Sheryl Underwood may be a comedian who thrives on making people laugh, but she is also a survivor who has overcome some great tragedies in her life. That includes losing her husband to suicide, and being sexually abused. While opening up about the latter experience recently on The Talk, the 55-year-old revealed that in order to deal with the sexual assault she faced on multiple occasions, she developed dissociative identity disorder, also referred to as multiple personality disorder.
Dissociative identity disorder is when there are two or more well defined personality identities, and they tend to come about as a result of trauma. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) characterizes it “by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory.”
“I will tell you this, sometimes certain disorders protect you,” she said. “I will tell you, when I was younger, the things that were happening to me, I would separate. So there were two of us. Because I wanted to survive. So one was the fighter. One was, something was happening to me. So I hope that this helps people, and I hope that it helps people understand that the human brain will do whatever is necessary to survive.”
Underwood has opened up about her traumatic experiences more than once, including the time she was raped in college.
“I remember having a ‘this is it‘ moment when I was raped,” she said on The Talk in 2017. “I just kept thinking, This ain’t it. I am not going to die today. I refuse to die today. It’s not going down like this. So the only thing I thought was: What do I do to survive? What do I do to survive?”
“And I start talking to the guy and I said, ‘Don’t do this this way. Whatever you’re going to do, finish what you’re doing — don’t kill me. And don’t take my ID. They’ll find you,'” she added, saying she tried to negotiate with her rapist to keep herself alive. “I really want women to understand: Don’t ever let anybody take your power away from you.”
In all accounts of the harm that was done to her, Underwood has addressed the survival tactics she used to protect herself physically and mentally. That includes developing multiple personalities, trying to broker her safety against her assailant, and as she shared in 2018, learning to forgive those who did her wrong in order to find peace.
“I didn’t have the best life with my mother, but I had no other choice but to forgive her and forgive those that took advantage of me sexually, that abused me when I was too innocent to make certain decisions for myself,” she said on The Talk. “Because if I didn’t forgive them, that darkness in them would come inside of me and I didn’t want it. I could not survive with that type of hatred in my heart.”