Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or more popularly known as Multiple Personality Disorder is one of the rarest kind of mental illness that can inflict a person. It has often been confused with schizophrenia but the simplest distinction lies in the fact that in schizophrenia, the patient concerned does not experience loss of time or undesirable unconsciousness when the delusions or hysteria sets in. Over the years, there are many prominent cases in such anomalies of the functioning of the mind that has been witnessed and today we as a society and a scientifically progressive one as such, know more about such ailments and their treatment/diagnosis than we did probably a century ago. Billy Milligan along with Sybil continues to remain a controversial figure in the field of mental health ever since his condition came to light and the story of a man plagued with personalities, not of his own conscious creation, became one of intrigue to one and all.
Multiples are not insane.”
This man was listed as a normal criminal before he was arrested in the October of 1977 on the charge of having raped and robbed three girls studying and working in and around the Ohio University Campus. The officers were confused when they apprehended him and so were the victims who tried to describe his unusual habits and comport. Reason being that they were facing him when he was not in control of which personality became dominant. A concept we shall try to deal with in this article itself. Within a few weeks of his arrest, his mental instability became evident and from there one thing led to another and Billy Milligan became the first person to be found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity.’ A feat which only ended up taking this case to a level of insane publicity and media coverage.
Let us deal with the aspects of The Minds of Billy Milligan which makes it such a compelling story and apparently it is an authentic one, if I decide to take Sybil’s controversial-authenticity into account.
I. The Family and the Spot
Mainly because I want to make it appear more dramatic to the reader, which isn’t a strong attempt (let's pretend I didn't mention that). The spot then is like a limelight in a small room that holds the doorway to the consciousness or in other words, it is the driver-seat and whichever personality of a multiple steps into the light of the spot is the one we see when we interact with the person. According to Milligan the spot in his mind is one where there is a white light in a dark room surrounded by stations/resting places for all the other personalities.
Daniel Keyes in his book states that Billy became aware of the various personalities only after his consciousness had evolved into the Teacher – one of the personalities and the most fused one at it. The different personalities are described and the most curious part about it is that each personality bears a stark difference from the other, in terms of behavior, appearance, idiosyncrasies and skills. Here is a low down on all the 24 personalities.
1. William Stanley Milligan (26, age at the time of the book being published)
The core personality that later on as his treatment and diagnosis progressed came to be known as the ‘Unfused Billy’ or ‘Billy-U.’
2. Arthur (22)
The Englishman and the strict disciplinarian in the family. He was the one who had laid down the basic rules that each personality had to follow to prevent being categorized as undesirable and banished from the spot. He had a keen interest in Biology and was intellectually sound in the field of hematology.
3. Ragen Vadascovinich (23)
The Yugoslavian who was deemed the role of the protector of the family. He was referred to as the Keeper of Rage and took the spot whenever Billy felt threatened by anything remotely indicating a physical confrontation. He was the only one allowed to handle the guns and the one who was allowed to break Arthur’s rules as and when the situation demanded. He could control his adrenaline to increase the strength of the body.
4. Allen (18)
The glib talker of the family and the one who always took the spot to manipulate a conversation in favor of Billy. He had a keen interest in painting portraits and was the only personality who smoked. He had a close relationship with Billy’s mother.
5. Tommy (16)
The escape artist and the one who was an expert when it came to dealing with electronic and electrical stuffs. He was the only one who painted landscapes.
6. Danny (14)
The frightened one, who is particularly afraid of men. He was the dominant personality when Billy was forced to dig a grave and was buried alive by his step-father.
7. David (8)
The one who takes the spot whenever Billy was faced with pain and hurtful scenarios. He was an empath and referred to as the Keeper of Pain. He was highly sensitive and perceptive.
8. Christene (3)
The dyslexic corner-child personality resembling an English little girl who took the spot whenever Billy was overwhelmed.
9. Christopher (13)
Christene’s Brother and a troubled child personality. He was the only one who played the harmonica.
10. Adalana (19)
The lesbian who yearned for warmth and tenderness. She was the one who cooked and took care of the house and the one who had actually committed the rapes. She was later classified as an undesirable by Arthur.
11. Philip (20)
The thug from New Yorker with a Brooklyn accent and is fervent with vulgar enunciations. He had been the one credited with committing minor offenses.
12. Kevin (20)
A small time criminal who was pivotal in the planning and execution of the infamous Gray Drug Store robbery.
13. Walter (22)
The Australian who fancied himself as a big-game hunter. He was the one who had a keen sense of direction and was often used as a spotter.
14. April (19)
The one classified as the ‘bitch’ in the family. She used to help out Adalana with the household work. However, she was driven by a diabolic scheme of vengeance upon Billy’s step-father.
15. Samuel (18)
The Jew who was the only personality that believed in the existence of God. He was also good at sculpting and woodwork.
16. Mark (16)
The workhorse of the family referred to as the ‘zombie’ who merely obeyed without question.
17. Steve (21)
The perpetual imposter and egomaniac who imitates the others, thereby, drawing upon Arthur’s rage.
18. Lee (20)
The prankster and the witty one who looked at life as if it were a big joke. Ended up causing Billy to be thrown into solitary confinement every now and then.
19. Jason (13)
The pressure valve of the family who throws a tantrum when Billy could not take it anymore. He was the one tasked with carrying the bad memories so as to leave the others with no memory of such occurrences.
20. Robert/Bobby (17)
Constant daydreamer with no ambition for sharpening his intellectual capabilities.
21. Shawn (4)
The deaf one in the family who took the spot whenever Billy used to be chided and scolded at. Distinct from the others by his signature buzzing sound, which he used to make with his mouth to test his tangibility.
22. Martin (19)
The braggadocio of the family. He used to boast and brag and always aimed for what was beyond one’s mean.
23. Timothy (15)
The florist who went into banishment on being molested by a homosexual at work.
And then, there's the Teacher, the one who is ‘all the personalities in one place.’ The Teacher is the highest fused part of Billy’s dissociation. He was the one who did not suffer from the concept of lost-time and kept track of everything. The Teacher was the one who helped piece together Billy’s early life and thereby, piece together the various memories. He was the one not only completely aware of the others but also the one who taught each of them their respective skills.
II. Losing Time
The phenomenon became much-more troublesome during the mix-up time experienced by Milligan. A phase where the personalities shifted through the spot at a more rapid frequency than usual. This led to a lot of confusion and uncalled for trouble for Billy. This was also the phase where the undesirable traits of the undesirable became evidently visible and resulted in them being shoved off into the darkness of his mind. Arthur, the one tasked with regulating the conscious control, failed to effectively function.
The thing that drew the ire of one and all during his treatment was the delicate situation of the man who housed two-dozen people inside him. (People and not ‘personalities’ as Arthur emphasized on being referred to, so as to evade the air of disbelief that was present in the eyes of every psychiatrist who met him) However, it was this mix-up phase in itself that had managed to convince not one, not two but four esteemed psychiatrists, including Sybil’s Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, how delicate the dissociation was and its authenticity.
In order to account for the lost time, Billy started to undertake diverse measures like scratching a strike on the side of a cupboard in his room or the corner wall in his cell. The one thing that remains up for debate to this point i.e. today itself when Billy is no more alive, is the treatment that was meted out to him by the government when they forced him to shift to the rather crude and inhuman environment of the Lima Hospital for the Criminally Insane from a more considerate Athens Medical Center despite strong reservations by esteemed doctors working on the case. It revolves around the fact as Judge Flowers puts it – the crimes that he had committed made him a criminal in the eyes of the law.
III. The Teacher and Beyond Madness
Having already stated that, the Teacher was more shy than any of the other personalities and when Billy was shot at after being released for a furlough, the Teacher was unable to respond and froze prompting Ragen to take the spot and save Billy’s and everyone else’s life at the same time. This forced the Teacher to disappear and it was not until two years till he surfaced back, thus, signifying that the fusion made Billy extremely sensitive. That was an added downside given the fact that the fusion had already lowered the strength of individual skills.
The sensitivity of his diverse personalities was often exhibited as he fused and unfused at random whenever anything disheartening came about. It was in the early 90’s that Milligan was declared as mentally fit to face trial and not much has been known or accounted about him post that to his death.
Throughout his mental struggle he had fallen in love and out of it, married and been betrayed and discovered many truths that had remained hidden to the core Billy. The thing that shall always be recounted as one calls upon the life of Billy Milligan as one rustles through the pages of this book is that here is the story of a condition that makes the human mind the only complex structure yet to be understood by man, who continues to unearth the mysteries of the universe while the biggest one lies inside his head.
Note: This article has been written from the perspective of a layman reading a novel that interested him. Any inaccuracies to be corrected or insights that have not been covered is welcome. Feel welcome to post it in the comments section. Thank You. (And that was my mild personality addressing everyone while the snobbish one simply asks to be done with it.)