Yahoo News and Live Science just reported on the case of a man with multiple personalities, one of whom drank blood. The unidentified patient in question was, according to reports, twenty-three years old and suffered numerous traumas in his life. Really bad ones. His daughter died, and he saw his uncle murdered. On top of that the poor man saw another act of violence committed by a friend–involving decapitation and the severing of a victim’s penis! What sounds like some kind of David Lynch film was in fact this person’s actual life. After all that one might expect alcoholism, but he also developed disassociative hysteria–commonly known as multiple personality–and one of his new selves started to cut himself to drink blood.
Evidently he no longer drinks blood, but continues to suffer disassociative episodes and other problems. Honestly, who would be surprised? My own suspicion is that the article in question barely reveals the tip of the iceberg. That degree of emotional problems surely has deeper roots than the terrible events described. But then, I’m biased perhaps by all the popular books on the subject, from Sybil to When Rabbit Howls. Those and others tend to show patients with this disorder suffer horrific and sustained childhood abuse (really, those two books can easily curdle one’s blood).
But what’s curious to me is how the media seem to treat a “real” vampire as somehow that extraordinary. For one thing, a year hardly goes by without some such article flashing a headline about some genuine vampire, usually a sadist with a blood fetish committing a crime. Sometimes a criminal will turn out to be deluded, thinking himself a walking corpse or maybe a demon. Any excuse to make enough noise and attract attention. This story, despite its sensationalism, at least approaches the “vampire” with compassion. But honestly, Katherine Ramsland’s Piercing The Darkness, an exploration of the vampire subculture in America, came out years ago. Anyone paying attention should know by now that the “vampire lifestyle” remains quite real. Members show the full range of human behavior–positive, negative and all points in between or outside. Several documentaries exist on the subject. Tellingly, some of these people end up branded “sociopath” because of their desire for blood, regardless of how they seek to obtain it or indeed any other details of their lives.
I myself know several such. Odds are a lot of folks reading this article do as well. The ones I personally know are quite nice. They have issues, but no more than I do myself. Take that as you will.
Parenthetically, one can also point out that the vampire with multiple personalities has popped up as a trope in fiction before now. Both the t.v. series Forever Knight and Dracula: The Series had episode built around such an idea. Plus it became a staple among the Malkavian Clan in the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade.
Finally, I just came to the conclusion that this poor man described in the article is to some extent being used. He clearly suffers a great deal, and seems to be suffering still. But his case history ended up as a way to attract attention. On the positive side, I like to think maybe this will help persuade folks how important mental health really is. Lord knows it could use some more funding! But another part of me cringes at the way “vampire” has again become a flag to be waved, a easy (i.e. simplistic) label akin to yellow journalism.
But I hope the patient himself gets better.
What do you think? Is this just another example of sensationalism? Or is it a more humanizing approach to the idea of the vampire? Might it be both?