Can people with DID trust their memory?

My name is Nel.  I’m in my thirties.  I’m a mod of /r/DID.  I’ve been to Sheppard Pratt’s Trauma Disorders Unit three (3) times, and in various inpatient hospitals a total of seven (7) times in my life.  I have been working with a therapist, K., who is a specialist in dissociation, for the past fourteen (14) years (with the exception of one [1] year 2017-2018 when she was between practices).

With all this therapy, one would think that I have a pretty solid good understanding of my trauma history now, right?  Well, I don’t.  My trauma memories do surface, but they come back in pieces.  Different parts hold different memories.  Sometimes, multiple parts hold different perspectives of the same memory.

It can get quite complicated.  Healing not only brings up intense feelings from the trauma that need to be processed, but current day feelings of confusion.  Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to form one clear, coherent picture memory is a slow task.

Furthermore, I (Nel) am a “host” part.  My role in this is to not remember.  Ever.  Because if I do, then I am going to devolve into an emotionally unstable, unfunctional adult.

A lot of the therapy from Sheppard Pratt (and reinforced by K.) has been about symptom management.  What skills can I use so that when I do remember, I don’t dissolve into an overwhelmed puddle of madness?  We’ve talked about them on this blog before.  So, let’s skip passed this part.  I’ve got the skills.  What now?

Will I ever remember?

I hate to sound like President Trump, but…maybe? Maybe not?

Actually, I’ve come to understand that I remember more than I give myself credit for.  Little things I sense, or a random, intrusive thought of being watched, can all be internal communication from my parts.

Dreams are another thing I’ve learned to put stock in.  Since many of my parts are stuck in pre-conscious awareness, it is easier for them to communicate to me in dreams.  I often have vivid, graphic dreams of sexual trauma.  I never recognize the perpetrators in the dreams.  I never feel like they are real memories.  They probably aren’t.

Not in the literal sense, anyway.

In the contextual sense, it’s real.  The sense of being trapped.  I know in my heart that is familiar.  Being unable to breathe–yes, that’s true.  I don’t know when I felt trapped or unable to breathe that causes so much replay in dreams, but those little pieces are true information.

Memories can come back in many ways.  In a touch, a smell, light or darkness, heat or cold, time of day or year, discomfort, similar facial expressions, or emotions.  When a certain facial expression, for example, suddenly shocked my heart, I used to immediately acknowledge it as a memory coming to the surface.  But then, I would demand to know where it came from.  “What is it?” I would shout in my mind.  “What happened to me?  What is this?!”  Understandably, the part sharing the memory would not react favorably to demands.  The impact of the trigger faded.  I’ve had to learn to be patient and empathetic with my parts.  They are just as scared as I am (if not more), and they are taking a huge risk by sharing.  That needs to be honored.

Being continuously upset, hurt, or angered by something (or someone) is also a tell-tale sign for us we are dealing with a memory.  For example, there is a lot of upset in the YouTube DID community right now regarding present-day trauma that two systems are dealing with.  Fans of these individuals’ channels are either caretaking and desperately trying to reach out to these individuals, or they are being impacted negatively with a lot of anxiety, worry, and even depression.  It is understandable to be concerned about someone you care about.  However, if you find yourself obsessively checking YouTube, Instagram, Forums, etc. for updates on people you have never met, it may be a sign that you are taking something from your past and superimposing it on the present, reacting as you would have as a little person.

I often need to remind myself:  Yes, I do remember.  Yes, I can trust these bits of information.  They unveil a lot more than I may realize, if I just stop, acknowledge them, write them down, and then explore in a therapy session.  Oh, and thank the part for sharing (even if I don’t know who it was).

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. I have FINALY been diagnosed with PTSD and have had an other provider suggest DID, but I am not sure. The gap in diagnosis because of the memory problems. But I do have serious memory gaps, practically all of my childhood and I know it is for a reason and for the longest time I wanted all the questions answered and it took a long time to realize my brain/parts/memory or whatever is protecting me. I do get dreams, senses, and all that. I just really appreciate this post.

  2. Hi,
    Incredibly insightful and loving of yourselves. I can relate. I have been healing a long time and assert that you will get more confident of the your memories, yourself and the process as you piece together more of your personal history. This really shows how far you have come!
    Good and healing thoughts to yous.
    Kate

  3. Great post!
    It’s hard to strike that balance between desire for control we think we’ll gain by understanding a glimmer of a memory and the gentle curiosity required to safely access it.
    I liken it to an archeological dig, we need hand tools and brushes to safely unearth ancient relics, if we go in with jack hammers and excavators we’ll do irreparable damage to whatever is below the surface.

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