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Wednesday 23 October 2013

A Cut Above Most Multiple Personality Disorder Bios


Today I'm Alice is the autobiography of Alice Jamieson, an individual who was eventually diagnosed with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) formerly known as MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder). It tells the story of an intelligent young girl who, on the surface, appears to tick all the boxes a modern society dictates for becoming a successful person. She has travelled a lot, working in Israel and contributed to and raised money for worthy charitable causes. On a physical level she is an enthusiastic runner who regularly completes the London Marathon. On an academic level she storms her way through education as a diligently studious and hard-working scholar, lands herself a good job befitting her education and seems well on her way to achieving her PhD. It is at this stage that her whole world comes crashing down and her serious psychological and mental problems come to the surface, resulting in many admittances to her local accident and emergency with serious - sometimes near fatal - self inflicted injuries.

This would then lead to and occur alongside several spells in psychiatric wards, years of visits to counsellors, doctors and finally psychiatrists. Along with her serious medical condition, Alice became addicted to alcohol and a host of legal and illegal substances. She seems to have put her body through a huge variety of self-harm, but it is later revealed these injuries were inflicted by others who committed just about every conceivable depravity on her from the age of six months until adulthood.

It is these revelations - which start early in the book - that will disturb most readers, particularly those not familiar with the connection between DID and childhood sexual abuse. This is barely referenced on any of the cover's promotional blurb and yet is detailed explicitly throughout. The descriptions of these ordeals are harrowing and very vivid in detail. This doesn't mean they aren't justifiable in order to convey what Alice argues is at the very root of her condition, but reader discretion is strongly advised. As a critical thinker I am very aware of the controversy surrounding the diagnosis of DID and the psychoanalysis - the legacy of Sigmund Freud -  referenced in the book. DID remains a contentious subject today. Most mainstream academics involved in psychology and psychiatry largely discount the opinions and methods of Freud, but this hasn't stopped its influence.

Alice Jamieson has a good knowledge and presents an interesting history on the discovery of DID. Of course, she references the well-known case of Sybil Isabel Dorsett (aka Shirley Ardell Mason), which saw the beginning of many DID (then known as MPD) diagnoses. Dorsett's case has been challenged; as has most DID cases, as being the result of the manipulation of patients by psychiatrists. Where it appears the book really pushes into the fringe are in the accounts of apparent SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse). This was a moral panic occurring during the times of Alice's abuse. There has been scarce evidence of satanic cults carrying out these atrocities and at worse they have become a type conspiracy theory. Nevertheless, Alice Jamieson rationalizes that the cults that abused her with her father were not truly part of a religious order, but just people who used the imagery as a type of tool.

It is an interesting argument. The trouble is that memories are notoriously unreliable in people who don't suffer from any sort of mental or psychological condition, so scepticism should be applied. In their defence Alice Jamieson claims that her diary entries written prior to her time spent with counsellors, doctors and psychiatrists prove that the paedophile ring that allegedly abused her were using satanic or devil-worshipping rituals and regalia. However, even if the dates match up this doesn't discount the subliminal influence at the time coming through the media, all of which would have been happening when Alice grew up. If she has been manipulated by psychoanalysts then this adds another unseen tragic element to this long-suffering girl's life. The book is definitely well-written and it is very accessible. I am not usually drawn to the huge number of tragic true story biographies that spilled out of the late 1990s and now take up whole sections of airport bookshops. They have become a type of pornography I fear. However, "Today I am Alice" is a compelling if very disturbing read. The writer has my admiration for being courageous enough to tell her true story and to come through the hardship she has experienced.

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