Switching Time : A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities
4 out of 5
Whenever I read a book involving multiple personalities, The Minds of Billy Milligan, When Rabbit Howls, etc, my first response is always - no way, they have to be making this up. However, with this book, Switching Time, Richard Baer makes the trauma that Karen Overhill endured come across as convincing and with her experiences explains how a multiple disorder takes form and how each part of the main, takes on the duties that it was designed for.
The reader is first introduced to Karen during her first meeting with Baer first in January 1989, when she came to his Chicago office complaining of depression and suicidal feelings. During her initial meetings, she begins to recount her bouts of lost memory. Ending up in locations that she does not remember, total strangers that seem to know her, waking up in the morning and her house cleaning is done. As time and therapy progress, Dr. Baer begins to suspect that there is a personality break and with time and hypnosis, 17 individual personals are introduced and explain their individual function in Karen's life.
Parts of the story are hard to fathom, how can a personality break off when Karen is a mere infant herself. How can an infants mind separate horrific childhood abuse and break off to develop an alter to take the abuse? If that is possible, it just does not make sense to my mind.
As each personality comes forward, letters are written and pictures are drawn that show how individual each "person" really is. By the end, the reader has come to know each child and adult and when they are integrated, it is like watching a friend leave. Not all personalities are likeable, not all are beneficial, but by the end, Karen is integrated into a whole person that just might be able to handle all that has happened and to one day be able to acknowledge and accept what had happened to her.
Though the middle bogged down a bit and parts seemed a bit too repetitious, over all the book was quite interesting. The study and science of multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, are still debated, but books like help the lay person to understand how the trauma of early abuse can cause the mind to break into parts to deal with the whole.