Gone AWOL

Sorry about the long break, dear gentle readers. When we returned from our trip to Sydney, the internet was down. It took many many phone calls to India to get the problem fixed and in the end we were so frustrated that we switched providers. Finally we're online again!

I read the most incredible book in the last couple of weeks. Of course I've returned it to the library now, so can't be accurate about title or author - I think it's A Life in Pieces by Dr Richard Baer.

It told the true story of a woman who had been so cruelly abused as a child by her sadistic parents that she had developed multiple personalities to cope with the trauma.

Karen developed no less than 17 different personalities, starting from when she was a baby. Each of them served a different function - some were parent figures who kept her organised and did things like driving, typing and making appointments. Others were little children, some of whom were angry and acted up because they were the ones who had to carry all of the pain. These personalities incited Karen to self-harm and made her suicidal. One personality carried all the depression, while another only enjoyed herself and knew nothing about sadness or abuse.

Karen ended up with Dr Baer, a psychiatrist, who worked out what her problem was - Multiple Personality Disorder - but who had no idea how to find a cure! The signs were obvious to him. Karen would 'lose time' and have no idea how she got somewhere, or have few and fragmented memories of her past - even of parts of the previous day. She cut herself but couldn't remember doing it. She ended up buying things that she couldn't remember. She had even woken up after a caesarean section with no clue as to who she was or why she had a baby.

The parent personalities had decided it was time for Karen to get some help once the system started to fall down and the personalities couldn't keep their memories and their feelings to themselves. They started to merge and Karen would get flashbacks and memories that she just couldn't handle. They organised for her to get to the psychiatrist and then began him writing letters during the times they were 'out' as Karen to explain things further.

Dr Baer had some experience with hypnosis and was able to talk to the different personalities while Karen was hypnotized during regular sessions.

In the end the father personality came up with the idea to merge the personalities and worked out how to do it. Dr Baer followed his lead, and the patient effectively cured herself with his encouragement and help. It took several years for all this to happen, and then she spent more time in therapy working out her life as a 'single' person, not a multiple.

Honestly, if the book had been fiction, it would have been completely unbelievable. I was amazed by Karen's story. It just didn't seem possible, but it was incredible to see how the human soul can help itself to survive terrible situations.