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."

-CBS
Synopsis: 

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. 

Reviews

Director's Commentary: 

From the film director Olga Lvoff:

As a person and as an artist, I have been long fascinated with the question of identity and how the truth about it may be brought out by trauma. My previous film, “When People Die They Sing Songs”, raised the question of identity in relation to Holocaust trauma. “Busy Inside” poses similar questions about identity in relation to Dissociative Identity Disorder triggered by traumatic childhood experience.

DID is always a result of physical and mental trauma, usually caused by child abuse. I have confronted evidence of this connection while involved in the Child Sex Trafficking Victims Initiative, organized at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and at the Oregon Department of Human Services. The participants of this program, young girls who are victims of sex-trafficking, made short videos about their traumatic experiences. I supervised the filmmaking process and helped them express themselves through storytelling. The terrifying stories I heard there affected me on a very deep level, and I became resolute to continue helping trauma survivors cope with this burden by making their voices heard. This experience is what encouraged me in my determination to create a film about DID.

It is important to change the way the society views DID. The media has sensationalized it for years.

Our goal is to bring better understanding about DID by creating an honest film about people who live with it every day, thereby increasing the respect and compassion we can feel for those with split personality. It is equally important to raise awareness about the cause of DID: psychological trauma resulting from child abuse. The rates of child abuse in America are alarmingly high and people should know that DID is a part of this larger problem.

The desire to make a difference by telling the stories of trauma survivors and fascination with the incredible capacities of human mind to withstand negative experience is the reason why I became a filmmaker. We want to return dignity to those with DID and have society empathize with them. We believe that film is a perfect medium for achieving this goal because it is best at giving people with DID a voice. It is through a personal and intimate documentary that we want to share Karen and Marshay’s living experience with the viewer.