The third book I read for my 30 Before 30 challenge was...
I graduated with a degree in Psychology so anything involving the mind interests me. Dan's Aunt Boo let me borrow this book and said she really liked it so I decided to read it based on her good reviews. I have to admit this book made me cringe most of the way through it because of the abuse this man suffered through as a child. It wasn't rare that I had to put the book down for a while and go focus on something else because his account seriously made me sick to my stomach!
Unlike Flora Rheta Schreiber's Sybil, which presented a fairly dispassionate and professional view of multiple personality disorder, now called dissociative identity disorder (DID), West's account is an intimate memoir of the pain and frustration he encountered before and after being diagnosed. In his 30s, West began experiencing symptoms of the disorder, including the presence of inner voices, periods of blackout, memory loss and the wrenching feeling that something was deeply amiss. With the expertise of a therapist and the often heroic? and sometimes courageous? support of his wife, West eventually identified 24 separate personalities of both sexes and various ages. These "alters" told stories of horrific childhood sexual abuse by family members, which West had erased from his conscious mind. West compellingly recounts his journey toward sanity and his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology in order to better understand his illness. Illustrations from his journal, in which all alters were allowed to write, and drawings done by his child personalities give weight and detail to West's account. Occasionally, in his attempt to get at the experience of DID, West waxes melodramatic and falls back on awkward metaphors. The latter, admittedly, might very well be part of the territory: how can language describe two people passing each other within the same body without awkwardness? Readers who must cope with DID or other debilitating mental illnesses, either in themselves or friends and family, will appreciate West's honesty and insight about the subject.
For the most part I really enjoyed this read. I think it is an amazing account of what multiple personality disorder can look like. I truly don't know if I believe he actually experienced all this... I know this disorder is extremely rare and there are many accounts of people "faking it" for their own personal gain... but if he did... WOW! Either way it was interesting and held my attention.