When Dawn Taylor walks down the street hand in hand with her two young sons, she looks like any other devoted mum.
But Dawn, 31, is not like other mothers. She has multiple personalities – an astonishing 22 of them.
Each personality has its own voice, traits and mannerisms. They can come and go up to 10 times a day, changing without warning in a split second.
They include brothel keeper Madam Taylor, five-year-old schoolgirl Daisy, PC World worker Mary, 60, and aggressive teenager Lashes.
There are also a millionaire, Scottish sandwich shop owner, Cornish farm girl, German speaker and a gangsta rapper.
It is Tiger-Lou, a woman about Dawn’s age, who greets us for our interview. But within 30 minutes Dawn is back.
“I feel like I spend half my life drunk,” says Dawn, who cannot recall what happens when another personality takes over.
“At the time I think I am in control. To me, I am just me, whether that’s Daisy, Mary or even Madam Taylor. But when I wake up and can’t remember a thing the terror sets in.”
Dawn, who lives with long-term partner Dean, 36, and their children Connor, 10, and seven-year-old Troy, was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – also known as Multiple Personality Disorder – in June.
It followed years of erratic behaviour, which started with depression after Connor’s birth.
Dawn once woke covered in blood with scissors in her hand.
She has tried to throttle a stranger and threatened to blow up her friend’s house. Supermarket visits are not easy.
Dawn, of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, says: “I often throw food off the shelves. I come round and have no idea why I’ve done it.
“It’s like the other personalities are trying to get me into trouble. Some of them hate Dean and make me say spiteful things to him, even though I love him dearly.
“I found text messages to a friend in my sent-box, telling her I was outside her house and that I was going to hurt her. I had to call and apologise and tell her it was someone else. I felt awful.
“Other personalities even hate the real me. Once I woke up to find a swear word cut on my thigh.
“The scissors were in my hand and there was blood everywhere. I couldn’t remember doing it.
“The only saving grace is that they all love my children. But that doesn’t stop me worrying about what one of them might do.”
Anguished Dawn says: “I just want to be a normal mum.”
The former model, who cannot work because of her condition, adds: “Sometimes, simple things I do as Dawn are a major problem for the other personalities.“I used to cycle everywhere but once I was riding through town with Troy in a seat on the back. Connor was riding in front when suddenly I switched into little Daisy, who can’t cycle. I lost all ability to ride, smashed into Connor and we all fell off. A few weeks ago I came round and was hanging upside down from a tree in the back garden.
“It sounds funny but it was terrifying. One of my child personalities must have climbed up there but when I snapped out of it I couldn’t get down.”
Dawn – who takes sedatives, mood stabilisers and anti-depressants Quetiapine, Carbamazepine and Paroxetine to control her condition – is used to people laughing at her and tries to be philosophical about it.
She says: “One of the teenage girl personalities does cheer-leading. I have woken up in the town centre surrounded by people clapping after I have done a routine. My sons think it’s funny so I try to laugh along but for me it’s really embarrassing.
“The boys can take advantage, too. I have one personality they call Rich Lady, who seems to think she has a huge fortune.
“When she comes out they make me buy them expensive toys and sweets. When I snap back I realise what they’ve done.
“I woke up once in the living room surrounded by boxes of Lego, computer games and consoles they had made her buy.”
But life wasn’t always like this. Dean, who met Dawn when she was 18, recalls: “She was a beautiful model, full of fun and confidence.
“We were so in love.
“Then after Connor was born we were driving down the road one day when she wound down the window and started shouting abuse at someone walking by.
“It was out of character and I asked what she was doing. She looked at me like I was mad. She couldn’t remember a thing.”
Doctors at first suspected Tourette’s syndrome, but the fact that Dawn couldn’t remember her outbursts suggested something more serious.
Her erratic behaviour began to take on a pattern.
Dean says: “The first personality to emerge was Lashes. One day after an outburst, I called her Dawn and she told me that wasn’t her name.
“Gradually, Lashes came out as a very angry teenage girl who didn’t like me. I would get texts telling me I was useless.
“She told me she hated me and warned me not to come home from work.
“More personalities started to appear. Sometimes Mary arrives. She works in PC World and wakes up at 5am and tells me she has to go do a stock-take. I try to convince her she doesn’t work there.
“When I ask how she is going to get to the shop, she doesn’t know where it is, becomes very confused and comes back to bed.
“Other times she is Daisy, who sits on the floor and draws for hours. There are other children and when Dawn is one of them, her handwriting is like a child’s.
“Another of the personalities speaks German – which Dawn only learnt briefly at school.
“Then there is Madam Taylor, who owns a brothel. I tried to explain to Madam Taylor that she is actually Dawn.
“Now I ignore her because the doctors think the more you interact with the other personalities, the stronger they get. Some are far stronger than others and emerge much more regularly.
“It was scary at first but gradually the personalities have become part of my life. It’s like living with 22 different people. Some smoke and even like cigars even though Dawn has never smoked.”
The illness has taken its toll on the couple’s love life.
Dean says: “My mates joke that it must be amazing, getting to go to bed with 22 different women.
“But what about when I go to bed with a brothel madam, then part way through she switches to a five-year-old child? I’m lost. I love Dawn but what we have isn’t a relationship any more, it’s a way of life – survival.
“I could never leave her or my boys but this illness has taken away the woman I fell in love with. People ask if I hope to get her back. Of course I do. I have to, otherwise I would go mad.”
Dawn has just one session with a consultant psychiatrist every three months.
The drugs ease the problem but she has been told there is no proven cure. NHS cuts mean the mental health clinic in Clacton could be closed.
Dean says: “If that happens I don’t know what we are going to do. It took years just to get a proper diagnosis.”
Analytical psychotherapist Remy Aquarone, who has treated people with Dawn’s condition for 25 years, said: “Less than one per cent of the population suffers from DID but many are misdiagnosed with depression or other conditions”.
Mr Aquarone, former president of the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation, said: “The most separate personalities I have seen in one person is 12, so Dawn’s case is extreme.
“She is in desperate need of regular and sustained psychotherapy at least once a week. It is very difficult to get this kind of help on the NHS.”
Dawn’s alter egos
THE REAL DAWN
A lovely 31-year old who is a loving mother to Troy and Connor.
This troubled teenager has a volatile temper and swears a lot. She sends Dean scary texts trying to break off their relationship.
TIGER-LILY and TIGER-LOU
Related girls a similar age to Dawn and closest to her own personality. Dawn’s family are often the only ones who can tell when she is in one of these characters.
A five-year-old girl who loves colouring and spends hours using Troy and Connor’s crayons. She is Troy’s favourite personality because she likes to play with the boys.
This six-year-old is obsessed with building Lego and SpongeBob SquarePants – even though it’s a family joke that Dawn can’t stand either.
A 60-year-old shop assistant who was made redundant from her job at office suppliers Staples and now works at PC World. She was devastated when she read in the local paper that the local branch was closing down.
Young agricultural worker who claims she has a combine harvester and talks to the children about farm animals.
An older woman who keeps a brothel. She drove past a derelict building and said it would be the perfect place for her “girls” to do their trade.
Millionaire who spends uncontrollably and showers her family with gifts. She once spent the whole weekly budget on Lego and games consoles for the boys.
She is a pyromaniac who has an obsession with red cigarette lighters. Once she even set fire to real money in the wood burner in the back garden.
A girl who calls everyone “Chaz” – including her children, partner and friends – and has a strong London accent.
Scottish sandwich shop owner who wakes Dean in the middle of the night to make deliveries and pick up ingredients.
A woman who switches to speaking her native language in mid-conversation and gets frustrated when her family can’t understand her.
These include a gangsta rapper who talks in ghetto rhymes and four children too shy to give their names. One likes to jump in the paddling pool fully clothed. And there are three teens who self-harm and send threatening texts to Dawn’s friends.
Read more: Mirror News
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