Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan

I remember reading Sybil and seeing the movie.  Horrified and intrigued, I felt for Sybil's pain and fear.  Then I started hearing the rumors of it being faked.  So I read this book with an open mind.  I will say that Ms. Nathan really seems to have done intense research and made a strong case for Sybil being primarily fictionalized.  A very sad concept for me to accept.

I will start by saying, the three women involved were each a mess on their own, but once they met and came up with idea for the book, things got much worse.
Sybil (or Shirley Mason) was definitely a troubled woman with serious emotional issues.  But going to therapy with Dr. Wilbur was the beginning of a major what if scenario?  had she gone to another therapist, would things have been different for her?  better perhaps?

I do not fault Dr. Wilbur for her enthusiasm with trying to help others.  But her methods were unethical at best and criminal at worst.  Major drug usage - not just doses but combinations as well really were dangerous for Shirley and her other patients.  And there was no one to tell her to stop either.  Definitely a tale as to why we need ethical review standards.

What made me saddest, was so many of the changes used in the book were to make it less 'boring' by Ms. Schreiber.  To me, that is not a license to take a 'true' story and add shock value etc...  Truth was definitely lost along the way.

And the popularity of Sybil and what it stood for in our culture and mental health field changed so many things.  Many false diagnoses, the whole phenomenon (on controversy) re. repressed memories and accuracy of information resulting from hypnosis and drug use. 

I definitely believe people can abuse their children is horrifying ways, but it seems most of Sybil's abuse is not verified by any witnesses or evidence whatsoever.  And the doctor took it all on faith and even the journalist questioned it at times.  But money meant to much - or maybe fame.
But it leaves me feeling a bit betrayed.

Well worth reading!

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