My Dissociative Memory is a Problem
Despite reminder tools and sheer determination, I keep forgetting to take my medication. I get up in the morning and think to myself, 'Now don’t forget to take your medication!' while heading to the bathroom where it’s waiting for me in a brightly colored container right there on the counter. And I repeatedly discover, much later in the day, those pills lying untouched in their little compartments. I have dissociative identity disorder and this is just one example of how my dissociative memory affects my everyday life. On its own it may not seem like a big deal. And if my memory problems were exclusive to forgetting medication or if they were irregular, here-and-there occurrences they probably wouldn’t be much of an issue. But what I just described is how my memory works all the time, with everything.
My Day-to-Day Memory Problems Aren't That Unusual
When I didn't take my son to his first day of school, friends who aren't severely dissociative reassured me that they've done things like that too. When I left a burner on (something I do regularly) causing a glass casserole dish to explode in my kitchen, those friends said "These things happen," and pointed out that since no one was hurt, it wasn't a big deal. And hey, if you want to tell me that incidents like these aren’t catastrophic, and that dissociative memory is a normal part of life as a human being, you’re preaching to the choir. I’m pretty clear on the fact that dissociative identity disorder is an extreme manifestation of what everyone experiences and that isolated incidents like the ones I’ve described here aren’t, on their own, indicative of a problem. But like fellow blogger Natasha Tracy pointed out recently, mental illnesses are defined as such because they significantly disrupt people’s lives.
My Dissociative Memory Significantly Disrupts My Life
So what if my partner mentions that I was quite ill about 6 weeks ago and I have no idea what she's talking about? Who cares if I can't account for my money most of the time? It's not like I have a good deal of it at my disposal. What's the big deal?
If your computer crashed several times a day, every single day because of a technical glitch you couldn't predict or prevent, and each time you lost work and minutes to hours ... at what point would that become a big deal? A few days? Months? I'd wager most people would classify their problem as severe and their computer as unusable within a couple of weeks, max. Now imagine that your own brain is the faulty computer and the work you lose is emotional and ideological continuity, your personal history, your sense of self. Dissociative memory problems may appear benign. But for people with dissociative identity disorder, they are indeed a big deal.
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Gray, H. (2011, March 24). My Dissociative Memory is a Problem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2011/03/my-dissociative-memory-is-a-problem
Author: Holly Gray
We are without a moderator on this site. I have only been diagnosed a short time so I don't know how much help I can offer. DID is a scary ride, even scarier when you are by yourself I imagine. I have seen, in our town, organizations that help those with a mental illness. (more than just support groups) I wonder if there is an organization like that in your town. Maybe you could research it on the internet or ask your doctors if they know how you could get more support in paying your bills, etc. My thoughts and prayers go out to you....
''I end up feeling like a lair in my own life sometimes''
I can indirectly relate to that. I am not DID but my ex has DID.
He has told a lot of '' lies '' and I always found out that he had lied. Some were small lies but some really caused problems in my life. But I just dealt with them myself.
one small example:
I wanted to spent a holiday with him but he gave an excuse (stress). Anyway on the holiday (night) itself he told me he was sick and would go to sleep. The next day he told me he went out and so on. I just kept asking and what did you do and so on and he was just talking like nothing was wrong. I was of course mad that I had to stay home and took the time to search for information about the ''sick he told me''. I texted him telling him he is a liar and he told me he had problems and wanted to forget.
He has problems in other relationships usually girls just gave up, but with me it was more because I really remember everything and try to figure out things. There were so many times I accused him of being a liar. There were also times that he had no recollection of something that happened and later he did. (I now know that he was switching alters.. I made a chart of the person (alter) there during the events)
By reader your stories I can understand how he must feel and do understand how he was acting like it was me...
Response to Bryan:
I have been searching for answers and I have seen so many people being misdiagnosed for years. Some of those people went to search themselves what illness they might have and only years later finally a doctor believed them. It is a really good idea to print out information online and maybe have your partner/ close person help support the information you found. I hope by now you have your answers.
Good luck ...
I informed this professional of the distinct differences. Schizophrenia is a nuerological illness that is passed on genetically. DID is a direct result of childhood sexual trauma & extreme abuse.
These types of ignorances is what hurts us as patients seeking help. If the professionals won't learn their own craft, how do we get help?
This is why I am Perplexed!
Thanks for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly that misconceptions about DID create barriers to accurate diagnosis and quality treatment for those of us living with it. I haven't kept up with the Casey Anthony trial but I'm not surprised someone has mentioned DID. And I'm not surprised they confused it with Schizophrenia either.
Still, there are mental health professionals who do understand dissociative disorders. It's just that the vast majority do not. I wish that weren't the case, but frankly that's not even my biggest complaint when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. My biggest complaint is that a healthy portion of that vast majority who don't have a clue what they're talking about believe that they do, and go around presenting their misconceptions and misinformation as fact. Any professional who can't tell the difference between Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder has no business commenting as a professional, publicly, on either of those diagnoses other than to say, essentially, "You know, I'm really not well-versed in that area so I can't comment on that."
But you also said:
"DID is a direct result of childhood sexual trauma & extreme abuse."
That is also a misconception. An overwhelming majority of adults with DID report early childhood trauma. But while abuse is a form of trauma, trauma isn't just abuse. Besides which, DID isn't a direct result of any one thing. There are a number of things that contribute to the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder, and though as far as we can tell trauma is the most consistent factor, it isn't the only factor.
Also there are very few school days where I don't hang my head and try to avoid mothers who come up to me and seemingly know me and my children, and I have no idea who they are, let alone who their children are. Sometimes I'm aware I have seen them quite a bit and should know where and when, but I just can't access the information. And people who have interacted with you over years don't take kindly to you not knowing who they are, or remembering their name. There seems to be an underlying limit on the amount of times one can ask someone's name before they get insulted and irritated. Imagine if I fessed up to these women that I have no idea where or when I've interacted with them at all, and I've totally forgotten their son or daughters name, and that they have been in my daughter's class for the last 4years.
Most peoples memories are stored differently from mine, as mine are yes personality/ alter dependent, but they are also mood dependent. So to access some memories I need to be in the same emotional place I stored them to access them later, otherwise I've got nothin.
I am seeing my therapist later this week and will print this out and show it to her. Its so hard for me to even read about DID or schizophrenia, I read one and can relate to either one. It hurts and makes me feel helpless, I'm paying these people, they went to school they have a degree (or two). Why can't they tell me whats wrong with me? I know that both are so much alike but so different, I just don't know what to do.
I couldn't tell you whether the voices I hear are inside or outside my mind. It feels like they are right there, sitting next to me sometimes. I had a friend tell me a while ago that I had a whole conversation with someone while I was sitting there. I asked if he said anything and he just looked at me. I'm scared, my friends are dwindling. Nobody wants to deal with whatever I have.. I hope I find something soon though, its getting harder and harder everyday.
Coming here and reading your blog, and just talking helps, I'm paying my therapist for therapy, I'm paying my drs, but I seem to get more comfort, more advice from here (and other blogs) then anything else. I guess I can just relate better to some issues while others can't. Its easier for someone who's going through what I am to give advice, and to be comforting.
Suede said "I end up feeling like a lair in my own life sometimes" .. I can relate to that, I feel like everything in my life is one big lie. "I've" Lied to my friends, I feel like I've lied to myself so much that I end up believing whatever my mind comes up with. I look back on the past, the good times in my life and I don't believe a second of it. Nobody believes me about anything anymore, I can't change their minds. The damage has been done... I'm having a hard time deciphering whats actually real, and what is a lie. I tend to believe a lie more then the truth... When someone asks me "Are you okay?" my answer is always "Yeah I'm fine" ... I know I'm lying, maybe trying to protect myself? protect that person?
I just don't know anymore.. Its late, and I'm hopefully adopting a new puppy tomorrow. Nothing more therapeutic then have a 4 legged furry friend to talk too. At least she won't judge me.. And Holly, I'd like to thank you for the time you put in to reply to my messages, its nice to know people care.
"I had a friend tell me a while ago that I had a whole conversation with someone while I was sitting there. I asked if he said anything and he just looked at me."
So your friend told you about a conversation you had that you don't actually remember having? That sounds very much like dissociative amnesia but I guess it could be something else. I'd really love to get someone with schizophrenia to weigh in on this, offer their experience around amnesia.
"Suede said “I end up feeling like a lair in my own life sometimes” .. I can relate to that, I feel like everything in my life is one big lie."
That's really common for those with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I'm not sure how common it is for those with schizophrenia though. It's common with DID because dissociative amnesia and identity alteration actively make people with DID look like liars fairly often. "You did this," someone says to them, and they say, "No, I didn't." To any outside observer, that's a flat-out lie if the person did do whatever they're being told they did. But to the person with DID, they have no recall of doing it, nor can they relate to the idea that they ever would do such a thing. This is just one example scenario that impacts people with DID and makes them feel like liars.
Congratulations on your new puppy! :) I have a dog and a cat myself. And you're right, they don't judge. An animal's love, as far as I can tell, is the only love that is truly unconditional.
Oh, and you're welcome. I'm glad reading and talking is helping somewhat.
I also have noticed that since accepting my diagnosis of DID, that my memory has worsened. It's either that, or I am noticing it now, where as before I didn't notice it. Also, I do remember in the beginning thinking that this is how everyone's memory functions, and I thought that I was perfectly normal. I still struggle with this from time to time. Sometimes it is hard for me to decipher what is the normal, run of the mill dissociative memory, from what isn't normal, because it wasn't that long ago that I believed it was all normal.
Here are some examples of what I now understand to be abnormal. My problem is not forgetting to pay my bills, rather it's paying my bills, and then a few hours later...paying them again! Yep...this disrupts my life, and my bank account.
Another would be having my boss ask me to type up a specific document for him, which I promptly do....and then an hour later, going into panic mode because I think that I forgot to do as he asked, only to have him tell me that I did it, and gave it to him already.
Also, pulling files that are needed for a client, and later going into panic mode as I am rummaging through the file cabinets because I cannot find said files, only to have my co-worker show me that they are sitting right on top of my desk.
Going to a bookstore and looking through a book as if I'm seeing it for the first time, purchasing that book, and taking it home only to find a copy of the very same book right there on my bookshelf....sometimes finding two extra copies on my bookshelf!! Yep....this has happened to me countless times!!
And then I also suspect the medication issue is happening with me as well because when I look at the date on the bottle to see that it has been 30 days since my last refill, meaning my 30 day supply should be gone, I usually find that I still have around ten days worth still left in my bottle. And I do set my cell phone alarm to alert me to take my medication, so I have no idea what I am doing instead of taking my medication.
I'm so glad you posted this, Holly. This is an issue that is driving me crazy.....
I'm smiling at your examples of dissociative memory ... only because I can completely relate.
"And I do set my cell phone alarm to alert me to take my medication, so I have no idea what I am doing instead of taking my medication."
This is what I wonder too! What the heck am I doing? Feeding the dog? I don't know.
"I also have noticed that since accepting my diagnosis of DID, that my memory has worsened. It’s either that, or I am noticing it now, where as before I didn’t notice it."
Yeah, I wonder about that for myself too. Because I know that increased awareness can make it seem like I'm more dissociative when in fact I'm just more aware of it. And for most of my life I didn't notice my memory problems. Even now I miss it because dissociation creates this fog and I just don't see what's right in front of me half the time. Also I still assume other people are mistaken a lot. It's hard not to.
Take the meds box and put it in the sink. When you wake up you might not remember the meds or the box but you will use the sink and you can't run the water without noticing the pill box.
I've used various systems myself, but I find that one is the most smack-you-over-the-head obvious.
Thanks for the shout-out. It's true for everything that it's only a problem when it's a problem.
I'm not a DID expert in any way, but I thought you might find this useful:
"Schizophrenia is in the differential diagnosis because patients often hear voices; the difference is that they (those with DID) hear voices within their heads, not from outside."
In other words, professionals often get the two confused, but that is how they tell the difference (along with your history, of course, and other factors).
There's lots of information about dissociative disorders here:
It's a site for doctors which means it's a bit hard to understand at times, but even if you skim, you can learn a lot.
I cannot imagine coping with this type of memory loss on such a scale, thank you for sharing your personal journey, it's what I love about this site and writers. What you and so many others do by sharing helps educate in a way that lay people can understand. I hope continued research will unlock the mysteries of the mind.
"I hope continued research will unlock the mysteries of the mind."
Me too! It's very exciting, I think; what we have learned and are discovering about how the mind works.
I had a batch of neuro tests that showed I have a big deficiency in working memory. I wonder if this is a neurological risk factor for developing a dissociative disorder? I've asked my health professionals but nobody seems to have investigated that question. I guess it would be hard for researchers to tease out whether dissociation was interfering with working memory or whether the working memory deficit preceded dissociative tendencies.
Anyway, thank you for discussing this aspect of dissociative existence. I wish I had some tip or hint or something that I have found works but, no, I have tackled this symptom from every angle and gotten nowhere further than an understanding that it will flare when I am stressed. great.
I wish you all the best.
Thanks for commenting.
Wow, that's interesting about your neurological tests showing a deficiency in working memory. I always tell my partner that I have a fantastic memory, but I can only access bits of it at a time. But perhaps I'm wrong.
Yes, it flares up for me too when stressed which is so infuriating. I mean, that's when I need my brain to help me!
I live in fear of this issue. I have DID as well as the glitches you speak of and have managed to work around most of it...I minimalized my life...for the most part it works. I also work full time and seem to get there and perform without anyone knowing (for the most part). Actually they say something is wrong but can't pin point it. I live in fear I will forget to go to work..it's happened...the thought of losing my job puts me in panic mode. Meds? Yep forgotten them and put together the pill box....only sort of helps if you remember to get to the pill box. I guess what I'm saying is that we adjust in ways that no others have to, just to survive. It's what we do...survive.
"Yep forgotten them and put together the pill box….only sort of helps if you remember to get to the pill box."
Ha! Yes ... exactly.
I've been having a hard time lately with "Dissociative memory". The reason for the quotations is I currently have 2 doctors telling me 2 different things. One says I'm schizophrenic, the other says I have DID.
Here's where things get tricky, and very scary...
I was hospitalized twice in the past week, I had absolutely no idea what had happened and I have no memory of it happening.
I learned from my therapist about it for the first time just the other day. I was put on a 5150 hold at a local hospital, I was let go only after 3-4hours. This came as a complete shock to me, I had no idea it had happened or why it had happened or a single memory of it happening. The only evidence I have is discharge papers and two ambulance bills.
The second time was for a full 4 days, I have not a single memory of that either. I was hospitalized for almost a week. I don't have any memories or anything of being in there. Finding out scared me, I spent a long time after finding out trying to remember something, a single memory anything. I couldn't believe what had happened.
How does one let a week slip by without as little as a single memory or anything? Did this "Alter" totally b.s. the place into letting me go? making them believe I was okay? To protect me? to protect him/her? I would love to know what happened, Why I was put in and how/why was I discharged the first time so quick? I'm sick, in no way am I healthy..
What do I do? How do I tell my doctor this? Does she already know? She swears up and down I'm Schizophrenic, Dissociative memory isn't a symptom of Schizophrenia is it? I apparently show signs of both... I have conversations with people that aren't there, I hear voices calling my name, telling me things. Then I get hospitalized for a week and not a single memory of it happening?..
Sometimes I wish there was a reset button, I like who I am... Just not what I am. I'd give anything to start over fresh...
Thanks for listening to me,
I would be confused if I were in your shoes too. And I wish I knew enough about Schizophrenia to be helpful in that area but I don't. Like Natasha pointed out, it's commonly thought that a simple way to tell the difference between Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder is that people with DID hear voices inside their heads and people with Schizophrenia hear voices outside their heads. But that's not necessarily true and I don't recommend relying on that to differentiate the two. I can't speak to what it's like for those with Schizophrenia, but I know for me and many others with Dissociative Identity Disorder, hearing voices isn't nearly as cut-and-dry as many people believe it is. And sometimes when I hear internal voices, I could swear they're coming from outside my head. I'm not alone in that, and I certainly don't have Schizophrenia.
As for how you tell your doctor, how about printing this comment thread out and taking it to them? Read from the page if you have to. Ask your doctor directly if amnesia is a symptom of Schizophrenia. As far as I know, it isn't. But again, I am not well-versed enough in Schizophrenia to know for sure. What I can tell you is that Schizophrenia is a thought disorder, whereas Dissociative Identity Disorder is a dissociative disorder. And it's entirely possible to be misdiagnosed as Schizophrenic when really you have DID.
Keep researching, keep asking questions, and talk to your doctor. It may take time, but you can find the answers you're looking for.
I hope to hear from you again, Bryan.
It may not be a big deal but some things are. Wedding vows remembered...no. How about birthdays of people I love..... no. My own birthday......no.
It is like trying to piece papers together that have gone thru a shredder hope to find one letter on one part to match another. The thought of putting a whole word together is enough to keep me trying to piece it all back.
I end up feeling like a lair in my own life sometimes.
So yeah it's a big deal.
"I end up feeling like a lair in my own life sometimes."
I've been thinking about that a lot lately ... about how from the outside I probably look like a liar to many people. Or a pretender. Something. Not long ago I was really unwell and my partner mentioned to my son's father that I was unwell and that I might have to be hospitalized again, just keeping him up to speed you know. Later I talked to him on the phone and he was confused. He didn't understand why I sounded fine when my partner had just told him things were so dire. And I can see how that might look really fishy to some people. That bothers me. I feel like I always have to explain.