As the second oldest of six children born to a mother diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (also known as Multiple Personality Disorder), I know a thing or two about a dysfunctional family. My mother had 14 alters, several of which were children and one of which was physically abusive.

As a child, my older sister and I spent most of our time raising our brothers and sisters, shielding them from the abuse as much as possible and keeping our family dysfunction a secret from the members of our community. Several of my mother's alters were addicted to prescribed medication. My father, a mechanic, spent all of his time working three jobs at times to help pay the bills that came from my mother's spending habits and the demands of raising a large family. I share this background not to gain sympathy, but to help readers understand the dysfunction that I came from.

By comparison, my family today is much different. I am married to an incredible man who knows exactly where I came from and loves me anyway. We have five beautiful children who have never known abuse. They are healthy and happy and we are a close knit caring family. The cycle of dysfunction and abuse has been broken and we are leading a happy life full of love and laughter. Here are some suggestions on how families can break the cycle of dysfunction in their own lives.

Be the change

If your family is dysfunctional, you can't sit and wait for change to happen. Don't wait to be rescued. You must take action and start making the changes you desire. If your loved one has a mental illness, get him help. If you are the one with a problem such as alcohol or drug abuse, decide now to quit and to get the help you need.


Do not try to do things alone. Find someone you can trust and share with him or her that you need help. Trust others and yourself in your abilities to make a change and trust God that He will be with you every step of the way.


Learn to forgive those family members who are causing you pain. You do not have to agree with what they are doing, but do not carry hate in your heart for them. It will take you to a place of bitterness and this is never a place where you want to be. Also remember to forgive yourself.


Learn to love your family members. Love them as children of God. We may never know why people do the things they do and we can't ever judge them, only love them. I hated my mother growing up and it wasn't until I had a very astute spiritual leader tell me that my mother was my savior, that I saw her differently. My mother was sexually abused by her father from the time she was 3 until she was 18 and left home to marry my father. That spiritual leader helped me realize that although my childhood was hard, it was nothing compared to the childhood my mother faced. If I allowed myself to love her, I could continue to break the cycle and my children's childhood would be better than mine. That spiritual leader was absolutely right. The cycle is broken and it began with a simple act of love.

Be a survivor, not a victim

Don't let your circumstances hold you back. Victims use circumstances as an excuse for why they can't move forward, but survivors use circumstances to propel themselves onward into greater success. Victims say they can't do things because of what happened to them, survivors say they can do anything because of what they have been through and survived. I am a survivor and I can do anything. Make sure that you are a survivor too.

The first step in breaking family dysfunction is getting help, and is an outward action. If there is dysfunction in your family, I urge you to take this first step today. Every step after that comes from within. Breaking family dysfunction can only come when the members within the family change the way they think which, in turn, will change the things they do. If you are still a youth living at home, changing your way of thinking now will make all the difference to your future family, breaking the cycle of dysfunction for your own children. To be the change, you first must change yourself.

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