Cover image for First person plural : my life as a multiple
Title:
First person plural : my life as a multiple
Author:
West, Cameron, 1955-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
x, 319 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780786863907
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Call Number
Material Type
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Status
Central Library RC569.5.M8 W44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Angola Public Library RC569.5.M8 W44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Clearfield Library RC569.5.M8 W44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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Lake Shore Library RC569.5.M8 W44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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Orchard Park Library RC569.5.M8 W44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

In the tradition of "Sybil" and "When Rabbit Howls", a gripping account of one man's heroic efforts to cope with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Line drawings.


Author Notes

Cameron West author of the "New York Times" bestselling memoir "First Person Plural", has a doctorate in psychology.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

West, a psychologist, relates a deeply painful narrative of his battle with dissociative identity disorder (DID). He describes the horrors he endured, both mental and physical, as a child who was grossly abused by his mother, attributing the fragmentation of his adult life to these appalling experiences and telling how his long, happy marriage and family relationships were nearly ruined by the effects of DID. The book is not entirely dark; it provides hope and encouragement to DID victims and suggests how they can be helped through the support and understanding of others. It's also a practical guide for future clinicians, offering insight into a perplexing condition. West concludes with an epilog in which he lays out his theory that abused children can achieve a sense of wholeness through the understanding and acceptance of others and the reinvention of the self. Highly recommended for any public library.‘Yan Toma, Queens Borough P.L., Flushing, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One I was lying on my back on our white Berber living room carpet, admiring the self portraits in a luxuriously detailed book called Rembrandt: The Human Form and Spirit. The Rembrandt book was one of several wonderful art books Rikki and I had given to my dad. After he died, at the age of fifty-nine, ownership of the books had reverted to us, and I was glad about that, even though I would have been gladder had I not gotten them back so soon.     Every time I look at Rembrandt's self-portraits I get a feeling inside that's hushed and private and kind of sad, like a solitary stretch of river at night, and I know I'm looking directly into the man's soul. And for some reason, when I look at those paintings I feel a little closer to my dad, even though Rembrandt probably knows him better than I ever did.     It was early evening in the middle of October. The days were getting shorter, and outside you could see your breath. The leaves on the trees surrounding our small fieldstone house on our four-acre hill were turning, and soon they'd fall off and we'd have to surrender the cocoon-like feeling that had originally attracted us to the old place. Before long, through the bony trees, we'd be able to see our nearest neighbor's home down the hill and across the street, maybe six hundred feet away. Autumn in New England.     Rikki was standing at the white Formica counter in our small, bright kitchen that opened to the living room. The counter was a happy sight, covered with all the fixings for a homemade pizza, one of my two favorite meals along with homemade ravioli with pesto sauce. The dough had risen and was stretched out on a perforated pizza pan, a tasty sauce simmered on the stove, and a big chunk of mozzarella sat next to a yellow-handled stainless steel grater. Black olives, Crimini mushrooms, and a shiny red bell pepper were already cut up, and Rikki was expertly slicing a Vidalia onion with an eight-inch Henckels knife on a worn, round, teak chopping board we'd gotten as a wedding gift twelve years earlier.     The new L.L. Bean suede moccasins Rikki had just given me for my thirty-seventh birthday--actually our birthday, since we were born on the same day--were on the floor next to me, and five-year-old Kyle was beside me on his belly, wearing his blue and red Spiderman pajamas with the matching cape. He'd made a fort out of my moccasins for some of his GI Joe figures and the battle was raging, with Kyle providing excellent dialogue and sound effects, which at one point got overly juicy and he spit in my ear.     "Kylie, jeez!" I said, making a "yucchhh" face and wiping the saliva off my ear with my shoulder.     "Sorry, Dad," he apologized in his little voice. We looked at each other for half a second and both cracked up. I put Rembrandt down, rolled over to my left, and propped myself up on my elbow.     "Aw that's nothing," I said. "Once when you were a real midget, maybe three months old--I was lying on my back on the floor holding you up doing a `Superman'--"     Rikki pointed the knife at me and nodded without looking up from the cutting board. "Yup, I remember this," she said, grinning.     "Anyway," I continued, "I'm on my back flying you around singing `Su-per-maaan,' swoopin' you back and forth and going `nyowww,' and all of a sudden ... are you ready for this? You puked, `bluhhhhh,' right in my ear!" Kyle burst out laughing and a load of snot blobbed out of his nose and hung on his lip.     "Quick!" I shouted. "Go to Mom!" He jumped up and tooled into the kitchen, still laughing and trying to snort the mucus back up his little nose. Rikki put the knife down, grabbed a paper towel, and held it to Kyle's face while he blew.     "Right in my ear," I said, chuckling. "Hot baby puke right in my ear."     Rikki tossed the paper towel in the garbage can under the sink, rinsed her hands off, and picked up the knife and another onion. "You think that's funny, Kyle," she said, leaning forward against the counter. "Tell him, Dad."     I nodded, knowing right away what she was referring to. Parenthood and twelve years of marriage provided us with the comfortable, unspoken understanding and knowledge that comes from thousands of shared experiences. I shook my head, laughing. "You're really gonna like this, Little Man."     "What, Daddy?" Kyle asked, as he padded back, plopped down, and resumed the moccasin wars. "What am I gonna like?"     "Okay," I said. "You were even littler than you were when you ralphed in my ear--"     "Ralphed," he giggled. "Daddy, you're funny."     "Hey," I said, giving him the Groucho eyebrows and air cigar. "Nobody calls me funny and gets away with it."     Now Rikki was giggling. I paused and watched her snickering and chopping vegetables. I loved seeing her laugh. Loved the sound of her laugh. Such an easy laugh. Such a good person--a good friend. And sexy as hell, too. I never got tired of looking at her. Thirty-seven years old. Five feet six and slender. Long shapely legs that went all the way up to the buns of Navarone. Straight honey-brown hair cut just below her shoulders and large, deep blue eyes. Everyone who met her loved those eyes.     Kyle poked me with his finger and whined, "C'mon, Dad."     I snapped out of my reverie. "Okay, where was I ... oh, yeah. You were tiny, maybe four weeks old ..." I looked up at Rikki, raising my eyebrows quizzically.     "Mm hmm," she said. "Four weeks to the day."     "Right," I said. "Anyway, we were shooting some videotape on this old, beat-up video camera ..." I looked up at Rikki again. "Remember that camera?" She nodded.     "Old camera," I said. "Made everything look green. So, Mom had the camera, we were sitting in the living room in our house in Nashville. You're on my lap--nude--or maybe you had a shirt on. I forget."     "He was wearing a T-shirt," Rikki piped up.     "Why wasn't he wearing a diaper?"     "I don't know," she shrugged. "Airing him out?"     "Anyway," I continued. "You were sitting on my lap and Mom was shooting some video of us. And all of a sudden, `pftthhdd,' you took a crap--on my leg!" That cracked Rikki up, and Kyle fell over laughing hysterically, holding his little belly.     "Right there on the video," I said, shaking my head. "Recorded for all time. The first time my kid ever crapped on me."     "Won't be the last, either," Rikki said, still laughing. Her eyes were tearing and she was sniffling--not from the stow, but from the onion. "Now that was classic," she said, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her teal cotton jersey.     Kyle put Joe's butt on top of my head, stuck his tongue out and went "pftthhdd," and cracked up some more. Then he said, "Hey, Dad. Let's do Buns in Space!"     Buns in Space was a game we played where I'd lie on my back on the floor with my knees up and my feet flat. Kyle would straddle me and sit down on my stomach. With my palms facing up, I'd grab hold of him by the upper thighs and butt, one cheek in each hand, and support his weight. Then in his pipsqueak voice he'd announce--and this was my favorite part--"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, once again it's time for ... BUUNS ... I-IN ... SPA-AAA-CE!!" And as soon as he said the words, I'd start to shake him and lift him and make a sound like a rocket launching. When my arms were extended, I'd shout, "Hit the button for hyperspace!" and with his finger he'd press an imaginary button on his left knee, and I'd make an even bigger launch noise and shake him some more, lifting him higher. After a few seconds I'd make him pitch and yaw, while I coughed and sputtered like Elmer Fudd's car. "Oh no, we're going dowwwn!" I'd yell, bucking him all over the place. "Look out belowww!" He'd laugh like hell and hang on to my wrists, totally exhilarated, and then I'd gently topple him over and we'd both crack up. A second later he'd jump up and say, "Again for it, Daddy," and we'd start all over.     Kyle and I hadn't done Buns in Space in a long time--at least it seemed like a long time to me. I couldn't bench-press his forty pounds anymore, and it broke my heart.     I told Kyle I was sorry, but I didn't feel up to it. He shrugged it off and went back to playing. I went back to Rembrandt. Before long, Rikki told us to get ready to eat.     Immediately after dinner I had to lie down again. As usual, I didn't feel well. I had a roaring sinus infection that always seemed to get worse right after I ate. Without even clearing the table, I ambled over to the living room couch and collapsed onto it.     Rikki ushered Kyle up the stairs for his bath, and I lay there looking up at the ceiling, exhausted and pissed off. I noticed a cobweb in the corner of one of the built-in oak bookshelves. Entangled in it was the crunchy carcass of a captured fly that had already had all the juice sucked out of it. I'm dying. I shook it off. Damn, I'm not missing this bath!     "Wait guys," I called, "I'm coming." I groaned, struggling to get up from the couch.     Rikki looked back down the stairs at me. "You sure?"     "Yup." I grunted and stood up. Trying not to waste energy by bending over too far, I made a stab for the moccasins and missed. I took a deep breath and grabbed for them again, and this time I got them. I shook the soldiers out, dropped the slippers to the floor, and snaked my feet into them. Then I shuffled over to the L-shaped staircase, took hold of the wrought-iron railing, and pulled myself up the oak stairs.     Rikki and Kyle were in the bathroom with the tub water running. Rikki gave my arm a gentle squeeze and looked at me worriedly. I kissed her cheek and looked over at Kyle. "Guess what, Little Man," I said excitedly.     "What?" he asked.     "How would you like to take a bath with shaving cream?" I picked up a can and gave it a few shakes.     He balled his little fists and threw his arms up. "Yeahhh! You mean I can shoot it?"     "Sure!" I said, glancing sideways at Rikki.     She raised her eyebrows at me and said to Kyle, "Just try to keep it in the tub, honey, okay?"     "Don't worry, I will," he said gleefully.     Rikki tested the water with her fingers and turned off the faucet. "Peel and hop in, Spiderman," she said. "I'll go get your guys."     I lowered the toilet lid and sat down, ready to watch Kyle go at it. Using both hands, he sprayed the first shot of shaving cream into the built-in tiled soap dish. "Coool!" he said. I smiled, agreeing that it was indeed cool for a kid to be let loose with a full can of shaving cream. I leaned back against the water tank and watched him.     In a minute Rikki came back with a clear plastic tub of action figures, and Kyle carefully chose a few with his left hand, holding the shaving cream can in his right, reluctant to put down his new favorite weapon. He held up Shredder, who looked like a gladiator with serrated knives on his helmet, and blasted him with enough lather for twenty shaves. He giggled devilishly.     Rikki stood next to me, gently massaging my back with her right hand, and the room filled with that synthetic lime shaving cream smell that's supposed to make women think men are manly.     Evening had succumbed to night, and the critters in our woods were making themselves busy under the cover of darkness. I guessed that somewhere nearby somebody was throwing another log on a fire. I shifted my gaze from Kyle to the large mirror on the far wall and took in Rikki's profile beside me. She looked soft and radiant.     Then I caught a glimpse of my own reflection. The harsh yellow light was not nearly as kind to me. In two days, he'll cut me open again. It won't work. I'm a dead man.     An hour later Spiderman was fast asleep in his bed. The shaving cream had been rinsed off the bathroom walls and floor. Rikki had cleared the table and washed the dishes, buttoned up the house, turned down the thermostat, and climbed in bed next to me.     She was wearing nothing but an oversized white T-shirt with a silk screen of the Beatles' Let It Be album cover on the front. Paul's picture covered her right breast and John's covered her left. George and Ringo were underneath. John and Paul were the lucky ones. Rikki and I lay facing each other, holding hands. Her skin felt warm and feminine, and she smelled like a bowl of fresh fruit from the Caswell-Massey soaps I'd bought her for our birthday.     I inhaled deeply through my nose. "Mmm," I sighed. "Strawberry?"     "Mm mm. Pomegranate."     We lay in silence for a couple of minutes, looking into each other's eyes. Rikki spoke first. "I know you're scared about the operation," she said, squeezing my hand. "It's gonna be all right, Cam. We're going to get through this and you're going to get better."     She was talking about the dual maxillary and ethmoid sinusotomy--my fourth sinus operation, the third in four years--I was going to undergo in two days. I looked deeply into her eyes but didn't say anything.     "You've been sick for so long. You deserve to get better." She ran a hand through my hair and kissed me. "You're going to make it. I won't let you go down, you know. I won't."     "These operations never seem to work for too long, Kid," I said softly. "I don't know why. It feels like it's in my bones. Like I'm sick all the way to my bones and I can't stop it. Mercer can't help me. He's just a guy with a knife." I shook my head. "It's deeper. Something's not right.... It's never been right."     We looked at each other some more. "You've been a good friend and you're a great mom," I said. Rikki squeezed my hand harder, and a tear ran down her cheek and fell onto the light blue pillowcase. "I feel like you married a lemon," I said, and then my composure crumbled and I began to cry, too. "I'm so sorry, Rik."     Rikki pulled me close to her and put my head on her shoulder. She stroked my hair and we cried together. "We'll make it," she whispered. "You'll see. Everything'll be all right."     But in my heart, I didn't really think it was true. Copyright © 1999 Cameron West, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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