Monday, July 01, 2013

Documentary - Helen: The Woman with 7 Personalities (and more)

This first documentary is a look at the life of Helen, a woman with seven identified parts, or ego states, or alters. She is a woman with dissociative identity disorder (sometimes known as structural dissociation). Her reported history includes satanic and sexual abuse as a child (the only common denominator in most DID diagnoses is severe and on-going childhood abuse and neglect).

Seven parts is a relatively small number for most reported DID cases - many reports have documented more than 10 and as many as 100 (although some of the parts in cases with such high numbers are little more than fragments of emotions belonging to one or more other parts).

Helen: The Woman with 7 Personalities

The Woman With Seven Personalities - Multiple Personality Disorder: Helen and Ruth were best friends at school. Helen, according to Ruth, was one of the prettiest and cleverest girls in the class. Whenever Ruth thinks of school she thinks of the fun times she shared with Helen. Soon after leaving school, however, they lost contact. Fourteen years later Helen and Ruth bumped into each other by chance on a train. As they sat together on the train, Helen told Ruth that she had Multiple Personality Disorder, claimed she had been satanically and sexually abused as a child and had tried to take her own life on a number of occasions. Since that meeting six years ago Ruth and Helen have begun to rekindle their old friendship. Helen wanted to make this documentary to raise awareness of Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder

This film follows Ruth on her journey of discovery into Helen's world. We accompany her as she gets to know her friend again, as she tries to find out what happened to Helen in the fourteen years they were apart and to understand what it means for Helen to live with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), which is now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Here is the list of Helen's inner family:
  • Alex, A five year old boy who loves shooting toy guns.
  • William, A six year old boy who loves the Mr. Men.
  • Adam, A lovable ten year old boy who is not allowed to play outside.
  • Brenda, An outspoken, feisty 13 year old girl
  • Karl, A sixteen year old boy with an attitude and a temper.
  • Jamie
  • Elizabeth
Helen will switch from her self personality to one of the alter personalities at a moment’s notice and have no recollection of the time spent in the other personality. Under the personalities of Karl and Brenda, Helen would drink and take drugs. She became an alcoholic and overdosed over 100 times. She has since recovered from the alcoholism and the overdoses, were clearly not fatal.

Ruth was determined to discover what may have caused these personalities to form and was horrified when Helen confided in her that she had been extensively abused as a child and had created the first personalities to distance herself from the horrors. Karl and Brenda provide escape by causing physical pain by means of self-harm to block the emotional trauma, while the younger personalities allow escape to various ages of her childhood.

But wait, there's more . . . if you simply scroll down there is another documentary on dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities to most folks). This is an old HBO documentary from the 1990s and, while our understanding of DID has increased considering, this one-hour show provides a basic introduction to the experience and development of DID.

Oh, and just in case you think we have moved beyond the idea that dissociative identities are demon possession (an idea raised in the film below), I have worked with people with DID who were told they were possessed by demons by their church pastors, and who tried an exorcism to pray the demons away. Needless to say, it did not work.

Multiple Personalities

Film by: HBO / Michael Mierendorf / Gloria Steinem
Year: 1993
In early times, evil spirits were thought to possess people and make them act in strange and frightening ways. By the 1800’s, the study of this hysteria led some doctors to believe one person could have separately functioning personalities.

In a rare research film from the 1920’s, a woman has different personalities who believes they are separate people. One is a male that is not comfortable in women’s clothes. Another is a small child. The affliction has been known by different names, but recognized for centuries. Today it is called multiple personality disorder.

Why have they become tormented and broken into different personalities? What is the childhood pain that lies buried in the unknown depths of their mind? How can they search for the deadly memories that holds the secrets of their paths and the promise of their healing?

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