Archive for July 23rd, 2009

On my blog entry entitled Do People with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Know That They Have It?, a reader posted the following question:

Dear Faith, I was just running through this blog and am hearing about lost time which I have heard of many times before and never really understood what it meant in terms of someone’s experiences with it. Is it……

Is it 1.) Not remembering what you did yesterday or the day before or the day before who you were with, etc. or it being like a shadowy memory that the memory can be triggered if a friend reminds you sometimes, sometimes not.

Or is part of it having to 2.) I write everything down on my calendar, keep lists and journal to form a sense of order and compensate for severe memory problems or maybe losing time (not sure) and completely not knowing that I am? I would lose all sense of order and then I would really crack-up. I even write on my calendar what I did that day, when my bills are due, appt.’s etc. IF not I would be completely in the deepest dark. IF someone like Mother asks what I have been doing all week I can refer to the calendar. what is happening that day or what transpired in the last week. Otherwise I’d be running around in circles having no grip of time, place, events, people etc. I would just stupidly say, “Duuuuh….”.

This is only for the week. As far as memory retrieval for things in the recent past, my adulthood, things are really sketchy there too! My brother would say,” Remember when we went to LA and went ice skating?’…I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings even thought I didn’t remember and just say, “Oh yeah..”

As far as my childhood that is like a black out of sorts. Yet I am comforted to know that it is part of the disorder.

Does it go something like this in your own experience?? Or is what you can make out of what I am describing have more to do with memory problems than loosing time.
Any thoughts? ~ Blessings, Kim

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to get to this question. I wanted to wait to respond until my life calmed down enough to write a thorough response. As you can see, my life has been a bit hectic lately.

The answer to both #1 and #2 is YES. That has not necessarily been my experience, but it is a normal experience for someone with DID who frequently switches.

I used to believe that I had a great memory. That was just another lie I told myself to hide the DID and trauma from myself. I pointed to the fact that I had two vivid memories from age 2 (when my sister was born) and numerous memories of specific games that my sister and I would play together when I was 4. However, as I “woke up” to my reality of childhood trauma and DID, I had to face the fact that my memory was filled with holes like Swiss cheese.

Before the flashbacks, I had no memory whatsoever with either parent in it until I was in seventh grade. That’s not normal. I had memories about them, such as being angry with my mother for saying no to something I wanted, but I had no memory of either of their faces.

I did some research into what is “normal” memory. What I learned was that, starting around age six, most people can remember at least one basic fact about that time period from both home and school. I can remember specific details about school, such as all of my teachers’ names in elementary school, but I can recall very few memories of home from elementary school (when the worst of the abuse was happening). Most of those memories are about being at the horse stable, not in my house. Once again, the memories are only with my sister, and I cannot place them as being from one year versus another.

My memory is spotty (but less spotty) into adulthood. I will think that my memory is good because, again, I have a great recollection of certain events, but any memory of being around my mother/abuser is missing. For example, I know that I got engaged right before Christmas (when I was 23) and spent Christmas at my mother’s house with my sister. I remember going out to buy a wedding gown (even though my mother was along – I remember her creeping me out with something she said about “being a woman now), and I remember getting very angry with my sister for leaving on Christmas day. I was there a whole week, but I can recall nothing else. That is not normal memory.

The last time saw my mother (December 2003), she and I drove for four hours round trip to meet my sister for lunch and a short visit. I remember thinking how much she was irritating me and how annoying she was, and I remember feeling very lightheaded and dizzy. When I got home, I had a very difficult time telling my husband anything my mother and I talked about, even though we kept up a steady stream of conversation the entire time.

I told my therapist that I had to write down what he said in therapy because I frequently “forgot” what he said after the session. He said that I am dissociating because it is so hard to talk about, and that is normal. I also told him about my shoddy memory from childhood. He said, “That’s because you weren’t there.”

That is what I suspect you are doing as an adult, Kim. You don’t remember because that part of yourself wasn’t there. Whenever you don’t feel safe, your alter parts take over. If you rarely remember, it is because you rarely feel safe. I am not a therapist, so I cannot diagnose you, but I can tell you that your experience is similar to the experience of others with DID or DD-NOS (Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) who lose time.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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