Headshot of Stability Leader Adrian Fletcher

Psychologist, Consultant, Writer, Speaker, and Entrepreneur in Arizona
Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Adrian Fletcher had no idea when she developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) at a young age, and then was diagnosed with it as an adult, that she would eventually come to see DID as a life-saving condition. DID helped Adrian to survive years of extreme sexual trauma as a victim of sex trafficking. DID, an often-misunderstood mental health condition, has led Adrian to become a strong, empathetic, caring, and down-to-earth therapist who now inspires others to transform and heal. Her story is one of incredible resiliency and hope.

Adrian’s Story

What is your mental health condition?

I have lived experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).

“DID, formerly called multiple personality disorder, develops as a childhood coping mechanism. To escape pain and trauma in childhood, the mind splits off feelings, personality traits, characteristics, and memories, into separate compartments which then develop into unique personality states. These identity states are often referred to as alters/parts. Each identity can have its own name and personal history. These personality states recurrently take control of the individual’s behavior, accompanied by an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” Source: An Infinite Mind

How has your condition impacted your life? When were you first aware of it and what was your most difficult time? 

For as long as I can remember, I felt different from others, but I never really knew why. Living as a survivor of extreme sexual trauma caused me a great deal of pain before I became aware of what I was dealing with. It impacted my sense of trust and safety in others and the world. I was hypervigilant, affection phobic, anxious, and unable to fully participate in or appreciate my relationships because my parts would sabotage my connections out of fear. I spent a great many years feeling lonely and dealt with chronic suicidality. I struggled on and off with substance abuse and self-injury.

When the diagnosis was first brought to my attention by a therapist around 2012/2013, I was not yet ready to hear it, acknowledge it, or accept it. I fought it and continued to live in denial. My husband, though, had witnessed me switching in and out of parts for as long as he knew me but just assumed it was “moodiness.”

It was not until my mother passed away that I became fully aware of my mental health condition after I intensely began exploring my relationship with alcohol. Fragments of childhood memories and intense body memories began to overwhelm me. The most difficult aspect of my journey was coming to terms with the fact that my father was capable of sex trafficking his own child.

What is your life like now and what does living well look like for you?

I live a happy, successful, and soulful life now. My life for a long time was depressing, messy, and chaotic. After years of dedication to my recovery and wellness, I have been able to reach a place of peace, calm, and emotional freedom.

For me, living a happy life means maintaining health, wellness, and continuing to utilize the recovery tools I learned over years of treatment. Connecting with my husband, friends, and pets is crucial to my overall wellbeing. I enjoy taking time off to spend time in nature, particularly the mountains and the forest. I maintain a small private psychotherapy practice and have recently added to my career as a writer, speaker, consultant and educator on dissociation and trauma.

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?

Asking for help, not being afraid to ask for help, learning to ask for what I need, finding the right practitioners that my parts could feel safe with, letting people help me, internal trust, and cooperation amongst all my parts. I read and educate myself and explore a multitude of resources. Having the support and devotion of my husband was crucial to my recovery, in addition to allowing myself to connect with communities of people in recovery and in business.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

On an as needed basis, I engage in healing practices to continue to foster my healing and recovery. These practices include, but are not limited to, therapy, consultation, breathwork, yoga, bodywork, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, and energy healing. I am also a regular attendee of self-growth and soul workshops as well as healing from trauma workshops, women’s groups, and entrepreneur networking groups. I am enthusiastic about volunteering my time for causes that are near and dear to my heart such as The Stability Network, An Infinite Mind, and many others.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

I have come to view dissociative identity disorder (DID) as a lifesaving gift. I did not feel this way at the beginning of my healing journey. Without DID, I would not have survived the unimaginable harm that I endured as a victim of extreme sexual abuse at the hands of my father and the men in which he traded me to.

The positive of all of this is being able to have worked on myself so much for the last ten plus years and to have the courage to share my story with the hope that it would inspire others to not give up. To be an example that healing is possible and not only that it is possible, but that you do not need to be ashamed of who you are. We, individuals with DID are not the monsters, we are survivors and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I am disappointed in how certain media outlets have misportrayed people like me, a survivor with DID.

I hope to continue to provide education to the public. My biggest therapeutic success is getting to a place of loving and respecting all parts of myself, and I want others to love all of who they are, whether they have a diagnosable condition or not.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career?

In all honesty, DID has led me to be a strong, empathetic, caring, and down-to-earth therapist. Having this condition, and having endured the extreme trauma in which I have experienced, has led me to be an even more competent clinician. Patients feel seen, heard, and validated by me.

I am a real-life example of a professional with 16+ years of education who has overcome what some would consider a severe and persistent mental illness. I have never viewed DID as a severe and persistent mental illness, I see it as a gift and can accomplish sometimes more than the average person because I have multiple parts working together.

There was a time after an attempt at my own life that I was out of work and I thought I would never recover. I am proud to say that that is not the case and that I can say with certainty that I have gone from surviving to thriving.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

Please do not ever give up. You can heal and you get to define the definition of what healing means to you.

Speak up in treatment and tell your therapist what is working or not working. Do not be afraid to consult with more than one therapist, psychiatrist, or any other type of healer. It can take a while to find the right network of support and resources.

Educate yourself, search for free resources, ask for referrals, keep going, take it one day at a time, take the pressure off yourself that you must trust others, trust is not all or nothing, at the end of the day, internal system trust and self-trust are so important. Honor and respect all parts of your system. Teach them kindness, compassion, and view each part as having a key role in the healing process.

To the therapists collaborating with individuals with Complex PTSD, OSDD/DID, please do not give up on your patients. You do not have to enjoy working with all parts, but you must find a way to respect all parts of your clients. Relational trauma heals in safe relationships that model healthy boundaries, assertiveness, kindness, and respect, and it can start with you as the therapist since survivors often share more with their therapists than anyone else at first. Please do not take your role lightly, assess, educate yourselves and seek consultation and supervision. When my therapists were able to do this, my healing took off exponentially.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?

I joined The Stability Network after finding Katherine Ponte’s article titled, Lived Experience Matters: Coming Out and Sharing on the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) website. I was searching for resources on how to come forward as a professional with lived experience of a mental health condition and there were few, if any, resources. This one resource encouraged me to begin to share my story in respected and inspiring places that are aligned with my core values.

In researching all the things that Katherine has done as a mental health advocate, I came across her story profile on The Stability Network. I felt that The Stability Network would be a great way to be connected to a community that encourages sharing lived experiences to fight stigma since they show real life examples of people working, living, and thriving with mental health conditions.

Katherine is my hero, and if someone asked me if you could choose anyone to have lunch with in my lifetime, it would be her. Her bravery and her courage to speak openly about her own mental health condition has been one of the most inspirational aspects of my coming forward process.

Are there resources (books, videos, websites) that helped and/or inspired you that you would recommend to others?

Got Parts? An Insider’s Guide to Managing Life Successfully with Dissociative Identity Disorder by A.T.W

The Dissociative Identity Disorder Source Book by Deborah Bray Haddock

The organization, An Infinite Mind

I also want to share my Deconstructing Stigma story for McLean Hospital to inspire anyone reading this, and my video, Psychologist living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) breaks her silence to raise awareness.

Is there anything else you want to say or share?

Never Give Up, Healing is Possible, Recovery is a Journey not a Destination. Hold onto Hope. When you are struggling to find hope, you can borrow some of mine. I would not be a psychologist if I did not believe people could heal. I have witnessed beautiful healing transformations within my practice and my own lived experience. Together we can heal.

“Brilliant minds can do great things; dissociative minds can do multiple amazing things.”
— Dr. Adrian Fletcher, Resilient Human First, Psychologist Second

You can read more of Adrian’s story here: Surviving to Thriving: Coping with Dissociative Identity Disorder