literature, Mental health

Deskraven Book Series: Sybil [Exposed]

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A Deskraven Book Review

“Sybil Isabel Dorsett knew that she had to get back to New York while she was still herself…”

Page 18, Paragraph 3

PREFACE EXCERPT

Sybil’s true story provides a rare glimpse into the unconscious mind and opens doorways to a new understanding. A reflection of abnormal psychology and of an extraordinary developmental pattern, the case of Sybil Dorsett supplies new insight into the normal. It affords not only a new observation of the uncanny power of the unconscious mind in motivating human behavior but also a new look into the dynamics of destructive family relationships, the crippling effects of a narrow, bigoted religious background, a woman’s identification with the males in her family, and the denial of self-realization. In terms of what not to do, Sybil’s story is a cogent lesson in child care. Implicit in this account, too, are issues relevant to such questions as: What is maturity? What is a whole person?

Sybil’s life story also illuminates the role of the unconscious mind in creativity; the subtle interrelationships of remembering and forgetting, of the coexistence of the past with the present; and the significance of the primal scene in spawning psychoneurosis. There are also certain philosophical questions implicit here, namely, the subtle relationships between reality and unreality and the meaning of “I”.

Medically this account throws light on the genesis of mental illness in terms of heredity and environment and the difference between schizophrenia, which some doctors and the public alike tend to use as a catch-all for a multitude of diverse symptoms, and Grande Hysterie, the little-understood illness with which Sybil was afflicted.

Most important of all perhaps, is the expansion of consciousness that the reader experiences as he or she falls under the spell of Sybil’s internal adventures.

-Flora Rheta Schreiber

New York City

January 1973

Sybil (1973), the closely examined best-seller by Flora Rheta Schreiber, is an infamous classic case history in psych-literature involving what was formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. The individual with this disorder copes with an often violent and obscene reality by dissociating – or “splitting”- into alternate selves, each with different traits and memory systems. Often times the alters are unaware of one another. The true self often experiences fugue states in which she is unable to recall memories or details during the time she is “underneath.” These are only a few basic features of an often compelling and overwhelming illness. Treatment approaches are controversial and generally phase oriented. The goal is ultimately reconnecting the identities of disparate alters into a single functioning identity with all its memories and experiences intact supported by an emphasis on acceptance- or integration. In this book, Sybil Dorsett claims host to sixteen distinguishable personalities, better known today as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID, and remains the first ever with this condition to undergo psychoanalysis. Her story brings to the forefront the horrors of one of the most debilitating cases of child abuse and mental illnesses in history.

THE REAL SYBIL

After her death, Sybil’s records were released in 1998 and her many truths were revealed due to carefully documented medical records. Shirley Ardell Mason was born January 20th, 1923 in Dodge Center, Minnesota. She was the only child of convicted Seventh-Day Adventists. This fundamental fact often resulted in the twisted logic of her most prominent abuser – her mother, Mattie, who was thought to exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia herself. Perhaps less well-known, Shirley was an artist. Her work provides an invaluable reflection of her unique mind, and can be seen by visiting The Hidden Paintings of Shirley A. Mason.

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Faced with much controversy, Schreiber’s work has been the subject of skepticism in terms of severity and accuracy. While her story remains a pop culture icon, you can examine the reported embellishments for yourself in the 2011 release of Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan.

While Mason herself admits that the facts involving the dynamics of her multiple identities were inaccurate – which may lead the public to question its label as a non-fiction genre release – Schreiber’s story remains unequivocally paramount in developing the early dialogue of trauma related mental health in the American 1970s. During this time, layman and physicians alike held the very notion that this condition even existed with great cynicism. Sybil (1976) can also be seen as an Emmy award winning major motion picture starring Sally Field.

CONTENTS

The Family Tree: The Hierarchy of the Sixteen Selves

Cast of Characters and Dates of “Birth”

Preface: Sybil

Acknowledgements

PART I: Being

1 The Incomprehensible Clock

2 Wartime Within

3 The Couch and the Serpent

4 The Other Girl

5 Peggy Lou Baldwin

6 Victoria Antoinette Scharleau

7 Why

PART II: Becoming

8 Willow Corners

9 Yesterday Was Never

10 Thieves of Time

11 The Search for the Center

12 Silent Witnesses

13 The Terror of Laughter

14 Hattie

15 Battered Child

16 Hattie’s Fury has a Beginning

17 Willard

PART III: Unbecoming

18 Confrontation and Verification

19 The Boys

20 The Voice of Orthodoxy

21 The Wine of Wrath

22 The Clock Comprehensible

23 The Retreating White Coat

24 Suicide

PART IV: Reentry

25 Beginning to Remember

26 Independent Futures

27 Prisoners in Their Body

28 Journey to One

29 They Are Me, Too

30 Hate Heals

31 Ramon

32 One

Epilogue: The New Sybil’s New Time

Psychological Index

PRAISE FOR SYBIL

“Spellbinding!” -TIME

“A moving human narrative.” -New York Review of Books

“Astonishing…it forces you to look at yourself and the people around you in a new way.” -Doris Lessing

“Illuminating…fascinating!” -Chicago Tribune

FINAL THOUGHTS

After eleven years of daunting psychoanalysis, Sybil Dorsett breaks apart, swims through repressed trauma, and eventually achieves a liberating recovery. It is a journey to be had, one that completely assaults the human condition and, perhaps, creates more questions than answers. I found myself laughing, crying, and unable to put it down while simultaneously nauseous and dissuaded. Regardless, I find this ( and its counterpart) to be an essential read within the most basic realm of psychiatry. Both of these books grace my bookshelf providing excellent insight involving ethical psychology with the ever-present reminder that we must be stewards of our own well-rounded research before accepting information as absolute truth. Click below to take a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

VISIT OTHER DESKRAVEN BOOK REVIEWS

Manic

No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One

Prozac Nation

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog – and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Lifestyle, Mental health

Gratitude is the Guardian of Your Joy

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Dear Readers,

I am not a particularly religious person. I prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than assign myself a religious label. Instead, I prefer to take the good from all of the major pillars of religion and apply it to my life in a practical way. Unlike most, I am okay with the not knowing. Occasionally, I will experience a thirst for knowledge and attend church for my sheer love of lectures, philosophies, and human understanding. On one of these days, the pastor’s wife stood at the podium and said these words, “Gratitude is the guardian of your joy.” -And it stuck.

These seven words of wisdom highlighted my genuine understanding of fundamental happiness. If we can be grateful, then we can shift our perspective just enough to glean some positivity from a painful situation because gratitude suggests choice. Therefore, there seems an intrinsic link between happiness and choice. As Thanksgiving approaches, these words sit with me still. More so since I am sitting in the unknown of unemployment- one of the most infamous stressors for any young family. So, perhaps a little self-examination will do me well, and help someone else along the way.

6 Things I am Grateful For & the Why:

1.) My Family.

My family dynamic has never been conventional, and so my definition isn’t either. I have had many unions and separations with men and women. One of these was fortunate enough to have produced a child. His father and I are no longer together although we maintain a loving and respectful relationship despite our differences. Somehow, the family we build becomes our own, having less and less to do with blood. There is so much value in the blending of differences, re-definition in the face of traditionalism, and the daily choice.

2.) My Home.

For most of my life I lived with others. I had boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, friends who never left, and family to take me in. It wasn’t until my divorce that I was faced with the heat of a Texas August, and the choice to provide for myself independent of the provisions of others. I was not without help, of course. Now, almost two years later, the apartment I live in is mine, the bills I pay are mine, the car I drive is mine, the books on my shelf, the clothes on my back, and the food in my pantry is mine. The fear and the responsibility is my own, and the reward all the greater.

3.) My Health.

I am 29 years old and while not in perfect health, my chronic pain and mental health conditions pale by comparison to those I know and love with chronic medical ailments. Having been a caregiver much too soon, I have had a front row seat to the way illness can run amok on individuals, families, and bank accounts. While I would consider my functionality level below that of a typical twenty-something, I still balance the choice to get out of bed each morning.

4.) My Son.

Most people insinuate their children are their life, and it is probably perfectly true. However, my son saved mine and that is a fact. As a young woman, I was in the grips of horrendous grief and madness. My mind, body, and soul were dripping with chemicals and hell bent on fast tracking my self-destruction for a solid five years prior. I made a series of repetitively bad choices in great succession of one another if not to end my life through intent, then through sheer negligence and a complete lack of self-care. I was never malicious toward others. I was simply flailing through pain with zero guidance due to my own lack of language. My pregnancy taught me preservation of self for the sake of someone else, and forced me into fearless maturity. It taught me the choice of good health and good company, safety and security, and my full-time preoccupation with the truth.

5.) My Cat.

Pets provide a strange relationship free from circumstance or condition, one you may even be quick to resent. But if you look hard enough, you’ll notice that our domestic companions await eagerly each day for nothing more than our company and good graces. They misbehave, damage our over-priced goods, and cry into the night. And yet- there remains a middle ground where our choice to care for them meets the purity of their friendship and promised love.

6.) My Diagnoses.

I live with three major mental health conditions. It is something that has taken me all my young life to understand and manage wisely. Human suffering is universal, and therefore, has the power to inform. Suffering teaches compassion, empathy, and gratitude for the boring and mundane through shared experiences of loss and abuse. Suffering provides perspective when the unexpected uproars happen, giving you the strength and reassurance that it could always be worse. It gives us art, boundaries, and grace. Illness gives us the choice to victimize ourselves by ceding to self-absorbed unhappiness and self-medication, or to assign pain a function through self-love and recognition, to release it from its all consuming vanity, and serve those in need.

So it seems this free-association piece has secured my livelihood by circumventing my subconscious, and coming full circle on the reoccurring theme of choice.

What is guarding your joy this holiday season?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!