Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber is a true story of a shy, apprehensive young woman, and the sixteen other personalities she possesses. Two are male, fourteen are female, and all are characterized with different emotions, interests, behaviors, speech patterns, and body language. Seeking help, Sybil goes to Dr. Wilbur at first for social anxiety and memory loss, but to also help with the memories of her abusive childhood as she tries to become one with her other selves. This novel includes notes made by Dr. Wilbur during Sybil’s analysis, Sybil’s diaries and essays, recordings of the actual selves, and the author’s face-to-face encounters with each of Sybil’s personalities. The details shared are amazing and actually help the reader feel part of the therapy sessions.
Sybil’s personalities are all a part of her: Vicky, a self-assured and sophisticated young French girl; two Peggys, one headstrong and one tactful; Mary, a thoughtful, and maternal homebody; Marcia, an extremely emotional writer and painter; Vanessa, very dramatic and a talented musician; Mike and Sid, the only male altars of Sybil, both builders and carpenters; Nancy, interested in politics and biblical religion but with a fear of Roman Catholics; Sybil Ann, listless to the point of neurasthenia; Ruthie, and one of the less developed selves, believed to be at age two; Clara, intensely religious and highly critical of Sybil; Helen, constantly afraid but determined to achieve greatness; Marjorie, relaxed, bubbly, and quick to laugh; and finally the blonde, a nameless teen with an optimistic outlook. As I learned about the personalities I was able to feel like I know them personally. The author had a great way of making the personalities come alive to the reader.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as multiple personality disorder, is a psychological disorder where a person lacks connection between feelings, thoughts, memories, actions, or a sense of identity. Dissociative Identity Disorder may be caused by traumatic experiences, or either physical or mental abuse. The dissociative aspect acts like a coping mechanism -- the person literally removes him or herself from a situation or experience that is too violent, traumatic, or painful and is replaced by a new personality altogether. When personality reveals itself and controls the individual's' behavior and thoughts, it is called "switching." Switching can occur within seconds, minutes, and even days. Sybil experienced so much trauma, and inspired me as she worked through her problems with so much determination.
The reader will be on an emotional roller coaster filled with shock, sadness, and intrigue. The many thoughts of Sybil Dorsett will keep the reader intrigued. Sybil shows bravery by coming out about her tragic past and allowing her doctor to push her to expose her demons. Sybil also welcomes the recognition for becoming the most well-known case of DID. There are even two film adaptations based off of this story!
Overall, this nonfiction novel is phenomenal and might be one of the best books I have ever read. I loved how the author expressed the thoughts of the personalities and helped the reader feel connected to each and every personality associated with Sybil. The author helped me sympathize with Sybil from the beginning. There were many medical terms to read about, but the book added an index at the end which I appreciated. The author used these terms, but I did not feel overwhelmed by them, rather, I was intrigued by them and eager to learn about Sybil. I recommend this book to anyone, but it would most likely interest people who are into psychology and mental illnesses.