Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or Sybil

For those readers who may not recognize any of the names in the title, let me introduce you to a very brief history. 

The character of Dr. Jekyll was created before 1931.  He was a lab scientist who used himself as a guinea pig to test a potion which he had created.  I don’t recall what it is the potion was supposed to do, but as a result of his taking the potion, Dr. Jekyll would take on another – much darker – personality that was not the same as the one most people were familiar with.

His alter ego became known as Mr. Hyde.  So even though Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were theoretically the same person – sharing the same physical identity (or body I guess) the personalities were very different.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is science fiction.

Shirley Ardel Mason (1923 – 1998) was an actual person.  She’d been both physically and mentally abused by her mother.  Shirley had gone to psychiatrist Dr. Cornelia Wilbur in the 1950’s as there were some large pieces of her life that she seemed to miss out on due to black outs. 

It took eleven years for Dr. Wilbur to meet all of the personalities that would take over during Shirley’s blackouts.  It is said that there were sixteen of them.  They all had different names and different characteristics.  Many of the personalities knew of the others, but Shirley was not aware of any until Dr. Wilbur pointed it out to her.

In 1973 Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote a book based upon Shirley’s pshycological studies.  The book introduced the character Sybil Dorsett whose background and therapeutic studies was the same as Shirley’s.  The name had been changed to protect Shirley’s identity.  And in 1976 Sally Field portrayed her in the movie “Sybil”.

There are some who don’t believe in Multiple Personality Disorder (now known as Disassociative Identity Disorder) while others do.  I choose to believe.  I think there are different degrees in which personalities are displayed.  And there are variations of what may trigger these unusual out-of-character traits.

We all have moods and often seem to take on personalities unlike our normal selves due to drugs, alcohol, medicated side effects or lack of medication, aging, changes in our eating habits, health, witnessing or victims of some horrific action.  The list goes on and on.  In many cases the self personality may be controlled or sometimes it may seem quite doubtful that a person may ever return to normal again. 

I remember my mom as a woman who never wanted to take medication – even something as simple as asprin.  She was not one who would ever become drug dependant.  Or so was her wish.  She now has at least seven different prescribed medications that she takes for her diabetis, cholesterol, dementia and some other things.  And when she skips her medication or doesn’t watch what she eats, another personality seems to takes over.

I suppose my mood swings are very different during that time of the month, when my hormones are out of wack, when I go from being Dr. Jekyll to becoming Mrs. Hyde.  A lot of women go through that.  It isn’t refered to as a personality disorder though – and yet there seems to be at least two distinct personalities throughout the month.

I had a sinus infection during the month of December.  I also took meds with a nasty side effect that left me wanting to deal with the sinus infection instead.  I was loopy for much of the month.  I might as well have been in a coma.  Actually, that would have been preferable.

I have seen at least two distinctive personalities with my mom. There appears to be happy drunkard take over when she is not coherent.  And yet she sincerely believes in every detail she relates – like the time she drove downtown to see the forrest – there is no forest downtown – nor is there a dungeon.  But she truly believes in it – or did.  She may have forgotten it now.  I haven’t.

When I visit my mom I am usually with a woman who is a bit disoriented, who often is on a mission to spend her money, and doesn’t believe she has any problems whatsoever.  If she does have a problem, it is because someone else is “against her”. Sometimes she will acknowledge that she takes meds and is aging. But more often than not, I see a much different personality than does my sister-in-law.

When she is with my sister-in-law, my mom seems more put together.  They talk about mom’s desires for becoming independent.  My mom will share memories with my sister-in-law.  There are no memories when I am with her.  She doesn’t remember – or else she’ll be misinformed. Therefore we have painted two entirely different pictures of my mom’s condition. 

But then I suppose the same could be said about me – depending on who you are and how often we visit.  I have mood swings.  I have triggers.  I don’t have blackouts that have made me wonder when a transition may have occurred.  Mood swings are different from multiple personalities.  It’s just often it seems that these moods bring on a personality that is entirely their own.

Today I had the opportunity of taking my 1 ½ year old neice to visit my mom.  My mom loves my niece.  She got on the floor and played with her.  They teased each other.  I saw my mom from a much different perspective than I have seen her for some time actually.  Probably not since my brother’s kids were little.

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