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Betrayal Trauma and Healing From the Unimaginable

A Personal Perspective: Recovery from dissociative identity disorder.

The PARTs of Adrian Fletcher
Source: The PARTs of Adrian Fletcher

It was a Monday afternoon in the gorgeous Arizona desert and an agenda-free day. I was putting the groceries away and received a call from a close friend, another person living with dissociative identity disorder (DID). There’s something so special about being able to connect and be seen by another person with multiple PARTs. There’s an unspoken language and genuine love of a fellow human navigating similar experiences.

This Monday afternoon occurred just a few weeks after An Infinite Mind's 13th annual Healing Together Conference, which I had the honor to keynote. It was the first time I shared openly and publicly about my PARTs and their respective journeys and struggles in detail: everything from overcoming addictions to navigating multiple sexual orientations amongst the PARTs, as well as their friendships, fears, and the truth about the realities that come with living life as a multiple/plural.

It was also the first time I had ever felt truly loved for who I was, multiple PARTS and all (besides by my husband, of course). I allowed myself to be seen fully, with no masks, no hiding, no keeping secrets—just the truth. That was possible because I was surrounded by people just like me who deserved a truthful keynote because they were navigating similar experiences, and many were still in the closet.

Betrayal trauma and the idea of love

This experience left me thinking more about the concept of love. It’s a confusing concept for me as a ritualistic abuse and trafficking survivor. I have suffered massive betrayal trauma from many. More specifically, the one man who was supposed to keep me safe as a child—my father—sold me.

I don't think people quite understand what that level of abuse does to a person. For years, I would use the term "traded" instead of "trafficked" in an effort to minimize the experience and the reality of what happened to me. I had zero concept of the reality that I was in fact being trafficked by my dad, who was also my Italian lover and my pimp. Those terms aren't attractive, but they are the truth.

Incest messes with your head. Thus, it messes with the concept of what love is. My dad manipulated the concept of love in his conquest for money, drugs, and jewelry. He robbed me of many things, but what he did not rob me of was my divine essence and ability to love. Yet it took me years to get in touch with that heartfelt, warm feeling. I had to work through anger and rage with my 13-year-old PART who fought for my life when my life was on the line.

Living in fear

Most, if not all, people living with DID, and my DID system included, have suffered years of pain and torment after enduring extreme childhood abuse. We are not crazy; we had crazy things happen to us. Yet here we are (the dissociative community) in society being told we are making our DID up. Providers in the mental health and medical fields continue to deny its existence. The media continues to portray the condition inaccurately in films. Therapists fear treating the condition due to a lack of knowledge and training or fear they may be harmed in some way as a result of their own internalized stigma. Those living with it fear they will lose their jobs, not be able to obtain a job, not be able to continue in higher education, or risk losing their friends and family. The stigma around this disorder continues to keep the truth silent. Meanwhile, those of us living with it pay the price by living in fear.

Standing up

To circle back to the concept of love: Love is why I stand up to fear. I could not continue as a psychologist living with dissociative identities and not serve my fellow dissociatives on a global level. I serve from the love that is within my heart because if I can play a small role in helping someone else on their journey and it helps eliminate the prolonged pain as a result of a misunderstood diagnosis and healing process, then I must speak. I speak with courage but not without fear. I am here, and my PARTs want to do this, as much for the greater community as for my own DID system.

Feeling loved and learning to thrive

There is all this pressure to “fuse." Excuse me, those of you trying to integrate us, but do you live with multiple PARTs? This is how I survived my disgusting and grotesque childhood. I love all of my PARTs for who they are, and I could not do any of this without them. So how dare there even be pressure on individuals to fuse their DID systems when maybe—just maybe—it’s working for them to remain multiple/plural? Who’s in control here? Because it should be the person living with DID, not the providers, the supporters, or the public. Honor those DID systems. They saved lives—our lives. When the PARTs feel loved and seen, they thrive. I am living proof of that.

"Love is a fruit in season at all times and within reach of every hand."—Mother Teresa

My DID system and I want others to feel loved and to be loved. We have learned that that's possible when all PARTs feel seen, heard, and respected for who they are. Healing, in my opinion, is getting to a place of love and respect for all PARTs, receiving love, and putting more of it back into the world. Braving the way. It’s not easy but must be done—and it must be done with love.

Disclaimer: The information shared in this post is not a substitute for therapy or any other form of professional mental health or medical care. It also does not constitute a doctor/patient relationship with Dr. Fletcher. The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7 dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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