“What the hell is happening to me? I feel possessed. I’m talking gibberish in the mirror and somebody else’s voice is coming out of my mouth.”
Cameron West was in his thirties, a successful businessman, happily married and the father of a young son when he spoke these words. The “voice” he heard belonged to Davy, the first of twenty-four distinct alter personalities to emerge over a period of several months as West began to recall memories of horrific abuse he’d repressed since childhood. Along with Davy, there was eight-year-old Clay, tense and stuttering, twelve-year-old Dusty, gentle and kind, but disappointed to find herself in a man’s body, Bart, lighthearted with a sense of humor, Lief, focused and driven, who got things done, but often overwhelmed West with his intensity, and nineteen other personalities, all with distinct characteristics, mannerisms, and memories, created by West to protect his psyche from the trauma of repeated sexual abuse at the hands of family members.
In the classic New York Times Bestseller, First Person Plural, West offers a poignant account of his efforts to understand the workings of his fragmented mind and to heal his damage spirit as he desperately hangs on to the slender thread that connects him to his wife, Rikki, his son Kyle, and some semblance of a regular life.
In addition to a spellbinding story, West provides rare and unprecedented insight into the fascinating condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, the working of the mind of a multiple, and his alters’ coexistence with one another and with the world “outside.” Heartwrenching, humorous, and ultimately hopeful, First Person Plural is a story that will make you stand in awe of the power of the mind to protect itself and cheer for West as he struggles to gain control of his life.
Accolades for First Person Plural:
New York Times Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
USA Today Bestseller
Published in twenty-two foreign countries
Personal appearances by Cameron and Rikki West:
The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Today Show
Maurio Costanza (Italy)
Featured in USA Today, TIME, and People
“A page-turning journey through hell.” Entertainment Weekly
“For those who found Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve believable and engrossing, this account will be even more so.” Kirkus Reviews
“First Person Plural is an honest, courageous account that demystifies the lives of those who struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” Ellen Bass author of The Courage to Heal
“First Person Plural is an incredibly important book. It is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.” Marlene E. Hunter, MD, FCFP, President International Society for the Study of Dissociation
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About the Author
CAMERON WEST was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Berklee School of Music and Syracuse University and received his undergraduate degree in business and music from the State University of New York. He met his future wife Rikki in 1978 in Boston where he was working as a touring musician and they married in 1981. In 1987 while living in Nashville, Tennessee, where Cam was working as a recording artist and Rikki was attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University, Rikki gave birth to their son Kai. Though Cam and Rikki had a strong relationship and a beautiful, healthy baby, Cam continued to suffer from a number of chronic illnesses that had plagued him since he was a teenager. In 1988 he and Rikki made the decision to leave Nashville and the music business behind so Cam would be present while Kai was growing up. They settled in a suburb of New York City and Cam went into business in sales. Though his business thrived, his physical health declined, and following a fourth failed sinus surgery in ten years, he was diagnosed with systemic candidiasis and a severely compromised immune system. With Rikki's support and the help of a holistic medical practitioner, he was able to fight his way back to health over a period of almost a year. When Cam was finally physically healthy, his psyche started to crumble and he began to show profound symptoms of dissociation. Rikki had worked with emotionally disturbed children and had been trained in counseling, and she recognized that Cam desperately needed the help of a mental health specialist. Cam was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder) in 1993. The Wests moved to California in 1994. In regular therapy with a specialist in dissociative disorders, Cam was accepted into the doctoral program in psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco and he earned his Ph.D. in 1997. His dissertation was a case study of the experiential aspects of switching and co-consciousness in three persons with DID. FIRST PERSON PLURAL: My Life as a Multiple (Hyperion, 1999) was Cam's first book. Oprah Winfrey took an interest in Cam and Rikki’s story and invited them to be on her television show for a full hour. This appearance was the first of many (including The Today Show with Katie Couric, 20/20, and Entertainment Tonight) for Cam and Rikki, and the book became a New York Times bestseller and was eventually published in twenty-two countries. Movie rights were purchased by Disney Studios, and a draft script was written by Eric Roth (Rainman, The Horse Whisperer), but the movie has yet to be made. Cam wrote his second book, THE MEDICI DAGGER, (Simon & Schuster, 2001) a novel about an orphan named Reb who became a stuntman and was drawn into a search for his hero Leonardo Da Vinci's legendary Medici Dagger to avenge his parents' deaths. The story involved long lost pages from Leonardo's notebook, which resurfaced and offered clues to the dagger's hiding place. The book, published in over twenty countries, was optioned twice by Paramount Pictures for Tom Cruise, but has yet to be made into a film. Reb's adventures continue with the publication of Cam’s second novel, FUTURECARD.
Read an Excerpt
I was lying on my back on our white Berber living room carpet, admiring the self portraits in a luxuriously detailed book called Rembrandt: The Human Form and Spirit. The Rembrandt book was one of several wonderful art books Rikki and I had given to my dad. After he died, at the age of fifty-nine, ownership of the books had reverted to us, and I was glad about that, even though I would have been gladder had I not gotten them back so soon.
Every time I look at Rembrandt's self-portraits I get a feeling inside that's hushed and private and kind of sad, like a solitary stretch of river at night, and I know I'm looking directly into the man's soul. And for some reason, when I look at those paintings I feel a little closer to my dad, even though Rembrandt probably knows him better than I ever did.
It was early evening in the middle of October. The days were getting shorter, and outside you could see your breath. The leaves on the trees surrounding our small fieldstone house on our four-acre hill were turning, and soon they'd fall off and we'd have to surrender the cocoon-like feeling that had originally attracted us to the old place. Before long, through the bony trees, we'd be able to see our nearest neighbor's home down the hill and across the street, maybe six hundred feet away. Autumn in New England.
Rikki was standing at the white Formica counter in our small, bright kitchen that opened to the living room. The counter was a happy sight, covered with all the fixings for a homemade pizza, one of my two favorite meals along with homemade ravioli with pesto sauce. The dough had risen and was stretched out on a perforated pizza pan, a tasty sauce simmered on the stove, and a big chunk of mozzarella sat next to a yellow-handled stainless steel grater. Black olives, Crimini mushrooms, and a shiny red bell pepper were already cut up, and Rikki was expertly slicing a Vidalia onion with an eight-inch Henckels knife on a worn, round, teak chopping board we'd gotten as a wedding gift twelve years earlier.
The new L.L. Bean suede moccasins Rikki had just given me for my thirty-seventh birthday--actually our birthday, since we were born on the same day--were on the floor next to me, and five-year-old Kyle was beside me on his belly, wearing his blue and red Spiderman pajamas with the matching cape. He'd made a fort out of my moccasins for some of his GI Joe figures and the battle was raging, with Kyle providing excellent dialogue and sound effects, which at one point got overly juicy and he spit in my ear.
"Kylie, jeez!" I said, making a "yucchhh" face and wiping the saliva off my ear with my shoulder.
"Sorry, Dad," he apologized in his little voice. We looked at each other for half a second and both cracked up. I put Rembrandt down, rolled over to my left, and propped myself up on my elbow.
"Aw that's nothing," I said. "Once when you were a real midget, maybe three months old--I was lying on my back on the floor holding you up doing a `Superman'--"
Rikki pointed the knife at me and nodded without looking up from the cutting board. "Yup, I remember this," she said, grinning.
"Anyway," I continued, "I'm on my back flying you around singing `Su-per-maaan,' swoopin' you back and forth and going `nyowww,' and all of a sudden ... are you ready for this? You puked, `bluhhhhh,' right in my ear!" Kyle burst out laughing and a load of snot blobbed out of his nose and hung on his lip.
"Quick!" I shouted. "Go to Mom!" He jumped up and tooled into the kitchen, still laughing and trying to snort the mucus back up his little nose. Rikki put the knife down, grabbed a paper towel, and held it to Kyle's face while he blew.
"Right in my ear," I said, chuckling. "Hot baby puke right in my ear."
Rikki tossed the paper towel in the garbage can under the sink, rinsed her hands off, and picked up the knife and another onion. "You think that's funny, Kyle," she said, leaning forward against the counter. "Tell him, Dad."
I nodded, knowing right away what she was referring to. Parenthood and twelve years of marriage provided us with the comfortable, unspoken understanding and knowledge that comes from thousands of shared experiences. I shook my head, laughing. "You're really gonna like this, Little Man."
"What, Daddy?" Kyle asked, as he padded back, plopped down, and resumed the moccasin wars. "What am I gonna like?"
"Okay," I said. "You were even littler than you were when you ralphed in my ear--"
"Ralphed," he giggled. "Daddy, you're funny."
"Hey," I said, giving him the Groucho eyebrows and air cigar. "Nobody calls me funny and gets away with it."
Now Rikki was giggling. I paused and watched her snickering and chopping vegetables. I loved seeing her laugh. Loved the sound of her laugh. Such an easy laugh. Such a good person--a good friend. And sexy as hell, too. I never got tired of looking at her. Thirty-seven years old. Five feet six and slender. Long shapely legs that went all the way up to the buns of Navarone. Straight honey-brown hair cut just below her shoulders and large, deep blue eyes. Everyone who met her loved those eyes.
Kyle poked me with his finger and whined, "C'mon, Dad."
I snapped out of my reverie. "Okay, where was I ... oh, yeah. You were tiny, maybe four weeks old ..." I looked up at Rikki, raising my eyebrows quizzically.
"Mm hmm," she said. "Four weeks to the day."
"Right," I said. "Anyway, we were shooting some videotape on this old, beat-up video camera ..." I looked up at Rikki again. "Remember that camera?" She nodded.
"Old camera," I said. "Made everything look green. So, Mom had the camera, we were sitting in the living room in our house in Nashville. You're on my lap--nude--or maybe you had a shirt on. I forget."
"He was wearing a T-shirt," Rikki piped up.
"Why wasn't he wearing a diaper?"
"I don't know," she shrugged. "Airing him out?"
"Anyway," I continued. "You were sitting on my lap and Mom was shooting some video of us. And all of a sudden, `pftthhdd,' you took a crap--on my leg!" That cracked Rikki up, and Kyle fell over laughing hysterically, holding his little belly.
"Right there on the video," I said, shaking my head. "Recorded for all time. The first time my kid ever crapped on me."
"Won't be the last, either," Rikki said, still laughing. Her eyes were tearing and she was sniffling--not from the stow, but from the onion. "Now that was classic," she said, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her teal cotton jersey.
Kyle put Joe's butt on top of my head, stuck his tongue out and went "pftthhdd," and cracked up some more. Then he said, "Hey, Dad. Let's do Buns in Space!"
Buns in Space was a game we played where I'd lie on my back on the floor with my knees up and my feet flat. Kyle would straddle me and sit down on my stomach. With my palms facing up, I'd grab hold of him by the upper thighs and butt, one cheek in each hand, and support his weight. Then in his pipsqueak voice he'd announce--and this was my favorite part--"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, once again it's time for ... BUUNS ... I-IN ... SPA-AAA-CE!!" And as soon as he said the words, I'd start to shake him and lift him and make a sound like a rocket launching. When my arms were extended, I'd shout, "Hit the button for hyperspace!" and with his finger he'd press an imaginary button on his left knee, and I'd make an even bigger launch noise and shake him some more, lifting him higher. After a few seconds I'd make him pitch and yaw, while I coughed and sputtered like Elmer Fudd's car. "Oh no, we're going dowwwn!" I'd yell, bucking him all over the place. "Look out belowww!" He'd laugh like hell and hang on to my wrists, totally exhilarated, and then I'd gently topple him over and we'd both crack up. A second later he'd jump up and say, "Again for it, Daddy," and we'd start all over.
Kyle and I hadn't done Buns in Space in a long time--at least it seemed like a long time to me. I couldn't bench-press his forty pounds anymore, and it broke my heart.
I told Kyle I was sorry, but I didn't feel up to it. He shrugged it off and went back to playing. I went back to Rembrandt. Before long, Rikki told us to get ready to eat.
Immediately after dinner I had to lie down again. As usual, I didn't feel well. I had a roaring sinus infection that always seemed to get worse right after I ate. Without even clearing the table, I ambled over to the living room couch and collapsed onto it.
Rikki ushered Kyle up the stairs for his bath, and I lay there looking up at the ceiling, exhausted and pissed off. I noticed a cobweb in the corner of one of the built-in oak bookshelves. Entangled in it was the crunchy carcass of a captured fly that had already had all the juice sucked out of it. I'm dying. I shook it off. Damn, I'm not missing this bath!
"Wait guys," I called, "I'm coming." I groaned, struggling to get up from the couch.
Rikki looked back down the stairs at me. "You sure?"
"Yup." I grunted and stood up. Trying not to waste energy by bending over too far, I made a stab for the moccasins and missed. I took a deep breath and grabbed for them again, and this time I got them. I shook the soldiers out, dropped the slippers to the floor, and snaked my feet into them. Then I shuffled over to the L-shaped staircase, took hold of the wrought-iron railing, and pulled myself up the oak stairs.
Rikki and Kyle were in the bathroom with the tub water running. Rikki gave my arm a gentle squeeze and looked at me worriedly. I kissed her cheek and looked over at Kyle. "Guess what, Little Man," I said excitedly.
"What?" he asked.
"How would you like to take a bath with shaving cream?" I picked up a can and gave it a few shakes.
He balled his little fists and threw his arms up. "Yeahhh! You mean I can shoot it?"
"Sure!" I said, glancing sideways at Rikki.
She raised her eyebrows at me and said to Kyle, "Just try to keep it in the tub, honey, okay?"
"Don't worry, I will," he said gleefully.
Rikki tested the water with her fingers and turned off the faucet. "Peel and hop in, Spiderman," she said. "I'll go get your guys."
I lowered the toilet lid and sat down, ready to watch Kyle go at it. Using both hands, he sprayed the first shot of shaving cream into the built-in tiled soap dish. "Coool!" he said. I smiled, agreeing that it was indeed cool for a kid to be let loose with a full can of shaving cream. I leaned back against the water tank and watched him.
In a minute Rikki came back with a clear plastic tub of action figures, and Kyle carefully chose a few with his left hand, holding the shaving cream can in his right, reluctant to put down his new favorite weapon. He held up Shredder, who looked like a gladiator with serrated knives on his helmet, and blasted him with enough lather for twenty shaves. He giggled devilishly.
Rikki stood next to me, gently massaging my back with her right hand, and the room filled with that synthetic lime shaving cream smell that's supposed to make women think men are manly.
Evening had succumbed to night, and the critters in our woods were making themselves busy under the cover of darkness. I guessed that somewhere nearby somebody was throwing another log on a fire. I shifted my gaze from Kyle to the large mirror on the far wall and took in Rikki's profile beside me. She looked soft and radiant.
Then I caught a glimpse of my own reflection. The harsh yellow light was not nearly as kind to me. In two days, he'll cut me open again. It won't work. I'm a dead man.
An hour later Spiderman was fast asleep in his bed. The shaving cream had been rinsed off the bathroom walls and floor. Rikki had cleared the table and washed the dishes, buttoned up the house, turned down the thermostat, and climbed in bed next to me.
She was wearing nothing but an oversized white T-shirt with a silk screen of the Beatles' Let It Be album cover on the front. Paul's picture covered her right breast and John's covered her left. George and Ringo were underneath. John and Paul were the lucky ones. Rikki and I lay facing each other, holding hands. Her skin felt warm and feminine, and she smelled like a bowl of fresh fruit from the Caswell-Massey soaps I'd bought her for our birthday.
I inhaled deeply through my nose. "Mmm," I sighed. "Strawberry?"
"Mm mm. Pomegranate."
We lay in silence for a couple of minutes, looking into each other's eyes. Rikki spoke first. "I know you're scared about the operation," she said, squeezing my hand. "It's gonna be all right, Cam. We're going to get through this and you're going to get better."
She was talking about the dual maxillary and ethmoid sinusotomy--my fourth sinus operation, the third in four years--I was going to undergo in two days. I looked deeply into her eyes but didn't say anything.
"You've been sick for so long. You deserve to get better." She ran a hand through my hair and kissed me. "You're going to make it. I won't let you go down, you know. I won't."
"These operations never seem to work for too long, Kid," I said softly. "I don't know why. It feels like it's in my bones. Like I'm sick all the way to my bones and I can't stop it. Mercer can't help me. He's just a guy with a knife." I shook my head. "It's deeper. Something's not right.... It's never been right."
We looked at each other some more. "You've been a good friend and you're a great mom," I said. Rikki squeezed my hand harder, and a tear ran down her cheek and fell onto the light blue pillowcase. "I feel like you married a lemon," I said, and then my composure crumbled and I began to cry, too. "I'm so sorry, Rik."
Rikki pulled me close to her and put my head on her shoulder. She stroked my hair and we cried together. "We'll make it," she whispered. "You'll see. Everything'll be all right."
But in my heart, I didn't really think it was true.
What People are Saying About This
At last, Multiply Personality has been demystified! The author has set out to make a complex condition understandable and has succeeded. With stunning candor, the author takes us through the process of discovering the wounded parts of himself that had been sealed away beyond the reach of conscious memory. This is an informative and extremely moving account of his remarkable struggle toward healing. (Marlene Steinberg, M.D. Author, Handbook for the Assessment of Dissociation: A Clinical Guide Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Research Affiliate, Yale School of Medicine)
First Person Plural is a great achievement as well as a terrific book. Cameron West has conveyed, in jarring detail and heartbreaking clarity, the impact of Dissociative Identity Disorder on a family. It is unique in this field since the author is both a patient and a doctor of psychology. I highly recommend this book for anyone suffering from or interested in DID. (Colin Ross, M.D. Director, Timberlawn Trauma Program, Author, Dissociative Identity Disorder: Diagnosis, Clinical Features, and Treatment)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First Person Plural is a thrilling ride through Hell. It is a sad story and a book that is hard to put down. The details of Dissociative Identity Disorder are eye opening and tragic. You truly feel the author’s pain. Five stars.
As an individual living with DID, this book has been the one which I have most identified with. I worked in the field of civil engineering for almost 25-years and was quite active within many facets of my community. After over 20-years of therapy, my DID presented itself in such a way that it demonstrated to me that it was, in fact, an undeniable feature of my life. During the intervening years after I was correctly diagnosed (for the first time in my life) we were holistically treated to truly accommodate our true needs. I remain ever grateful to Cameron for write this eloquent autobiography!
I had never heard of young boys being abused by their mothers until I read this book as well as A Child Called It. Father/daughter relationships aren't the only relationships that can be totally whacked out.
I loved this book It is well written, very innovative and interesting!!! Cameron West takes you on a path with him and you can actually feel what he went through with this disorder. The book expresses this condition in details and it is filled with humor, some sadness, and a drive that makes you do not want to put the book down!!
I would definetly recommend this book to anyone!!
I dont have DID, but i have always been fascinated with the mind and emotions and how experiences and traumas in ones life can truly affect a person. DID is not something to feel sorry about, people with DID are proof of how strong they really are. To have been able to develop alters in an attempt to survive a horrifying experience. This book gives you a true insight in what really makes a person develop DID. Hopefully peole will understand everything that lies inside a person.
This book was helped me learn so much about DID. The writing was fresh, and I instantly fell in love with Cam and his family. I felt for all of them from beginning to end. I only found the book because I was doing research on DID for my novel series. I wanted to know something that movies and stereotypes couldn't teach me. I am thankful that Cam was brave enough to write his story and present it as thoroughly and as honestly as he did. Both my protagonist and the world he lives in will be much more realistic thanks to the knowledge I gained from reading this book. I am sincerely grateful for Cam's story.
i'm fifteen and i want to be a psychologist when i'm older. i am very familiar with this disease. although, most phD's don't admit this a disease of the mind, it most certainly is. cam west takes you on a true-life journey that is haunting and frightening.
since my best friend has this condition, i have researched relentlessly and this definitely helps me.
i love psychology and i personally found this a great book.
At first this book seemed slow, but after a few chapters you get into it. There are some very sad and discriptive parts in this book concerning his childhood. This book is very captivating and touching. As I was reading it i felt like i was sort of there experiencing it with him and the guys. I highly recomend this book to anyone who is interested in either MPD or psychology!
This book was a very descriptive journey of a man suffering from the symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder. It shows a perspective of this disorder in a way that no one else has ever done before. As we read this book, the author gives descriptive details and does not withhold anything, which shows the true ugly face of this disorder. While reading this you feeling yourself being sucked into the whirlpool of emotions, getting lost in the depth of the stories, characters and the plot of the story, and also rooting for Cameron to somehow make it out alive of this midlife crisis. This book gives a real outlook on this disorder.
This entertaining yet informative autobiography gave me a deeper more personal look into multiple personality disorder. Cameron West's book was not a definition by definition outline. This book not only managed to capture my attention but hold it till the very end. The information not only led me to learn about this disorder but was very enjoyable to read. His story of his struggles with being diagnosed with MPD and how he dealt with the challenges that faced him truly inspired me. I recommend anyone to read this book for it is not only educational but entertaining.
Reading this book enlightened me on what DID is really all about. Many stories that I have read are not firsthand accounts. They are more technical and lack emotion. Cameron West's book kept me on my toes and made me feel for him as much as I would someone close to me. It was amazing to see how fragile the mind is and what it does to protect one from pain. I feel as if I know West now, and I wish that I could meet him to discuss things personally. I hope the best for him and his family in the future.
Interesting account of one man's journey in the struggle to live as a multiple. West writes, 'Having DID is, for many people, a very lonely thing. If this book reaches some people whose experiences resonate with mine and gives them a sense that they aren't alone, that there is hope, then I will have achieved one of my goals.' Congratulations, I think that was accomplished. I felt right there with West as he made discoveries and realizations that only a multiple can. His honesty and openess were apparant. His appreciation for the support he recieved from therapists and family are inspiring. A worthwhile read for suvivors as well as those interested in the authenticity of one man's experience as a multiple.
This is an amazing story. Cam's story really touched my heart and makes me want to learn more about DID. i really enjoyed this book and could not put it down. If you have not read it.....read it it's worth it!!
Not only is this a wonderfully and humerously written book, Cam's story describes in detail exactly what it has been like for me to live with DID... Newly diagnosed, this book is helping me to deal with my own 'denial's rake'. Especially of interest has been Cam's mention of self-injury and co-conciousness - from the openning pages of the book, I was 'taken' given this has been exactly my experience since childhood. Thank you for its honest and caring mention.
I'm neither a mental health professional, nor a person with DID. However, I love to read good nonfiction, and this book was great. It was compelling, interesting, uplifting and educational. Anyone who enjoys nonfiction should like this book.
This book put me in awe. It is a spectacular book for which I bought a copy of for myself after doing a book review for my Psychology class. I can't believe the detail and the crispness of it. This deserves a rating well beyond the scale!
As I read First Person Plural I was encouraged and challenged by this sometimes painfully honest account of the life and healing process faced by someone with DID. The most unique aspect of this book is that the author writes of the challenges of maintaining a family while facing a difficult disorder and striving for recovery. This is an outstanding book full of hope for anyone in a simular situation,and insite into DID for for those who are interested.
First Person Plural: My Life As A Muliple by Cameron West was powerfully written. It was a very moving first hand account of what it's like to have MPD/DID. I highly recoomend this book to anyone interested in learning about MPD/DID.
I truly loved this book. The only reason that I didn't give it the full 5 stars, is because the abuse memories were extremely graffic. This is not a book to take to work to read during your break. It requires full attention, and in some cases an empty stomach.
I read this book in my spare time. It was recommended by classmates in my Abnormal Psychology class. Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. It was very interesting. In our class about eight people read it and they also had positive comments about the book. Take a sneak peak at the book by reading a sample of it.
Fantastic read. It was a little hard to follow in the beginning with all his personalities and keeping them straight. However, the amount of courage and love this family has between them is beautiful. To overcome all the challenges they faced, and doing it together is amazing! I will surely read this book again.