Single Mom with 9 Identities on How She Talks to Her Kids About Disorder: 'Mom's Got a Unique Brain'
Jane Hart, mother with 9 personalities, tells her kids, "Mom's got a unique brain."
Jane Hart is a 28-year-old single mom with nine identities—who is on a mission to erase the stigma attached to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder.
“DID is nothing like Hollywood portrays it,” Hart, who was diagnosed with the disorder in 2016, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “When people look at someone with DID they immediately think, ‘That person has someone inside who wants to kill people.’ But that’s just not how it works.”
Now she’s sharing the story of her journey into this little-understood mental illness in a six-part docuseries on A&E called Many Sides of Jane that began airing on Jan. 22—and she’s determined to drive home the message that those with DID can be good parents.
“DID literally protected me and saved my life,” insists Hart, whose childhood was filled with physical and sexual abuse. “It’s the mind’s way of preserving the psyche. But it’s also a life sentence.”
As strange and extraordinary as it sounds, experts say that over three million people—many of whom, like Hart, were horribly abused as children—suffer from the disorder.
“The different identities can be thought of as compartments that form as a kind of mental insulator,” says psychiatrist Richard Chefetz, M.D., a specialist on the disorder. “They isolate the everyday healthier part of the person and contain the traumatic experience in a person’s mind where they don’t have access.”
Chefetz, who is currently working with 30 patients with DID, insists that those with DID can make “excellent” parents. “People who have been hurt tend to be protective of their children,” he says. “Those who make it into therapy—and there are a lot who don’t—tend to be fairly effective parents. They really want the best for their children.”
In the four years since her different identities began revealing themselves, Hart and her therapist have identified nine “parts” within her, including Janie, 6, who has no memories of her abuse; Beth, 10, who protects the other younger identities; Jayden, 11, who holds all the physical pain from her abuse; Alexis, 17, who is confident and boisterous (“She a lot different than I am,” says Jane); and Madison, 28, a lesbian who serves as a protector for all her different parts.
The more stress she’s feeling, the more likely it is that her different identities will appear and take over her personality for minutes or hours at a time, often as many as 15 times a day.
Motherhood, she insists, has been the one “stabilizing” force in a life that has often been filled with tumult and pain.
“When my kids were born it was like my parts suddenly had something else to protect, something else to focus their energy on,” says Hart, who is estranged from her family.
“People with DID have this very unique access to their younger selves and it gives them a window of empathy that normal people often don’t get to see their kids through. It gives me the ability to sit on the floor with them when they’re upset and really understand what it feels like to be five or six.”
So far, her two boys—Daniel, 8, and Remington, 5—haven’t noticed the shifts in her personality.
“I tell them, ‘Mom’s got a unique brain and some stuff happened to me when I was little that affected the way it works now,’” says Hart. “I’m as open as I can be with helping them understand without making it feel like it’s a burden.”