One woman’s unbelievable (yet inspiring) journey through recovery from Dissociative Identity Disorder with the help of an energy facilitator 3/5 stars
I Am Serena is a memoir by Serena-Faith Masterson that recounts her experiences with Dissociative Identity Disorder (or DID, formerly known as Multiple Personally Disorder). The memoir covers the twenty years Serena was in treatment with “energy facilitator”, Norma Delaney (also known as “the doctor of breath”). As her nickname suggests, Norma’s techniques are not the mainstay methods used by the majority of psychotherapists. Norma used spirit guides, deep-breathing exercises, and other methods of modern age spirituality to help Serena face the truth about her childhood abuse, become aware of her various identities and their specific purposes, and to connect with her true self – her spirit. She teaches Serena about rage and anxiety and fear, and she goes above and beyond what almost any traditional therapist would do – going so far as to have Serena live in her home while going through some of the more difficult parts of integration. Norma Delaney is certainly to be commended on her dedication, but Serena’s memoir makes it all sound a little too easy.
Dissociation is the brain’s way of coping with trauma that would otherwise be unbearable. DID is the rarest – and most severe – of the dissociative disorders, affecting only 1-3% of the population. It causes a person to develop two or more distinct identities. In Serena’s case, it was hundreds. It goes without saying that integrating hundreds of personalities can be no easy task, so to believe that deep breathing exercises and talking to spirit guides could do what traditional therapy could not, is going to be difficult for a lot of readers.
In addition to the unusual (some might say far-fetched) style of treatment is the fact that Serena’s recovered memories of being raised in a Satanic cult and undergoing government mind-control experimentation are only vaguely described. It’s clear from this that Serena wanted to focus on the treatment, rather than on the abuse, and that should be respected, but more detailed descriptions of her childhood, and of the ramifications of it throughout her life, would have made the story more real for the reader, and therefore more powerful. Anyone looking to learn more about DID and what it really feels like to have it is probably going to be somewhat disappointed with this book. That being said, Serena’s journey is certainly brave and inspiring and heartbreaking. It is a testament to her strength (and to Delaney’s methods, however unusual) that she survived, let alone recovered.
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