For most of my life, I had undergone severe physical and emotional abuse from my father. It stopped after my first year of high school, and I was put through a series of sexually abusive relationships between that time and onwards. I never had anyone to talk to about my father’s abusive behavior, because I was deathly terrified of being taken away. Because of this, I depended solely on myself for coping and recovery. I always imagined this stronger version of me protecting me and fighting my father back in my head. It always made me feel better and stronger as a young kid.

However, as I began to go through my years of high school, despite my father’s abuse dying down, that person in my head who always protected me stayed. They flipped, and I started to notice their influence more and more on me when something would go wrong, and their voice, which is quite different from my voice or my conscious, would completely bring me down with insults and mockery. At first it sounds like my self esteem is just very poor, but after all this harassment this character will tell me everything is okay. They always promise to protect me whether or not they hurt me in the process. It kind of reflects how I used to view my father.

They’re becoming more and more influential of my decision making skills slowly but surely. I’ve recently overcome almost 5 months clean of self harm, and my last relapse was because they told me to hurt myself since no one but them cared for me. Clearly this isn’t true, but it’s hard to run away from the voice in your head, the only thing that once protected you so often. They’re trying to destroy interpersonal relationships of mine, because to them, all I need is them.

I am interested in psychology, and after taking classes, I feel as if I may have some alter that is a result from my childhood trauma. I am unable to refer to a professional about this, and I feel nervous confiding in such a thing. I feel as if I would be regarded as childish, and as if I never got rid of my ‘imaginary friend’. I guess I’m looking for clearance, understanding, or maybe advice to help keep myself healthy and able to live with them.

A. People often fear that therapists will be judgmental. They are not. Therapists care and support their clients. You have nothing to fear.

Alters are thought to be the result of severe trauma. Consider them a form of psychological protection. Psychological protection is good in the short term, however, in the long term it can be problematic. It’s akin to a tourniquet. Tourniquets, in the short term, stop the bleeding and thus are good, but if left on too long, they will damage or kill the extremity they are protecting in the short run. Your alter protected you when you needed it. Now that the abuse has stopped, it’s interfering with your life. Therapy could help you to regain control of your life and dissolve the restrictive alter that may be blocking your progression and growth.

I would suggest consulting a therapist who specializes in trauma and or dissociative identity disorder (DID). They would be in the best position to help you.

You might try beginning your search for a therapist on the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. They have good resources on their website that may be of interest to you. It would also be helpful to read about dissociation, alters and trauma. It might provide a deeper understanding of your symptoms. Finally, click on the “find help” tab, at the top of this page, to locate a mental health professional in your community. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle