From Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Split, dissociative identity disorder has been featured in many fictional stories. In reality, many of them have lived with several distinct personalities.
Dissociative identity disorder has fascinated authors and directors for a long time before becoming of interest to psychiatry. It was not until 1994 that the reference manual in psychiatry put a name on this personality disorder which affects people who have two or more distinct identities. Almost twenty years ago, the story of Shirley Ardell Mason, told in the book Sybil, had moved the whole world. Like the young woman, who had 16 “quirks”, the number of diagnosed cases rose from less than 200 for the entire 19th century to 50,000 in 1999, according to Cairn. VSAs was the case with the American, most cases of multiple personality have been triggered by abuse, sexual or psychological, experienced in childhood.. This is also the case of Billy Milligan, who inspired Night Shyamalan the film Split.
Arrested in the 1970s for several rapes and burglaries, he was found not responsible for his crimes due to his dissociative identity disorder. Since his childhood, 24 distinct identities lived in Billy Milligan’s body, including “Arthur, an English gentleman, Adalana, a young lesbian in need of affection, the Yugoslav Ragen, guilty of the burglaries, or The Professor, his dominant personality”, as RTL wrote. As a child, he had lost his father who committed suicide when he was only 4 years old and was repeatedly raped and tortured by his stepfather. In England, Kim Noble took years to believe in the diagnosis made by doctors. Since her youth, she has lived with 99 other personalities. The photographer suffered extreme and repeated abuse. Her traumatized mind has shattered into fragments, forming a myriad of distinct identities that have independent lives, but also their own email addresses to which she doesn’t know the passwords.
“If you have dissociative identity disorder as a result of abuse, justice is now possible”
Kim Noble is sometimes Patricia, sometimes Judy, sometimes Rebecca or Hayley. “There are about three or four changes a day”she told the Guardian. Diagnosed years ago, she now lives a normal life with her teenage daughter. On the other side of the Earth, Jeni Haynes, an Australian, experienced atrocities as a child. Raped, beaten and tortured by her father from the age of 4 to 11, she created more than 2,500 personalities. When she turned 40, she filed a complaint against her father. At trial, several of his identities were allowed to testify against the man, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison. A first in the world. “My father’s abuse was calculated and planned. It was on purpose and he enjoyed every minute of it, said Jeni Haynes. He heard me begging him to stop, he heard me cry, he saw the pain and the terror he inflicted on me, the blood and the wounds that resulted. And the next day, he would choose to do it again.”
Over the years, the Australian has cohabited with a 4-year-old child, a teenager, or even Linda, an elegant young woman or even Ricky, an 8-year-old boy with bright red hair. “I passionately want my story to be told. […] If you have dissociative identity disorder as a result of abuse, justice is now possible, she confided after the verdict to the BBC. You can go to the police to tell them and make you believe. Your diagnosis is no longer an obstacle to justice.”