When I was cooking I enjoyed a sense of being ‘out’ of myself. The action of dicing vegetables and warming oil made my hands tingle and my thoughts switch to a different hemisphere, right brain rather than left, or left rather than right. In my mind there were many rooms and, just as I still got lost in the labyrinth of corridors at college, I often found myself lost, with a sense of déjà vu, in some obscure part of my cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that plays a key role in perceptual awareness, attention and memory. Everything I had lived through or imagined or dreamed appeared to have been backed up on a video clip and then scattered among those alien rooms. I could stumble into any number of scenes, from the horrifically sexual, horror-movie sequences that were crude and painful, to visualizing Grandpa polishing his shoes.
Some alters are what Dr Ross describes in Multiple Personality Disorder as 'fragments'. which are 'relatively limited psychic states that express only one feeling, hold one memory, or carry out a limited task in the person's life. A fragment might be a frightened child who holds the memory of one particular abuse incident.' In complex multiples, Dr Ross continues, the 'personalities are relatively full-bodied, complete states capable of a range of emotions and behaviours.' The alters will have 'executive control some substantial amount of time over the person's life'. He stresses, and I repeat his emphasis, 'Complex MPD with over 15 alter personalities and complicated amnesia barriers are associated with 100 percent frequency of childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse.' Did I imagine the castle, the dungeon, the ritual orgies and violations? Did Lucy, Billy, Samuel, Eliza, Shirley and Kato make it all up? I went back to the industrial estate and found the castle. It was an old factory that had burned to the ground, but the charred ruins of the basement remained. I closed my eyes and could see the black candles, the dancing shadows, the inverted pentagram, the people chanting through hooded robes. I could see myself among other children being abused in ways that defy imagination. I have no doubt now that the cult of devil worshippers was nothing more than a ring of paedophiles, the satanic paraphernalia a cover for their true lusts: the innocent bodies of young children.
Of course, I should have known the kids would pop out in the atmosphere of Roberta's office. That's what they do when Alice is under stress. They see a gap in the space-time continuum and slip through like beams of light through a prism changing form and direction. We had got into the habit in recent weeks of starting our sessions with that marble and stick game called Ker-Plunk, which Billy liked. There were times when I caught myself entering the office with a teddy that Samuel had taken from the toy cupboard outside. Roberta told me that on a couple of occasions I had shot her with the plastic gun and once, as Samuel, I had climbed down from the high-tech chairs, rolled into a ball in the corner and just cried. 'This is embarrassing,' I admitted. 'It doesn't have to be.''It doesn't have to be, but it is,' I said.The thing is. I never knew when the 'others' were going to come out. I only discovered that one had been out when I lost time or found myself in the midst of some wacky occupation — finger-painting like a five-year-old, cutting my arms, wandering from shops with unwanted, unpaid-for clutter.In her reserved way, Roberta described the kids as an elaborate defence mechanism. As a child, I had blocked out my memories in order not to dwell on anything painful or uncertain. Even as a teenager, I had allowed the bizarre and terrifying to seem normal because the alternative would have upset the fiction of my loving little nuclear family.I made a mental note to look up defence mechanisms, something we had touched on in psychology.
It is necessary to make this point in answer to the `iatrogenic' theory that the unveiling of repressed memories in MPD sufferers, paranoids and schizophrenics can be created in analysis; a fabrication of the doctor—patient relationship. According to Dr Ross, this theory, a sort of psychiatric ping-pong 'has never been stated in print in a complete and clearly argued way'. My case endorses Dr Ross's assertions. My memories were coming back to me in fragments and flashbacks long before I began therapy. Indications of that abuse, ritual or otherwise, can be found in my medical records and in notebooks and poems dating back before Adele Armstrong and Jo Lewin entered my life. There have been a number of cases in recent years where the police have charged groups of people with subjecting children to so-called satanic or ritual abuse in paedophile rings. Few cases result in a conviction. But that is not proof that the abuse didn't take place, and the police must have been very certain of the evidence to have brought the cases to court in the first place. The abuse happens. I know it happens. Girls in psychiatric units don't always talk to the shrinks, but they need to talk and they talk to each other. As a child I had been taken to see Dr Bradshaw on countless occasions; it was in his surgery that Billy had first discovered Lego. As I was growing up, I also saw Dr Robinson, the marathon runner. Now that I was living back at home, he was again my GP. When Mother bravely told him I was undergoing treatment for MPD/DID as a result of childhood sexual abuse, he buried his head in hands and wept.(Alice refers to her constant infections as a child, which were never recognised as caused by sexual abuse)
When the black thing was at its worst, when the illicit cocktails and the ten-mile runs stopped working, I would feel numb as if dead to the world. I moved unconsciously, with heavy limbs, like a zombie from a horror film. I felt a pain so fierce and persistent deep inside me, I was tempted to take the chopping knife in the kitchen and cut the black thing out I would lie on my bed staring at the ceiling thinking about that knife and using all my limited powers of self-control to stop myself from going downstairs to get it.
The return of the voices would end in a migraine that made my whole body throb. I could do nothing except lie in a blacked-out room waiting for the voices to get infected by the pains in my head and clear off. Knowing I was different with my OCD, anorexia and the voices that no one else seemed to hear made me feel isolated, disconnected. I took everything too seriously. I analysed things to death. I turned every word, and the intonation of every word over in my mind trying to decide exactly what it meant, whether there was a subtext or an implied criticism. I tried to recall the expressions on people’s faces, how those expressions changed, what they meant, whether what they said and the look on their faces matched and were therefore genuine or whether it was a sham, the kind word touched by irony or sarcasm, the smile that means pity. When people looked at me closely could they see the little girl in my head, being abused in those pornographic clips projected behind my eyes? That is what I would often be thinking and such thoughts ate away at the façade of self-confidence I was constantly raising and repairing. (describing dissociative identity disorder/mpd symptoms)
One weekend it rained for 48 hours without stopping. The rain beat like bony fingers against the window panes. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Fungus was growing on the walls. I polished off a bottle of gin sitting huddled over the two-bar electric fire and wrote a poem, one of the few that has lasted through the moves and the years. It is called 'Where Can I Go?'If this is not the place where tears are understood where do I go to cry? If this is not the place where my spirits can take wing where do I go to fly?If this is not the place where my feelings can be heard where do I go to speak? If this is not the place where you’ll accept me as I am where can I go to be me? If this is not the place where I can try and learn and grow where can I go to laugh and cry?
If I was set an essay on Friday, I’d spend three hours on Saturday morning in the library. Was that normal? I didn’t know. What I did know was that I felt less prone to depression and more normal walking through Venice or staring out over the lake in Zurich. At home I wrestled continually with my moods. The black thing inside me gnawed like a rat at my self-esteem and self-confidence. I felt there was a happy person inside me too, who wanted to enjoy life, to be normal, but my feelings of self-loathing and the deep distrust I had towards my father wouldn’t allow that sunny person to come out. When the black thing had an iron grip on me, I couldn’t even look at my father: Did you do bad things to me when I was little? Like a line from a song stuck in your brain, the words ran through my head and never once came out of my mouth. Not that I needed to say what was in my mind. I was sure Father could read my thoughts in my moods, in the blank, dead stare of my eyes. It was hardly surprising that there was always an atmosphere of strain and awkwardness in the house, and the blame was always mine: Alice and her moods, Alice and her anorexia; Alice and her low self-esteem; Alice and her inescapable feelings of loss and emptiness.
Just as sometimes I wondered if Grandpa had ever existed, sometimes I wondered if I truly existed myself. As I was running, I could see myself from outside myself: a skinny girl with the flapping shorts and too- big a T-shirt, always watching the other girls at school, a girl in a pink bedroom sitting with a book propped on her knees, the words she was reading entering her mind, some sticking like gluey never to be forgotten, others disappearing instantly, I could remember everything and remember nothing. I would watch a movie and recall every scene as if I had written the script, then watch another movie another day and be unable to recall it at all.
I remembered during puberty, through the anorexic mists of intermittent menstrual cycles, that man, my father, lifting Shirley's nightdress over her head and asking her in his mocking way to choose what colour condom she wanted. 'Red or yellow?' Which did she choose? I can't remember. Perhaps she alternated. Perhaps there were other colours. It didn't happen once. It happened again and again. I had no power to stop it. That man, my father, had some control over me. I was drugged by the black silence in that big house, the vile whiff of aftershave, the crushing torment of inevitability. My father fucked Shirley using red or yellow condoms and it was those condoms that brought it all to an end. It was my last realization of the day; any more would have been too much to contemplate. That time when my mother had found used condoms in bedroom, he had admitted, after a pointless burst my father's of denial, that he had been going to prostitutes. That was no doubt true but I can't imagine clients take used condoms away with them; prostitutes would surely get rid of the things. No. My father kept those used condoms as a prize. He was fucking his fourteen-year-old-daughter. He was proud of it. Rebecca welled up with tears. Poor thing, she kept saying. Poor thing.
There, there, best to bring it all up,' she said. My memory was in shreds. Imagine a photograph cut into narrow strips then jumbled up. Everything is there, but you can't see the whole picture and even the strips have no bearing on reality. I did know I had consumed a large amount of alcohol. But I must have done something crazier than just being found drunk to have a nurse sitting by my bed. I thought it would be a good idea to say something and planned it for several seconds. 'She's all right,' I said. 'Who is?' asked the nurse. 'Alice. I'm all right now.' As I spoke I wondered if I had said something wrong. didn't sound like me. There were so many voices muttering in the background it was hard to tell.
Why do I take a blade and slash my arms? Why do I drink myself into a stupor? Why do I swallow bottles of pills and end up in A&E having my stomach pumped? Am I seeking attention? Showing off? The pain of the cuts releases the mental pain of the memories, but the pain of healing lasts weeks. After every self-harming or overdosing incident I run the risk of being sectioned and returned to a psychiatric institution, a harrowing prospect I would not recommend to anyone.So, why do I do it? I don't. If I had power over the alters, I'd stop them. I don't have that power. When they are out, they're out. I experience blank spells and lose time, consciousness, dignity. If I, Alice Jamieson, wanted attention, I would have completed my PhD and started to climb the academic career ladder. Flaunting the label 'doctor' is more attention-grabbing that lying drained of hope in hospital with steri-strips up your arms and the vile taste of liquid charcoal absorbing the chemicals in your stomach. In most things we do, we anticipate some reward or payment. We study for status and to get better jobs; we work for money; our children are little mirrors of our social standing; the charity donation and trip to Oxfam make us feel good. Every kindness carries the potential gift of a responding kindness: you reap what you sow. There is no advantage in my harming myself; no reason for me to invent delusional memories of incest and ritual abuse. There is nothing to be gained in an A&E department.
When sleep came, I would dream bad dreams. Not the baby and the big man with a cigarette-lighter dream. Another dream. The castle dream. A little girl of about six who looks -like me, but isn’t me, is happy as she steps out of the car with her daddy. They enter the castle and go down the steps to the dungeon where people move like shadows in the glow of burning candles. There are carpets and funny pictures on the walls. Some of the people wear hoods and robes. Sometimes they chant in droning voices that make the little girl afraid. There are other children, some of them without any clothes on. There is an altar like the altar in nearby St Mildred’s Church. The children take turns lying on that altar so the people, mostly men, but a few women, can kiss and lick their private parts. The daddy holds the hand of the little girl tightly. She looks up at him and he smiles. The little girl likes going out with her daddy. I did want to tell Dr Purvis these dreams but I didn’t want her to think I was crazy, and so kept them to myself. The psychiatrist was wiser than I appreciated at the time; sixteen-year-olds imagine they are cleverer than they really are. Dr Purvis knew I had suffered psychological damage as a child, that’s why she kept making a fresh appointment week after week. But I was unable to give her the tools and clues to find out exactly what had happened.
Why did I allow the abuse to continue? Even as a teenager?I didn’t. Something that had been plaguing me for years now made sense. It was like the answer to a terrible secret. The thing is, it wasn’t me in my bed, it was Shirley who lay the wondering if that man was going to come to her room, pull back the cover and push his penis into her waiting mouth it was Shirley. I remembered watching her, a skinny little thing with no breasts and a dark resentful expression. She was angry. She didn’t want this man in her room doing the things he did, but she didn’t know how to stop it. He didn’t beat her, he didn’t threaten her. He just looked at her with black hypnotic eyes and she lay back with her legs apart thinking about nothing at all. And where was I? I stood to one side, or hovered overhead just below the ceiling, or rode on a magic carpet. I held my breath and watched my father pushing up and down inside Shirley’s skinny body.
I had a bizarre rapport with this mirror and spent a lot of time gazing into the glass to see who was there. Sometimes it looked like me. At other times, I could see someone similar but different in the reflection. A few times, I caught the switch in mid-stare, my expression re-forming like melting rubber, the creases and features of my face softening or hardening until the mutation was complete. Jekyll to Hyde, or Hyde to Jekyll. I felt my inner core change at the same time. I would feel more confident or less confident; mature or childlike; freezing cold or sticky hot, a state that would drive Mum mad as I escaped to the bathroom where I would remain for two hours scrubbing my skin until it was raw. The change was triggered by different emotions: on hearing a particular piece of music; the sight of my father, the smell of his brand of aftershave. I would pick up a book with the certainty that I had not read it before and hear the words as I read them like an echo inside my head. Like Alice in the Lewis Carroll story, I slipped into the depths of the looking glass and couldn’t be sure if it was me standing there or an impostor, a lookalike.I felt fully awake most of the time, but sometimes while I was awake it felt as if I were dreaming. In this dream state I didn’t feel like me, the real me. I felt numb. My fingers prickled. My eyes in the mirror’s reflection were glazed like the eyes of a mannequin in a shop window, my colour, my shape, but without light or focus. These changes were described by Dr Purvis as mood swings and by Mother as floods, but I knew better. All teenagers are moody when it suits them. My Switches could take place when I was alone, transforming me from a bright sixteen-year-old doing her homework into a sobbing child curled on the bed staring at the wall. The weeping fit would pass and I would drag myself back to the mirror expecting to see a child version of myself. ‘Who are you?’ I’d ask. I could hear the words; it sounded like me but it wasn’t me. I’d watch my lips moving and say it again, ‘Who are you?
It is hard to bring paedophile rings to justice. Thankfully it does happen. Perhaps the most horrific recent case came before the High Court in Edinburgh in June 2007. It involved a mother who stood by and watched as her daughter of nine was gang-raped by members of a paedophile ring at her home in Granton, in the north of Edinburgh. The mother, Caroline Dunsmore, had allowed her two daughters to be used in this way from the age of five. Sentencing Dunsmore to twelve years in prison judge, Lord Malcolm, said he would take into account public revulsion at the grievous crimes against the two girls. He told the forty-three-year-old woman: 'It is hard to imagine a more grievous breach of trust on the part of a mother towards her child.' Morris Petch and John O'Flaherty were also jailed for taking part in raping the children. Child abuse nearly always takes place at home and members of the family are usually involved.
As a child I had been taken to see Dr Bradshaw on countless occasions; it was in his surgery that Billy had first discovered Lego. As I was growing up, I also saw Dr Robinson, the marathon runner. Now that I was living back at home, he was again my GP. When Mother bravely told him I was undergoing treatment for MPD/DID as a result of childhood sexual abuse, he buried his head in hands and wept.Child abuse will always re-emerge, no matter how many years go by. We read of cases of people who have come forward after thirty or forty years to say they were abused as children in care homes by wardens, schoolteachers, neighbours, fathers, priests. The Catholic Church in the United States in the last decade has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for 'acts of sodomy and depravity towards children', to quote one information-exchange web-site. Why do these ageing people make the abuse public so late in their lives? To seek attention? No, it's because deep down there is a wound they need to bring out into the clean air before it can heal. Many clinicians miss signs of abuse in children because they, as decent people, do not want to find evidence of what Dr Ross suggests is 'a sick society that has grown sicker, and the abuse of children more bizarre'. (Note: this was written in the UK many years before the revelations of Jimmy Savile's widespread abuse, which included some ritual abuse)
It’s hard to feel supported when you can’t tell people everything. People haven’t really got a clue what it’s like. It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to believe people won’t let you down. I’m feeling like I want to cry. My body feels hollow. Empty. I don’t feel like I’m 17. I feel young. I’m not sure how old, maybe about 10 yrs. It’s hard to accept that I can’t get all the support I need from one person. From any person. It’s hard that no one can fully understand. It’s hard for me to admit that inside I feel a really lonely person. What do I need to do to take care of myself right now? Well I need to cuddle my teddies — it sounds silly, but I need some comfort... I was still cuddling teddies when I should have been cuddling boys. The sick imagery in my mind, rather than making me sexually active, had closed that door completely.
Weird? Absurd? That’s how it seemed to me. I had these forces, these compunctions, these alternative personalities inside me, driving me. It was like being a jack-in-the-box and I was unsure which personality was going to jump out next: Billy, who thought of himself as a cowboy or a terrorist; Kato the cutter; anorexic Shirley, whose only self-indulgence was binge drinking and the occasional salad sandwich. I didn’t dislike Shirley. I was afraid of her. Shirley knew things I didn’t.
I became skilled at covering my tracks, filling in the blanks. Sometimes the blanks were never filled. At other times, I would recall places where I had been or things I had done as if from a dream, which made the playback of my father and other men abusing me seem I even less real, fantasies conjured up from my imagination, not my memory. Perhaps somebody else’s memory. I didn’t think of myself as having mental-health problems. You don’t at sixteen. I thought of myself as being special, highly strung, moody.
Some alters are what Dr Ross describes in Multiple Personality Disorder as 'fragments', which are 'relatively limited psychic states that express only one feeling, hold one memory or carry out a limited task in the person's life. A fragment might be a frightened child who holds the memory of one particular abuse incident.' In complex multiples, Dr Ross continues, the `personalities are relatively full-bodied, complete states capable of a rang of emotions and behaviours.' The alters will have `executive control some substantial amount of time over the person life'. He stresses, and I repeat his emphasis, 'Complex MPD with over 15 alter personalities and complicated amnesic barriers are associated with 100 percent frequency of childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The odd sensation I had while cooking would often last through the meal, then dissolve as I climbed the stairs. I would enter my room and discover the homework books I had left on the bed had disappeared into my backpack. I’d look inside my books and be shocked to find that the homework had been done. Sometimes it had been done well, at others it was slapdash, the writing careless, my own handwriting but scrawled across the page. As I read the work through, I would get the creepy feeling that someone was watching me. I would turn quickly, trying to catch them out, but the door would be closed. There was never anyone there. Just me. My throat would turn dry. My shoulders would feel numb. The tic in my neck would start dancing as if an insect was burrowing beneath the surface of the skin. The symptoms would intensify into migraines that lasted for days and did not respond to treatment or drugs. The attack would come like a sudden storm, blow itself out of its own accord or unexpectedly vanish. Objects repeatedly went missing: a favourite pen, a cassette, money. They usually turned up, although once the money had gone it had gone for ever and I would find in the chest of drawers a T-shirt I didn’t remember buying, a Depeche Mode cassette I didn’t like, a box of sketching pencils, some Lego.
Did I imagine the castle, the dungeon, the ritual orgies and violations? Did Lucy, Billy, Samuel, Eliza, Shirley and Kato make it all up? I went back to the industrial estate and found the castle. It was an old factory that had burned to the ground, but the charred ruins of the basement remained. I closed my eyes and could see the black candles, the dancing shadows, the inverted pentagram, the people chanting through hooded robes. I could see myself among other children being abused in ways that defy imagination. I have no doubt now that the cult of devil worshippers was nothing more than a ring of paedophiles, the satanic paraphernalia a cover for their true lusts: the innocent bodies of young children.
PART 2 I felt doomed to death,But in a flash, Before I could reduce my thoughts To an emotion, I felt a mass leave my body:Departing. Then my mind becomes anonymous As is each night. Just unfinished thoughts, and a deep sickness inside,As I was forced to swallow it, Something I've tried to bury deep inside mypsyche to this day. (poem written by alter personality)
The word is dissociate. There is no 'a' before the 'ss'. People invariably say dis-a-ssociate, which, if you're suffering Disso-ciative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder, can be irritating. People then want to know how many personalities I have and the answer is: I don't know. The first book about Multiple Personality Disorder to make an impact was Flora Rheta Schreiber's Sybil, published in 1973, which carries the subtitle: The True and Extraordinary Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Separate Personalities. Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley published the controversial The Three Faces of Eve much earlier in 1957, and Pete Townshend from The Who wrote the song 'Four Faces'. People seem to feel safe with numbers. The truth is more complicated. The kids emerged over time. Billy, the boisterous five-year-old, was at first the most dominant. But he slowly stood aside for JJ, the self-confident ten-year-old who appears when Alice is under stress and handles complicated situations like travelling on the Underground and meeting new people. The first entity to visit was the external voice of the Professor. But he had a choir of accomplices without names. So, how many actual alter personalities are there? I would say more than fifteen and less than thirty, a combination of protectors, persecutors and friends - my own family tree.
Once I had found the courage to tell Rebecca about the children in my head, it wasn't so hard in the coming months to tell Roberta. On the train from Huddersfield one day in May I made a roll call of the usual suspects: Baby Alice; Alice 2, who was two years old and liked to suck sticky lollipops; Billy; Samuel; Shirley; Kato; and the enigmatic Eliza. There was boy I would grow particularly fond of named limbo, who was ten, but like Eliza he was still forming. There were others without names or specific behaviour traits. I didn't want to confuse the issue with this crowd of 'others' and just counted off the major players with their names, ages and personalities, which Roberta scribbled down on a pad. Then she looked slightly embarrassed. 'You know, I've met Billy on a few occasions, and Samuel once too,' she said. 'You're joking.' I felt betrayed. 'Why didn't you tell me?' 'I wanted it to come from you, Alice, when you were ready.' For some reason I pulled up my sleeves and showed he my arms. 'That's Kato,' I said, 'or Shirley.' She looked a bit pale as she studied the scars. I had feeling she didn't know what to say. The problem with counsellors is that they are trained to listen, not to give advice or diagnosis. We sat there with my arms extended over the void between us like evidence in court, then I pushed down my sleeves again. 'I'm so sorry, Alice,' she said finally and I shrugged. 'It's not your fault, is it?' Now she shrugged, and we were quiet once more.
My body was a Pandora’s box of aches and pains. When Grandpa died all the ailments came jumping out. I was forever twitching and shaking. I had a persistent sore throat and had difficulty swallowing except when I was taking nips from my illicit cocktail. I was constantly constipated, holding everything in — a disorder that had started when I was two years old. It burned when I passed urine, and my migraines were so severe it felt on occasions as if I were going blind.
During this hour in the waking streets I felt at ease, at peace; my body, which I despised, operated like a machine. I was spaced out, the catchphrase my friends at school used to describe their first experiments with marijuana and booze. This buzzword perfectly described a picture in my mind of me, Alice, hovering just below the ceiling like a balloon and looking down at my own small bed where a big man lay heavily on a little girl I couldn’t quite see or recognize. It wasn’t me. I was spaced out on the ceiling. I had that same spacey feeling when I cooked for my father, which I still did, though less often. I made omelettes, of course. I cracked a couple of eggs into a bowl, and as I reached for the butter dish, I always had an odd sensation in my hands and arms. My fingers prickled; it didn’t feel like me but someone else cutting off a great chunk of greasy butter and putting it into the pan. I’d add a large amount of salt — I knew what it did to your blood pressure, and I mumbled curses as I whisked the brew. When I poured the slop into the hot butter and shuffled the frying pan over the burner, it didn’t look like my hand holding the frying-pan handle and I am sure it was someone else’s eyes that watched the eggs bubble and brown. As I dropped two slices of wholemeal bread in the toaster, I would observe myself as if from across the room and, with tingling hands gripping the spatula, folded the omelette so it looked like an apple envelope. My alien hands would flip the omelette on to a plate and I’d spread the remainder of the butter on the toast when the two slices of bread leapt from the toaster. ‘Delicious,’ he’d say, commenting on the food before even trying it.