Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder—DID. My church didn’t handle it well. Even before they knew about my diagnosis, they could sense I was different, but they didn’t like it.
“We thought you were here to steal our husbands,” she laughed. It was one of those remarks that is presented as a joke, but you know it really isn’t. I was a shy, artsy writer with dreadlocked hair dressed in baggy clothes who had trouble speaking to anyone, never mind men. My cheeks burned as I frantically replayed every cell group meeting I’d ever been to, searching for a wrong move I’d made; DID doesn’t typically present flirtatious or seductive behavior. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done to make them think this. I was terrified of men; the idea that I would go to a church group specifically to try to seduce one—and a married one at that—was the furthest thing from my mind. It was more likely that I’d swim the English Channel than talk to one of those husbands. I looked at the women in the group who I’d tried (and failed) to make friends with, all chuckling and glancing nervously at me, and I realized I didn’t belong there. I never went back to that “cell group.”
When I was diagnosed, my church knew very little about trauma, dissociation, or DID. The first church-goer privy to my story took me to a priest for exorcism and then abandoned the relationship when I didn’t immediately improve. A pastoral team responded to my story by scheduling a time for the elders to lay hands on me and pray for me. I’m a female survivor of a mostly male-perpetrated ritual abuse; going to an upper room in a church to let 30 strange men touch me didn’t seem like a good idea—not to mention the triggers it would have set off.
Even now, a decade later, not a whole lot has changed. Some of the bigger and more culturally in-tune churches may have awareness, especially as inner healing prayer has become more popular. Many people who seek ministry in the form of inner healing prayer are struggling with childhood wounds, even trauma, that still affect their emotions and drive their behavior. People with traumatic histories could possibly even have DID and not be aware of it. But most churches still don’t know enough to effectively minister to those with a trauma history, dissociative tendencies, DID, or other mental health issues.
And as a result, survivors find themselves without friends, without community, without a place to call home. I know, because I was one. And in some ways, I still am.
Let my story help you care for others’ stories: here are some things churches need to know about DID.
Everyone dissociates. It often does not look dramatic and sometimes it’s not noticeable at all. It can be as simple as a shifting in and out of personas, or roles, or even what we would call “wearing different hats.” DID is similar, just more extreme. Most “switching” is unnoticeable. The person may not even be aware of it.DID is a disorder that is, in itself, designed to be hidden; it protected the person in unbearable situations and simply became a way of life. To call attention to itself would be counterproductive. Even in more extreme cases switching is often not noticeable unless someone knows what to look for. DID sufferers are often described as “moody” and “forgetful,” sometimes even accused of being liars or manipulators because they don’t remember everything they said or did when another persona was influencing their behavior.
DID is real and requires extensive help. It’s amazing to me how many Christians will tell someone with DID (or depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental health issue) that they “don’t need medication,” but they should just pray, read the Bible, and have more faith. Yet they will go to a doctor when they have an ear infection or appendicitis or cancer. This hypocrisy is not lost on those who struggle with mental health. Especially considering many of those Christians may not have spent much time learning about those mental health issues and may not have any experience in overcoming them.
Alternate personalities—or “alters”—are not necessarily demons. It’s true that there can be some demonic involvement, since demons work for the father of lies and emotional bondage is driven by lies. All abuse is undoubtedly perpetrated under demonic influence; likewise, demonic influences fuel the messages the survivor internalizes, and some part of the person has been deceived into letting them have that influence. But demons—whether present or not—don’t always need to be the focus in healing. Education on spiritual warfare from a reliable source is a wise thing to seek, but such an education will emphasize that focusing on
demonology is unnecessary.
Healthy friendships with trauma survivors (especially those with DID) can be difficult but it is necessary, and desperately needed within the church. American culture is steeped in a “fix-it” mentality. Codependency is more normal in our country than not; the state in which people don’t know how to be okay in and of themselves without trying to fix—control—others’ internal states. Even if it looks loving or holy, it is based on a need to control another person so the fixer can feel important or needed. It is fixer-centric, no matter how much it may look like their motive is to help someone else. Fixers think, “I can’t be okay unless you are okay, so therefore I must make you okay so I can be okay.” It may look loving but it’s actually disrespecting the other person’s need to be loved despite their emotional state.
The way to have healthy friendships is to simply hold space for each other; to be present with them in their pain without fixing or withdrawing from them. Survivors need to hear “I see you,” and “I hear you,” and “I’m sorry you’re hurting.” This is the best way to love a trauma survivor—to validate what they’re experiencing while not taking responsibility for them. This is harder than it sounds. But so worth it.
Healing is for everyone. Many times being friends with a trauma survivor will stir up your own emotional pain; you may be uncomfortable with the powerlessness you might feel, and sometimes your own messages from the past will be set into motion. While this may sound like a negative thing, being triggered in this way can help you see an area in your own life where you need healing and truth from the Lord. These opportunities—if properly engaged—result in even greater freedom for everyone involved! You will gain more truth and healing for yourself, which will help you be a better friend to the trauma survivor—and everyone. So take them.
Hope In My Story
This is my hope for the future—that trauma survivors would have resources both inside the church and out. Survivors need healing and support, not to be seen as demon-possessed, weak in faith, or ostracized.
That is why I tell my story.
Jade Miller is a blogger, artist, and Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) survivor who lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Having been in a variety of hospitals and treatment centers since the age of 12, Jade is now an adult living from a place of continually increasing health and joy. She wishes to use her experiences to help others who struggle. Jade works to bring education and awareness about SRA/DID, and plans to be trained to counseling and pray with SRA survivors. Her 2015 book, “Dear Little Ones” helps those who live with DID or care for them, and has been used around the world by therapists, survivors, and friends. Follow Jade Miller online at www.thoughtsfromj8.com and on Facebook.