Her name is Chris Costner Sizemore but most people know her as Eve, as in "The Three Faces of Eve," the 1957 Academy Award-winning movie starring Joanne Woodward as a psychiatric patient who has three personalities: a drab housewife, a good-time girl and a mature, sophisticated woman.
The movie, based on the book of the same name, garnered Woodward an Oscar for her striking performance as Eve and grossed millions for those involved in its production. Sizemore, however, received a mere $5,000 for the "visual rights" from the movie, which was made without her input or authorization.The movie also was a tame version of Sizemore's extraordinary life story. While the movie Eve had three personalities, Sizemore, for the better part of 45 years, lived with 22.
"It began when I was 2 years old, although I really didn't know I was different then," said Sizemore, who at 61 is officially "cured" of her multiple-personality disorder. She was in St. Louis recently to speak at a Mental Health Association symposium.
"It wasn't until I began at school, when I talked about the other little girls seeing things, that I realized I was different," Sizemore said.
The "other little girls" were parts of Sizemore's personality who would surface occasionally. Sizemore's dominant personality - which she assumed most of the time - had no recollection of the other girls' actions. Often, Sizemore would become upset when she was accused of doing something that she could not remember having done.
"Everyone thought I was lying," Sizemore recalled. "Of course, they had seen my body commit the act. When I said the other little girls did it, they would laugh at me. Children are astute about these kinds of things and after a while, I stopped talking about it. I became a loner."
At different points throughout her childhood in northern Virginia, Sizemore was treated by her family physician because she complained of memory lapses. "He said I had a strange sort of amnesia," she said.
She received no psychiatric help until, at 24, the personality called "Eve Black" tried to choke Sizemore's 2-year-old daughter, Taffy. Apparently the dominant personality in Sizemore came out and stopped Eve Black from killing the child.
"I feel terribly guilty about what happened to Taffy," Sizemore said, adding that her daughter, now 40, long has been one of her greatest supporters. "I felt my dughter would be in danger if I didn't get hep."
It took a year for two Augusta, Ga., psychiatrists to diagnose Sizemore. They first thought she suffered from atypical schizophrenia, which is how many multiple-personality disorder patients are first diagnosed.
They admitted Sizemore to a hospital and recommended electroconvulsive (shock) therapy. At that point, the Eve Black personality emerged and said, "There is no way you're electrocuting me." She packed her belongings and left.
But the doctors continued to treat Sizemore, using hypnosis and other less invasive methods than shock therapy. They thought they had cured her when the "Jane Doe" personality emerged. Jane Doe was an extremely strong-willed, competent and loving person. It took another 17 years before all the personalities within Sizemore were integrated into one.
"My first husband (Taffy's father) left me because he couldn't handle it," Sizemore said. "My mother and father helped me raise Taffy until I met my present husband when she was 5 and he adopted my daughter." Together the couple had a son, now 29.
Sizemore said that while none of the 22 personalities was psychopathic or even violent - with the exception of Eve Black trying to choke Taffy - it was frustrating and somewhat frenetic encapsulating so many distinctive people. Sometimes when she looked into her closet, she would see clothes that she couldn't remember having bought. She would spend an afternoon painting (seven of the personalities were artists) and not even know she had done so the next day.
She was aware of something taking place because she felt a "presence" of the various personalities talking to one another inside her head. Unlike schizophrenics, who hear unknown voices, Sizemore heard the personalities speaking to her in her own voice.
The intellectual personality sometimes would remind the dominant personality about appointments. One of the personalities thought she was thin when, at the time, Sizemore was 5 feet tall and weighed 179 pounds. "She would see the other personality in the body and tell her she was a big, ugly slob," Sizemore said.
Despite all the years of therapy, Sizemore says she didn't feel she was getting better until the final integration, when all the personalities merged into one.
"One of the hardest things to adjust to was the silence and being alone," she said. "There was no presence. I grieved for (the other personalities). I thought I had killed them so that I could live. It took me about a year to realize that they were apart of me and it was all right. I had to learn to accept myself."
Sizemore has been well for the past 15 years. The consensus among experts is that if the integration holds for five years, the patient is considered cured. Sizemore explained that while no one is exactly sure how many cases of multiple-personality disorder exist in this country, 96 percent of these patients get well.
"The other 4 percent either don't wish to integrate or have some other psychiatric problem in addition to the multiple-personality disorder," she said.
She now is working on a book to be published next year, called "In Sickness and In Health." It will discuss her final integration and the effect her illness had on family and friends. It will be her second book; in 1977, she wrote a best seller based on her life, called "I'm Eve."
"My husband has told me that sometimes he felt the best thing to do was to be quiet and not say anything," she said. "He would just live in the house as a bachelor, eat his meals and spend the evening in front of the television."
Her book also will be one of the few available on the market that actually deals with the process of multiple-personality integration from the patient's perspective.
"There was a six-week period where I couldn't turn my mind off," she said. "That frightens some of the patients and they quit. But if they can get through that period, then the next period is total peace. It's like the eye of the storm. Once it's over, there is this wonderful calmness."
Now, Sizemore makes her living by lecturing and selling her artwork. Her collection, which features paintings by the seven artistic personalities of her past, is worth between $10,000 and $25,000. Since her recovery, she has become an accomplished artist with her own style and technique. In June 1981, she presented one of her paintings to former first lady Rosalynn Carter.Comment on this story
"My husband sold our home three times to keep us in therapy," she said, explaining that she feels good about being able to add to the family income. "When I wrote `I'm Eve,' I still owed $20,000 because of therapy bills. Today I can contribute, and that makes me proud."
While it took Sizemore more than 20 years to recover, most multiple-personality disorder patients can be cured within four years. The disorder usually hits its victim before age 5.
Of all the personalities she displayed, Sizemore said she liked Eve Black the best, despite Eve's choking of Sizemore's daughter.
"But basically she was an honest person," Sizemore said. "She loved life and she enjoyed being alive."