First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple

Cameron West, Author
Cameron West, Author Hyperion $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6390-7
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 354 pages - 978-0-7868-8978-5
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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. Agent, Laurie Fox. (Mar.)
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