In this poetic exploration of the much-misunderstood condition, “Busy Inside” follows Karen and her patient Marshay on their complicated quests for self.
"In a remarkable narrative twist, a social worker who specializes in treating patients with multiple personalities (known as dissociative identity disorder) has 17 personalities of her own."
Karen’s clients are women with DID (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder), a puzzling condition that fascinates modern psychiatry. In her office, a woman speaks in a strange voice and plays with toys; another is wearing a disguise: wig and sunglasses. Some DID patients have up to twenty different identities (or ‘alters’) of various ages, habits, beliefs, and even genders.
Karen juggles seventeen of her own alters, organizing them into a functional supportive family: perky Rosalee who keeps everyone in line, curious child Three, and others. Living openly with DID is what helps Karen function. Her therapeutic practice is based on building self‐confidence and acceptance of one’s true selves. This includes acknowledging each alter’s desires, and finding ways to safely express the darker impulses. As Karen tells her wife, “The truth is, most people live with something: anxiety, depression, bipolar. If we don’t acknowledge it, people struggle more. If people could talk about it, they wouldn’t be so embarrassed ‐ they could be themselves, and be able to work.”
Karen’s patient Marshay struggles to believe she really has DID. She can’t explain how she can play the guitar, why she has a song‐filled journal, or why she’s wearing clothes she hates. It is disorienting to see Marshay behave like a sensitive teenager, a babbling little girl, and a rational adult in a short span of time. Before therapy, her personalities constantly fought for control, she would have black outs, and her violent alter egos jeopardized her safety. Karen helps her harmonize her alters into a supportive team. Marshay lives with her sister Jasmine, her best friend and caretaker. They gossip, share secrets, cook together and sleep in one bed. However, Jasmine is engaged, and is moving to Texas with her fiancé – without Marshay. This will be a huge challenge; Marshay has never lived alone. It’s crucial for her to live with someone she trusts.
Shot in cinéma vérité style with bursts of creative montage, “Busy Inside” will recreate Karen and Marshay’s internal worlds with reenactments and visual effects. In Karen’s mind, her alters live together in a vast, beautiful garden. We will go to the “family meeting” tree house where Karen discusses with alters every element of their lives – from major work issues, friendships and lovers ‐‐ to what to eat for lunch, and whether to be in the film.
This access to is remarkable given that most with DID are reluctant to reveal their condition. Nevertheless, Karen and Marshay feel their participation will help others.
“Busy Inside” inspires audiences to examine their identity. If we behave differently at work or at play, have reclusive or outgoing days, how different are we, really, from those with multiple personalities? Karen and Marshay’s brave choice to share their stories will enable audiences to understand that DID is a more nuanced and more arduous version of the various selves we present.