Essay title: The Minds of Billy Milligan
Out of all the classes that I have taken here at Westfield State College, I can honestly say that Abnormal Psychology has been by far the most interesting. Since this course has had such a major influence on me this semester, I am strongly considering continuing my education in this field of psychology. Throughout the semester, we studied a number of intriguing disorders.
The disorder that really seemed to catch my attention was the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I took it upon myself to use this opportunity to learn more about the disorder that seemed to be the most fascinating. This is the main reason why I chose to read The Minds of Billy Milligan, by Daniel Keyes. This true story shows us how a young man (Billy Milligan), who suffers from DID, is charged with crimes that one of his alternate personalities is responsible for.
Daniel Keyes is the writer who offered to reveal Billy’s story to the world. After Billy was fused, he was able to explore the depths of his mind and the minds of his other 24 personalities for Keyes. Keyes published The Minds of Billy Milligan in 1981, but most of the story takes place before then. The book starts out in 1977, where Billy is being sought out for rape crimes.
Billy Milligan, a 22 year-old white man, was not a very educated individual. He had numerous odd jobs such as a florist in a local shop and a bodyguard to drug lords during shipments, but he struggled to hold down a constant job. Because of the 10 different personalities that were ruling his life, it was hard for Billy to maintain a stable job. One personality specialized in arranging flowers, but another would rather paint. One personality was stronger than the average man, but another was a scared 8 year-old boy.
These personalities are a result of horrific sexual and physical abuse administered by his stepfather, Chalmer Milligan. Billy’s biological father committed suicide when Billy was about 4 years old, and ever since then Billy’s mother Dorothy was in and out of relationships. When Billy was 8 years old, Dorothy married Chalmer. The abuse began soon after the wedding. Chalmer physically abused Dorothy constantly, while Billy suffered both sexual and physical abuse. Jim (Billy’s older brother) was fortunate enough to escape the abuse along with Kathy (Billy’s sister) and Challa (Chalmer’s daughter).
Billy, the younger of the two boys, wasn’t as fit to do the farm work his brother could do, so Chalmer saw him as weak and pathetic. The abuse alone is enough to explain why Billy developed such a damaging disorder, since 97% of individuals with DID are either physically or sexually abused during their early years. Right after his biological father’s suicide, at age 4, Billy began showing symptoms of DID. He wanted to play with his younger sister, Kathy, but his mother never would let him.
That’s when Christine developed. Christine was a 3-year-old girl that Billy’s mind created to give him someone to play with. Christine is the first personality that Billy created. From that point on, different personalities were created for different specific purposes.
By the time Billy was convicted of the rape crimes one of his personalities committed, there were 24 personalities living within Billy’s mind. Out of the 24 personalities, 10 were mutually conscious personalities who were all aware of each other’s existence. These 10 personalities or “The Big 10,” controlled Billy’s mind for 6 years of his life while Billy was “asleep”. The other 14 personalities were known as the “undesirables”. These “undesirables” were of no great use to Billy as a being, and were not allowed to take consciousness.
The undesirables were basically unfavorable people, such as committers of minor crimes, egomaniacs, and imposters. Most of these undesirables were mutual amnesic personalities, meaning they weren’t aware of any other personalities within Billy’s mind. The Big Ten were aware of the undesirables, but the undesirables were not aware of them. When Billy was switching from one personality to another, he often experienced a glossy gaze and mumbling lips. Besides having “the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states” (DSM-IV), the undesirables would “steal time” from the Big 10. To “steal time” meant to unlawfully take consciousness from the Big 10.
When this happened, damaging acts would usually occur. This stealing of time perfectly explains another symptom of DID according to the DSM-IV. When the personalities took control of Billy’s behavior, Billy “lost time”. To “lose time” was when another personality would take consciousness and cause the first personality to be unable to “recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” (DSM-IV) Dissociative Identity Disorder is in.