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From the comments: Living with multiple personality disorder

May 16, 2014 /

Community member Mike Nelson Pedde wrote this very personal essay as a comment in response to Eleanor Longden’s TED Talk, The voices in my head:

“My sister lived (and died) with MPD — multiple personality disorder, also known as DID. Technically not the same as schizophrenia, at least from a psychology perspective, my sister had about 16 people living inside her. They ranged from those older than she was physically to little children, and when one of the kids was ‘out’ she would speak, write, move, act and perceive the world from the perspective of that child even though she occupied an adult body. Some of her personalities were more specific for certain roles, such as the ‘Iron Maiden,’ who served as overall protector.

After she passed away I found myself in the position of having a lot of time on my hands, and also wondering about my own psychological make-up. In a process that took me about ten years, I discovered that although I didn’t have the complete separation that my sister experienced, I had developed personae or roles for different aspects of my life — from the worker to the enforcer to the protector … and it took me a long time and a lot of effort combined with a superhuman amount of love and support from my wife to learn to put myself back together.

I’d often thought about writing a book about my sister — an apartment building where the people living in different units sometimes knew about and sometimes interacted with each other, but one day I discovered that someone else had written it for me. Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff is a work of fiction, but he did it very well and I can’t recommend it enough for people trying to understand what this kind of life can be like.

My appreciations to Eleanor for having the courage to speak, for sharing her challenges and her resolution in such a profound and beautiful way.

P.S. As the saying goes, ‘People keep telling me not to listen to the voices in my head, but sometimes they have pretty good ideas.’ ”
— Mike Nelson Pedde

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We’re always on the look-out for sharp critique, thought-provoking questions or interesting insights in response to TED Talks. Post your thoughts alongside any talk; we read them all and will feature one comment on ideas.TED.com each weekday. (Comments are lightly edited for spelling and grammar.)