Although he was the dominant MPD personality for thirty years, Bob did not have a clue that he was afflicted by multiple personality disorder until 1990, the very last year of his dominance. That was the fateful moment when Bob first heard that he had an "angry boy named Tommy" inside of him. How, you might ask, can someone have MPD for half a lifetime without knowing it? And even if he didn't know it, didn't others around him spot it?
To outsiders, this is one of the most perplexing aspects of MPD. Multiple personality is an extreme disorder, and yet it can go undetected for decades, by the patient, by family and close friends, even by trained therapists. Part of the explanation is the very nature of the disorder itself: MPD thrives on secrecy because the dissociative individual is repressing a terrible inner secret. The MPD individual becomes so skilled in hiding from himself that he becomes a specialist, often unknowingly, in hiding from others. Part of the explanation is rooted in outside observers: MPD often manifests itself in other behaviors, frequently addiction and emotional outbursts, which are wrongly seen as the "real problem."
The fact of the matter is that Bob did not see himself as the dominant personality inside Robert B. Oxnam. Instead, he saw himself as a whole person. In his mind, Bob was merely a nickname for Bob Oxnam, Robert Oxnam, Dr. Robert B. Oxnam, PhD.
This feels so strange. It's the first time in more than a decade that I'm speaking directly to outsiders. I feel awkward and tongue-tied. I used to find it easy to speak in public; the bigger the audience, the better. I thrived on television work. I once hosted a TV series called Asia: Half the Human Race. You see, I was an Asia expert with a specialization on Chinese history and contemporary affairs. So when China news was hot, I was often a TV guest for the Today show with Jane Pauley, and
Oh, sorry, I used to be quite a name-dropper, too. But I was making a point. I'm really nervous talking to you. I'm out of practice. And now Robert introduces me? I used to be the one who made introductions. I was making introductions before anyone ever heard of Robert.
In the old days, when I was outside and he was inside, Robert was constantly criticizing me. You can't believe what he said about me. He was really nasty. Let's see if I can remember. "Mr. Rolodex and Mr. Résumé." "Willing to suspend a mile of values to achieve an inch of ambition." Then later, in 1990, as you will discover, Robert changed his tune and began saying nice things.
Know why I'm really anxious? Want to guess who was the egg who took the "great fall"? You got it. I'm Bob, your Humpty-Dumpty. For the longest time, I saw myself as the whole egg. By the time I found out about MPD, the egg was splattered all over the sidewalk.
During much of my early life, from the 1950s to the 1970s, I was on a pretty good roll. It wasn't until the late 1970s, and even more in the 1980s, that the dark clouds moved in. Look, I'll try to give you a balanced picture, both the upside and the downside. Bottom line though I didn't know it at the time both sides were directly related to multiple personality disorder.
My memories of childhood are very hazy, though I always had a rather rosy view of my early years in the 1940s. During World War II, I lived with my mother and her parents in a modest, comfortable house in southern California. My memory bank contains a few shards from those very early years an upright piano that my grandfather played, sunshine streaming into the backyard, hummingbirds darting around flowering plants, a gum tree that put sticky sap on your hands, a view of a white-capped mountain from the breakfast nook. My grandfather worked as a Con Edison lineman, and my grandmother was, among other things, an early Tupperware salesperson.
Excerpted from A FRACTURED MIND by Robert B. Oxnam. Copyright 2005 Robert B. Oxnam. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion.
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