…If it were fiction, it would read as cheesy and unrealistic. But because it’s autobiographical, it’s a fascinating, albeit difficult read.
About twenty years ago, Cameron West had a job, a wife, and a young son. His life was relatively normal. But stresses built up and he began to doubt his reality. Some phone calls to family members led him to believe he had been molested as a child. As West sought to understand his past, he began displaying bizarre symptoms.
West hit a stroke of luck in his choice of a therapist, who wasn’t completely surprised when, during a session, West reverted to his childhood, reliving an incident of molestation. His therapist recognized his behavior as symptomatic of dissociative identify disorder. In other words, West had multiple personalities and little control over who emerged and when.
As West chronicles his journey from diagnosis to treatment to acceptance of his past and present, I was a bit skeptical. Descriptions of personality changes as coming on with a shudder and a twitch brought to mind James McAvoy in the X Men movies. I couldn’t stand how he’d intensely hold his fingers to his temple whenever he was doing anything telepathic. It just seemed so cliche. Well, the whole “shudder twitch” thing made me roll my eyes the first couple of times I read it. But then I looked Cameron West up online. There’s a video on youtube where you actually see him switch and the whole “shudder twitch” business kinda makes sense.
There were also parts of the book that I was skeptical about because of the detail that West uses. He recalls minutiae in events during a time when his state of mind was suspect at best. Sometimes he wasn’t even present for the described events. I found it very hard to believe he really could recount details down to the exact shirt his wife was wearing.
The fact remains, however, that West is a real person with a real (albeit controversial) diagnosis. He was able to overcome his demons and even got his PhD in psychology to better understand his diagnosis and help others like himself.
I mentioned already this was a difficult read. The descriptions of child abuse West suffered were disturbing to say the least. It was a compelling read, but I can’t heartily recommend it. But if you’re interested in dissociative identify disorder, it’s a great study.
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