"The Minds of Billy Milligan" by Daniel Keyes (1981)
"'When did you first learn you were a multiple personality, Billy?'
'At the Harding Hospital. I kind of believed it, but I really knew it when I saw the videotapes at the Athens Mental Health Center.'
'Why do you think it happened, Billy?'
'Because of the things my stepfather did to me. I didn't want to be me anymore. I didn't want to be Billy Milligan.'"
Author Daniel Keyes wrote a novel called Flowers for Algernon, which is much better known. Strangely enough he began his career writing comic books, serving as a staff writer at fledgling Atlas Comics under Stan Lee.
The Minds of Billy Milligan follows the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Billy Milligan, one of the first documented cases of multiple personality disorder. His trial coincided with the release of the book Sybil, through which multiple personality disorder was first introduced to the general public.
Billy, living in Ohio at the time, was arrested for several rapes he committed near Ohio State University. Upon his arrest, his legal counsel pushed for the multiple personality diagnosis, and instead of prison he was sent to a minimum security mental health facility. After public officials faced criticism in the wake of Milligan's insanity plea and "light sentence," he was moved to a higher security facility in another part of the state.
The circumstances which led to Milligan's multiple personality disorder are also touched upon in the book, though in a manner too subjective to easily credit. The way in which his alleged abuse is detailed actually causes one to doubt the multiple personality diagnosis, and might have done Milligan more harm than good. What faith, I wonder, can you put in the testimony of someone with this kind of disorder? Especially when some of the "alter personalities" involved are confirmed liars?
I should also state that I'm not a big believer in psychology. I've studied a fair bit of it in the course of becoming a teacher, and both my father and aunt work in a mental health facility. The psychologists in this book, like many psychologists practicing today, seem entirely too credulous, and entirely too ready to confirm preexisting notions of what is going on (or not going on) with Billy Milligan.
I think there is a good book to be written about Billy's trials, but Daniel Keyes hasn't done it. He floods the narrative with unnecessary details, and the larger struggle between a patient/criminal and the various governmental agencies which either attempt to treat or punish him is pushed too far into the background. There's also the related fact that Keyes isn't a very good writer. The vocabulary employed in this book is incredibly repetitious, many of those involved in Milligan's trial are little more than stereotypes, and it is way, way too long.
Maybe Sybil is a better book?