When the Devil Knocks is a beautifully sensitive and poignant documentary by director Helen Slinger. It follows the life of Hilary Stanton, a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It serves to educate and put a human face on DID, which it does well, with compassion and grace. The documentary airs Wednesday January 26th at 10 on CBC The Passionate Eye.
Now healthy and incredibly courageous, Hilary does what most of us would not. She grants the filmmakers access to a decade of taped therapy sessions with her amazing psychologist Cheryl Malmo, and thus exposes her private hell and the rawness of her life to public view.
Haunting and beautiful images set and maintain the tone of what is a disturbing, yet touching and hopeful story.
When she was a child, Hilary was sexually abused by an older neighbour who was trusted with looking after her. As what happens with DID, as an act of self preservation, to protect herself from the overwhelming trauma and its subsequent memories, parts of her brain split into several distinct personalities called alters, each of which carried and manifest different aspects of the frightening experience, and provided Hilary with an emotional shield.
Appearing normal on the outside, she married and had children. However, it was a dangerous time. She experienced memory lapses when the alters took over, and was almost killed when the personality Tim drove into oncoming traffic. A sad aside was the effect DID had on her children.
Hilary entered therapy in 1995, and uncovered 35 alters. During some sessions, she was not present as herself for more than a few minutes. The video footage of her shifts from one to another is quite fascinating.
Over 12 years of very complicated therapy, with Cheryl's help, the needs of Hilary's alters were addressed so that they could change their ways of expressing themselves, and orient themselves to the present where they would be free from living in the past trauma. Eventually, everyone, with their permission and cooperation, was successfully integrated into the functioning whole person that is Hilary today.
Hilary has memories and mementoes of her alters, which she keeps close. She has made peace with her life and past, and has truly moved on to find happiness.
Touching and inspirational, When the Devil Knocks is not only an excellent education of the intricacies of DID, but it is a remarkable story of hope and courage. Watch it on CBC The Passionate Eye Wednesday January 26th at 10 p.m.