Part II: Excerpt: 'A Fractured Mind' by Robert B. Oxnam

This excerpt is continued from the first part of chapter one of "A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder," by Robert B. Oxnam. To read the first part of the excerpt, click here.

Inevitably, the cluster of bizarre behaviors started to affect my work. By the late 1980s, I was calling in sick when I felt compelled to stay at the yacht yard. And in the winter months, I started figure skating for exercise and it quickly became a new obsession. One day, I apparently fainted in the men's room and hit my head. At the hospital, I was immediately assigned to intensive care and began a series of tests for three days (including an MRI and a spinal tap). My hospitalization coincided with the famous stock market crash of 1987 and, perhaps not coincidentally, with an Asia Society board meeting.

When they released me from the hospital, the doctor remarked: "We can't find anything wrong with you, nothing at all. It's not blood, not heart. You passed the stress test with flying colors. I think you had best see a psychiatrist." She must have seen the shock in my eyes. Luckily, she knew how to use humor to ease the tension. "Heard the one about the stock market crash? Who's better off — a yuppie or a pigeon? Answer: a pigeon — because a pigeon can still drop a deposit on a BMW."

Good joke, but the situation wasn't funny at all. Clearly, my skating episode was not just a fainting spell, but another of those strange blank spots. What the hell had really happened? Life was spinning totally out of control. I hated myself. I hated what I was doing. I hated life itself. Twice I tried to commit suicide; on both occasions, I was prevented by family or friends. Once I was stopped after I was overheard slamming the action shut on a Luger I had inherited from my father. Another time I was pulled from a car after I had returned, depressed and drunk, and left the engine running in a closed garage. To those who saved me, and who have suffered from witnessing almost-suicides, I owe not only my life, but also lifelong apologies.

In late 1989, a family member, shocked and hurt by my out-of-control behaviors, finally summoned the strength to confront me and perform an "intervention." "I've talked to a doctor. He says it sounds like serious alcoholism. He says you must see a Dr. Jeffery Smith. And he says that your life depends on it. No questions. You've just got to do it."


Dr. Smith, a balding fortyish fellow in a casual sport jacket, offered comforting, professional warmth behind his unruly desk. Initially, his soft voice relaxed me, but soon I was squirming before Dr. Smith's demanding litany of questions and his unblinking better-tell-the-truth look.

"I only drink at night. Well, just a few drinks, mainly to sleep. How much exactly? I suppose I go through a bottle in about a week. Well, more like three days. I drink until I crash. I drink coffee all day long to keep me sharp. I'm real careful with the alcohol — never at the office, not even social events. I can quit the alcohol — I've done it for several periods before, once for over six months.

"Inside I feel terrible. I feel like I'm a bad person. That's what I find myself muttering a lot—'I'm bad.' Then there are the weird times when I can't remember what happened for several hours in a day. Total blank spots. Or when I'm on the boat and someone asks about China and I can't think of anything about China, nothing at all.

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