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Posts Tagged ‘holes in memory’

Yesterday, I blogged about whether people with dissociative identity disorder (DID) are always aware that they lose time. My own experience was that I had no awareness of losing time. My multiple system was excellent and hiding those “lost moments,” and I only became aware of “lost time” through healing from the underlying trauma. Today, I am going to share some examples of ways that I experienced losing time without knowing that I did.

I would sometimes have people interact with me in a way that made no sense. For example, my memory of my freshman year of college was that a woman on my hall decided to hate me for no apparent reason. She was quite vocal about detesting me, but I had no idea why she did. I later recovered the memory of why, which I wrote about here. Obviously, I “lost time” by “erasing” that entire incident from my conscious memory, but I was unaware that this data was gone.

The same thing happened my junior year of college. My ex-boyfriend spread rumors that I was pregnant with his baby but trying to pawn his baby off on my new boyfriend. I just thought he was being an @$$hole because I knew that we had never had sex. I later recovered the memory of him raping me. I also always remembered having a mini-period (bleeding) halfway through my cycle and being baffled by it. That was really the physical evidence of the rape that I hid from myself (from the host personality).

Another example I experienced was my husband having a different memory of a situation than I did. For example, my husband claimed that no matter how quietly he entered the bedroom to go to bed, I would wake up. I had no memory of this even though, according to him, it happened every single night. My recollection was that I would close my eyes to go to sleep and would not open them again until the next morning. However, my husband would tell me that we had even had conversations when he awakened me, and I had no memory of this. I chalked it up to talking in my sleep, but I was really losing time every single night.

While there are certainly some people with DID who do experience things like “coming to” in another city, running into strangers who appear to know them, finding clothing in their closet that they don’t remember buying, etc., this is not a requirement to have DID. It is all a matter of how your own multiple system works and how effective it is at hiding the truth from your host personality (the part you view as “me”).

It is quite possible to lose time, even on a regular basis, without having an awareness of losing time. That was my reality for almost four decades, and I definitely had DID.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am writing this blog entry from the air on an airplane with no Wi-fi (Alas!), so I am going by memory about the questions I have received recently concerning dissociative identity disorder (DID). I know that I have received a few recently. If this blog entry does not address your question directly, don’t despair … I will get to all of the questions after I return home from my long weekend in Texas.

I believe I have received a few questions about losing time and DID. I have had readers posting about being aware of having different alter parts but who do not believe that they ever lose time. Their question is about whether they can have DID without losing time.

I am going to address this question from the perspective of someone who is healing from DID rather than as a mental health professional would address it. A mental health professional would point you to the symptoms required in the most recent version of the DSM and say that DID does not fit if you do not lose time. I actually take issue with this because losing time and having an awareness of losing time are two different things.

I first became aware of having an alter part in 2003. The angry alter part came out when triggered, and I stayed co-present. It felt like “I” was “shoved aside” as this alter part “stepped into my face.” I did not lose time, but I was definitely not the one driving my thoughts, words, or actions. It was a bizarre experience.

I had no question that I had an alter part, but I had no awareness of losing time. I did not find shoes in my closet that I did not remember buying. I did not look at my watch and find that six hours had passed in what seemed like an instant. I did not have strange people walking up to me who knew me but who I did not recognize. Nevertheless, I did have DID.

The thing you need to realize is that DID is intended to be seamless. The alter parts take over and protect the host personality (the part you view as “me” that is “out” most of the time) when triggered. For this to work in a way that will avoid detection by the abusers, the host personality must stay unaware of what is happening. So, you can become a master at hiding the “lost time” from yourself.

This blog entry is getting too long, so tomorrow I will share some examples of indicators that I lost time even though I had no awareness of ever losing time when it happened.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am a bit shaky as I write this blog entry because I just recovered another memory that I have been working toward for a while. By the time this blog entry publishes, this will be “old news,” and I will be fine. However, in the moment, I am shaking and have a bad headache.

Here is what I have always remembered:

The summer before my junior year of high school, a rising senior befriended me and recruited me to be on the school’s flag corp. I really did not have much interest in waving a flag around or attending football games, but it meant she and I could hang out, so I joined.

I was not a good member of the team. I got sick or had a debilitating headache before just about every game and competition. I think I only attended one (or possibly two) of the weekly games before abruptly quitting halfway through the season. I have spent my entire life beating myself up for being such a flake.

When I was a junior, there was a sophomore who acted like she knew me, but I did not know her. For two years, she would go out of her way to say, “Hi, Faith” whenever she saw me, but I had no clue who she was or why she kept talking to me. She wound up marrying one of my ex-boyfriends, so she was at my 20-year high school reunion with him. She thanked me for being so nice to her at band camp, and I looked at her like she had two heads because I had no memory of ever going to a band camp.

*****suicide triggers*****

I was suicidal for much of my junior year and even wrote a term paper on teen suicide. I would spend many hours fantasizing about the way I wanted to die. I finally confided in my mother about the suicidal feelings. She responded by laughing about it at church, which got back to me. I would have swallowed a bottle of pills immediately if a friend and his mother had not intervened. They pulled me through, and I found hope again.

*****end suicide triggers*****

My most sadistic abusers, S & L, had three children. The youngest was M, and he was maybe three or four years older than me. I never liked him. After my family moved away, my parents stayed in touch occasionally with that horrid family. When I was around 13, we got together with S & L and M at a country club, and M tried to come onto me. I was so revolted and just wanted to get away.

Here is the missing piece I just recovered:

*****sexual abuse triggers*****

I did go to band camp. Somehow, M was there, and he raped me during the night in a field. I don’t know what he was doing there or how he lured me out of the cabin into the darkness of night, but he did. Maybe my parents sent him to check up on me??

This is why I have had such a tough time recovering this memory. I knew it had to be more trauma (most likely sexual abuse), but I had no aversion to anyone in my high school that raised a red flag as a perpetrator. I never felt unsafe at high school. As I recovered the memory, the “what” came easily, but the “who” kept evading me. It was physically painful to “look” at the face of the person who did this, and then I had a hard time believing what I saw.

This is such a big piece to my high school puzzle – Why I quit the flag corp., which angered a lot of people … Why I struggled with suicidal urges throughout my junior year (band camp was the summer before junior year) … Why I was always sick before any flag corp. event …
I also realize that I have spent decades beating myself up for being a flake when I was really just protecting myself. If M could show up at one flag corp. event, he could show up at others.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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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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