Review: The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes

About the Book:

The Minds of Billy Milligan

A portrait of a tortured young man, arrested for a series of kidnappings and rapes, explores the world of a multiple personality, whose traumatic childhood shattered his mind into twenty-four distinct personalities.

My Thoughts:

This book chronicles the life of Billy Milligan who suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder and is said to have had 24 personalities. This biography of the man, written by author Daniel Keyes, tells us the story of Billy’s life. We are given glimpses into his life, shown how his childhood was and the events that eventually led to the existence of his various personalities. Initially, not having been diagnosed, Billy was treated as a different child and everyone thought he was weird. During his college days, he was arrested for rape and armed robbery. It was at this time, that he underwent psychological treatment and eventually diagnosed with MPD.

Initially, Billy was placed in state run mental hospitals and claimed to have received very little treatment. He was diagnosed to have 10 personalities at this time. It was only later on, when he started to undergo treatment under David Caul, did the rest of his personalities emerge.

The biography, as told to Daniel Keyes by the various personalities of Billy, highlights the various incidents in his life. We are shown the immense pressure he was under and he survived. Most of the time, the original person “Billy” was asleep as the others put it. Some of his personalities took turns in taking over his mind to conduct various day to day activities. Each personality was as different from the next as possible and each were talented in their own way. The book brings out the trouble faced and the kind of psychological effect traumatic events can have on the mind of a child as well as on people in general.

It was indeed difficult to read this book as it brought out so many emotions but it does succeed in making the reader stop and think. There is a lot that can be learnt from this book and even though it is an emotional roller-coaster, there are some key points that everyone should walk away with. Most importantly, it is very intriguing and teaches the reader that every action of ours and every word we utter can affect the other person at whom our actions/thoughts are directed. It is essential to be understanding and give people the benefit of doubt before blindly branding them and shunning them. It is rather difficult for me to continue with this review without giving away much of the story, though most of it is quite well known or can be read off the internet. I however strongly suggest that everyone pick up this book and make the effort to read it.

This is a must read for everyone as this book not only chronicles the life of Billy Milligan, it brings out the psychology of the mind in relation to MPD as well as how easy it is for people to brand someone a charlatan or an attention seeker without really understanding them. Moreover, through the eyes of Billy’s personalities, we can form a picture as to why each one came to exist and how they played a part in his life. We are indeed afraid of the unknown and I believe this book gives us great insight into one of the mysteries of the mind.

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