamed her for the abuse that she suffered. How wrong – how thoughtless – how cruel.
    I have seen all too often in religious families, the attitude that because they are “good Christians”, they deem themselves exempt from adversity. If the family experiences adversity, they are the first to blame and shame the victim, rather than deal with their adverse situation with faith and compassion. Many religious families seem to be more concerned with how pious they appear to others than with the health and wellbeing of their own families.
    Sexual issues are usually completely ignored by religious families. Bottom line – bad things happen to all kinds of people all the time. As far as I am concerned – I think Tamela’s father needs therapy himself.

  4. So where is Tamela now? I noticed the show was filmed in late 2004. I would hope she’s doing much better. I have little empathy for the thieving drug users but somehow, Tamela’s story had me concerned, sad and very confused. I didn’t understand what the cutting is all about? Is it the cut, the blood, the pain, the release or something all together different?

  5. That episode made me feel genuine anguish, even though I am male, have neither self-mutilated nor known someone who did, and have neither been sexually molested nor known someone who was; I was relentlessly beaten and ostracized by other kids when I was growing up, and there was a brief period when my father would physically abuse me and my sisters in addition to the long-ongoing abuse of our mother, and I grew to hate myself and think of myself as a worthless, unloveable human being, and I still do in grad school at 22.

  6. Did anybody think that the reason Tamela had such a strange relationship with her father was because he was the one that molested her as a child? Just a thought… I thought it was quite obvious. The guy was genuinely “creepy” and they never did say who molested her. I wouldn’t be surprised anyway. I’m just glad her father isn’t teaching sunday school.
    Joel

  7. Amen Joel, I thought the same thing about Tamela’s father. There was definite tension between the two.
    And just to echo everyone else’s comments, my heart broke for this passionate, beautiful, creative girl who shines so bright yet hurts so deeply. I was holding my breath all through the episode and let out a big ol’ sigh of relief when she completed the treatment and had a positive ending. I just hope that she is still ok. I hope that she sees her own beauty and self-worth and is surrounded by a loving group of family/friends, etc. And I hope that she (all of us) never feel alone in this world.

  8. HI. It’s Tamela here. I am doing well. I went through some rough spots this past year, but everytime I am healed by my music. That is my main focus right now. I just won an award for best song in a film this past weekend and I am working on a solo album.
    beyond that..
    I have a decent relationship with my parents, though my dad is very distant we agree to disagree. Sometimes I would like to work it all out with them, but then I realized that it’s not about going back…it’s about moving forward and living my life.
    When I was in theraphy I talked about my pain, my anger, my resentments, my issues and how to release them. It was all good, but what I discovered was that I only needed too talk about them so I could have a understanding of my problems, know my triggers, and realize that I have a choice.
    My choice is to follow my heart.
    Thank you for all the support and prayers.
    Tamela

  9. It’s wonderful to have you with us, Tamela, and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    I appreciate your effort to step forward here to let us know you are okay and doing well.
    You look and sound strong as you set on the path to your future. Big congrats on your musical successes!

  10. Dear Tamela,
    You are a lovely, vibrant person. I am so very happy to hear that you’re working on your addiction. I also sense that you know — and have accepted — the obvious: that you cannot change your father’s behavior. Only he can do that. And, whether or not he chooses to, it will not have any power over your ability to deal with your sickness. Only YOU can do that. Nobody else can take that will to surive away from you. I wish you the very, very best.
    Steve

  11. I, too, want to say how moved I was by Tamela’s story. I watched it for the first time tonight and although I’ve watched Intervention for several months now & deal with it personally in my life (with a loved one), I have NEVER wanted to try and contact anyone featured on the show – until tonight. I am also a survivor of rape and sexual abuse. I have also struggled with finding my identity OUTSIDE of men and sex. I have used sex, drugs, alcohol and cutting to hate myself and hide from my feelings. However, I was blessed in that I went to college and pursued a degree in psychology and social work. This education brought me into contact with books, people and agencies that could help me. I was luckier than Tamela – as she put it, I found the “tools” to cope with the pain in my life – somewhat.
    I am now in graduate school for social work and would love to work at a facility such as the one which helped Tamela. I would also like her perspective on what makes these programs successful – other than LOVE. To me, it is obvious in so many situations with children who are abused – physically, emotionally and sexually – that the one thing missing in their lives is LOVE.
    I am glad that her story resonated with so many people and it helps me to not feel so alone. Watching the show tonight brought back so many memories, pains and fears that I feel as though I’m feeling the pain all over again. I’m wondering if I haven’t continued to run from myself…
    Tamela, if you check in again – and I know you’re busy – and I know you have people all over the country wanting to talk to you – and you may not even want to talk about it or deal with it anymore… BUT – IF YOU HAVE THE TIME – I would really like to talk to you.
    peace,
    ~s.
    [Comment edited by David W. Boles to protect private content.]

  12. whats up,
    Just wanted to comment…that its amazing how complex the human condition is. Many of us take our lives for granted, and never have to question our own sanity. It seems that there are so many people out there that are lost, and are in need of someone to help them, yet it’s sad that sometimes, the very ones that can help them the most, are far from realizing this because they themselves struggle to understand. Many of them are in denial themselves, turning the other way because they’d rather not deal with it. Many use “god” as that supreme supporting brace that will make it all go away. We need to realize, that “god” provided us with the potential of getting “lost”, but also provided us with the ability to guide. He’s already done his part…we have the tools, we just have to learn to use them.
    Tamela’s story ripped my heart out because it just goes to show, that when the sun is shining, happiness is all around you. But as soon as that dark cloud rolls over, rather than face the storm…many tend to run from it, they run to save themselves, and forget about those they leave behind. No, it’s not on purpose..again, its the complexity of the human condition that leaves us all guilty of that from time to time. Some in more extreme situations than others. I’m glad that she got the help she needed…its just sad that it had to get the point it did before anyone really woke up.
    Aloha,
    Turtle

  13. I have seen the episode with Tamela twice now & both times it has broken my heart. I dated someone last year who cut themself, so I know a little bit about that situation. She had alot of the same personality traits as Tamela actually. I wanted her to see the episode. I don’t think she has though.
    Anyhow, I wonder if there is any way to get in contact with Tamela. I would like to say hello to her & let her know how much her story touched me. I hope she is having a great life now. She seemed like a beautiful, funny, smart, fun-to-be around type of person – even when she was still cutting herself. But it broke my heart that she felt like she had nobody who loved her. She seems like someone who would be very easy to love. Hopefully she doesn’t feel that way anymore.
    As for her father, he didn’t seem like a bad guy…just perhaps he didn’t really know how to deal with the situation & it seemed like he just thought God would take care of it. I don’t know. That’s my opinion though. I think both parents seemed kind of distant. Not bad…but they simply didn’t understand Tamela’s problems & were unable to help her.

  14. I love Tamela!
    I actaully grew up with Tamela and think she is the most talented and beautiful person I have ever known. It was upsetting to hear about some of the things she has gone through but I think they have made her stronger. I laugh my bottom off when I look back at our home videos. O love you Tam Tam.
    Nichole 🙂