Losing Time: The Insidious Nature of Dissociative Amnesia
Nothing about dissociative identity disorder is quite what the most popular phrases used to describe it imply. “Losing time” is no exception. When we talk about losing time we’re talking about severe dissociative amnesia which, in a milder form, is something I believe everyone experiences. But the phrase “losing time” suggests a highly dramatic, easily recognizable aberration. In my experience, however, dissociative amnesia is startlingly surreptitious. It’s easy to be unaware that you’re losing time at all.
What Does Losing Time Look Like?
A guest stayed at our home for several days recently. My partner and I were chatting about recent events last night and she referred to the day our guest left . . . five or six days prior to the one I was sure he departed on. As we discussed the timeline in more detail, it became clear that I’d lost about a week of that particular stretch of time.
These dissociative memory problems happen regularly for me and have for as long as I can recall. And prior to my dissociative identity disorder diagnosis, I quite genuinely thought other people were chronically confused. It never occurred to me that I might be losing time in part because it just isn’t the most likely scenario; but also because my concept of dissociative amnesia was rather farcical. I thought losing time looked like coming to in a hotel room far from home with a stranger in my bed. And while I’m sure that can and does happen, I’ve since learned that dissociative amnesia often camouflages itself so well that, until you spot the seams, it doesn’t look like anything at all.
Dissociation is not always the worst case scenario you may mistakenly think it is. It runs along a continuum. Most of us experience mild symptoms of it in our everyday life, like Alice, the travel consultant, who loses all track of time when she becomes engrossed in a good book - a mild form of amnesia.
- The Stranger in the Mirror, by Marlene Steinberg and Maxine Schnall
How Do You Know When You're Losing Time?
If I’d spent my life waking up with strange people in strange places I might’ve known I had dissociative identity disorder much sooner. As it is, I lived with severe dissociative amnesia for almost thirty years before anyone – friends, family, co-workers, therapists, and most notably I myself – spotted anything out of the ordinary.
Without external evidence butting up against my perceptions of reality, there’s nothing to clue me in to the fact that I’ve lost time at all. Had my partner not mentioned the date of our guest’s departure, I would never have realized I’d missed those five or six days. Dissociative amnesia is far more insidious than most people realize. And in my experience, the only surefire way to know you’re losing time is if you happen across clear evidence that directly contradicts your memory. Otherwise, it's remarkably easy to miss what you're missing.
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Gray, H. (2011, May 30). Losing Time: The Insidious Nature of Dissociative Amnesia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2011/05/losing-time-the-insidious-nature-of-dissociative-amnesia
Author: Holly Gray
Besides those questions, I can really empathize with what you are feeling according to my perspective. I've been diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, specifically DID, for over twenty years. When I first began dissociating, I was petrified. I would find clothes in my closet I had no recollection of buying. Packages would come to the door that I didn't remember buying. It is very disconcerting to find that you've done things you don't remember.
It might be good to get a mental health check-up if you can. In addition, write in a journal every day, and especially write down the experiences you are having, what happened or triggered it before the dissociation started, and what brought you out of the dissociation, meaning what do you remember before you came to. Lastly, while it doesn't feel well, know that what you are experiencing is normal for someone who might have a dissociative disorder. It's okay to feel panicked, but please make sure you see a professional about your experiences.
thank you for sharing your experiences. They help me figure some things out amongst my confusion.
I am the girlfriend of someone I suspect might have dissociate amnesia and I'm looking for help/opinions on the below writing. I apologize in advance that there isn't maybe enough details to support my speculation below - let me know and I'll give more info.
So, dissociative amnesia, because I catch him not remembering things he has just said and one time he used another language that he wouldn't normally use and then he though I had said it, when I hadn't said anything, so he kind of "caught" himself, but he couldn't remember it, so when I bring it up now, he believes it's my memory lapse.
Unfortunately for me, I feel his memory lapses around his experiences with women. I don't know why, but he can't remember any women he's had feelings for in the past. When I asked him about it he said he just wasn't into girls, but I was only to discover that through an 2yr old conversation I read that was between him and his friend, that he liked girls plenty and these two actresses in particular. When I showed him some pics of these actresses and asked him casually if he'd ever thought they were somethin' he said no, never, and he said he never though of them in that way at all. When I told him that just 2 years ago he was calling these "his girls" and thought they were very hot/attractive, he said he genuinely couldn't remember saying that. I used to think that perhaps he was lying to me, but with all the memory laps here and there, I feel like his memory laps are beyond the "normal" and he genuinely can't remember chunks of time OR things surrounding women.
Does it happen that the amnesia can "choose" topics to forget?
Perhaps he has other personalities - but living with him for 2 years I have to say that I haven't "met" any of them... or maybe I don't notice them?
I wonder what his trauma would come from though... because he seems to have had a really nice childhood and only when he was a teen did he have some trauma when one of his parents was going through cancer.
Thank you if you read this and I hope you can give me some of your input from what you know about DID - amnesia and also give me your personal opinion.
That can be dissociation, yes. It's also common to experience headaches/migraines when there is a lot going on inside.
Those symptoms could possibly be related to dissociation. Hypersomnia isn't connected to dissociation; if you are actually sleeping and not just losing time, then that is another concern entirely. Either way, you should seek help from a medical and psychiatric professional to see what's going on.
I thought I'd just started my diet like a week ago, but when I checked my food log, it turns out I started on April 28 -- that was 20 days ago. I moved into a new apartment 1.5 months ago, and the two years I spent at my last place, as well as my roommates there, are the tiniest fragments of a distant memory. It already feels as if I have lived in my new apartment forever.
I've been learning a language with Duolingo, and I decided to take a break. I thought I'd stopped for a couple days to take a break, but then a push notification popped up on my phone saying it has been five days since I last practiced. I had no idea, it felt like a single day. I regularly miss all these little things through the day, I'll suddenly skip ahead a few seconds or a minute or two. Like when I was at the gas station, I got a coffee, I remember paying, then I'm at my car door getting in, and I had no memory of grabbing the napkins or anything, I found them stuffed in my pocket. It was a total hole in my memory. Or I'll shut the stove off and then I'll be draining the noodles, and I'll have zero memory of actually turning the stove off and picking up the pot.
Most of the time these losses of time are seamless, but every now and again -- usually if something manages to make me actually feel emotion, which is rare -- my stomach muscles will tighten and I'll feel more and more pressure in my body and usually depression and physical discomfort until it just sort of...releases. And when that happens, my mood will suddenly be really elevated and I'll feel great, and my memory of the day before that moment will get extremely fuzzy, so that I'll only have a detached awareness of the last 20 minutes or so, and no memory of what I did earlier in the day. It's like everything before that release is some distant memory of things that happened to someone else, if I remember them at all.
Because of this, I enjoy <i>nothing</i>. I don't go out aside from work or groceries, I don't go to things unless it is for the benefit of someone else, because I know that I won't actually feel present and established in the moment, and it'll seem like a vague dream almost as soon as I leave. I'll go to BBQs to make friends happy, I'll smile and laugh and say the right things, but no one knows that I'm just an animated body going through the motions. I don't even feel depressed anymore, I might as well be an empty body with a smile on its face sitting in a chair, useless.
I know this is because my parents never let me leave the house, I was trapped 24/7 with their abuses, and the long miserables days trapped in the same room day after day after month after year feeling all these hopes and yearnings eventually broke my mind. I can't help but think that as I grew into an adult, my brain formed and was shaped in such a way to handle that particular environment -- seemingly endless days completely devoid of stimulation and human contact outside of my parents. My brain learned to delete blocks of hours so I wouldn't go completely insane. I know I can't feel emotions anymore because the pain of yearning and hoping for salvation eventually became so painful, the pain of hope and yearning was worse than any other pain. So my brain somehow removed my ability to feel, and on the rare occasions where I actually feel something, it's as if something snaps in my brain and then...boom. It's all gone, everything before that snap.
How is a person supposed to rewrite the very structure of their brain? Therapy has reached its peak. Meditation can't touch this. Mindfulness doesn't work. I'm afraid that one day I'll blink, and I'll be 70 years old with no memories of seven decades of wasted potential.
Do you have a counselor? A good counselor can provide support and can help you become more aware when your alters are out. They can also help with the anxiety that tends to tag along with DID. I am thinking about you.
It appears I have a few different personalities
with no memory of each other. Since starting to learn about and receive therapy on DID seems to be helping though my acceptance of it is still very raw feeling. This was a good thread to read.
I have not experienced the kinds of black-outs you are describing but it can be a symptom of dissociating. You mentioned talking to your doctor and that not being helpful. Have you tried talking to a psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist? They may be able to help you help with a diagnosis give you the support that you need. I am sorry I am not able to help you out more than that.
My name is Tricia and I am 25 years old and I am expierencing time loss it seems. Now ive blacked out before that i remember about 10 years ago when i was drinking all the time. Just the last few months I've been blacking out completely sober I havent Told my partner until today the last thing i remember is playing with my daughter at our visit then i open my eyes and im in the shower with my boyfriend and hes holding me up i just starting crying.. its really scary when you think your somewhere or doing something but when you blink and open your eyes your somewhere completely diffferent and its 1- 2 hours later// i could cover it up before .. play it cool .. but its really getting to me and it seems to be getting longer and longer. Another thing .. i pass right out .. Ive has sesuires in the last 2 months.. I'm just realluy scared like i said . I've been with my boyfriend for the last 3 years // and he will tell me i said all these things and i dontremember saying them at all// we could be fighting for an hour straight and i wont remembver it // so when i snap out of it I'm Normal happy smiling telling him i love him .. and he thinks im really srewed up becAUSE 10 mins prior i was telling him i wanted to leave him .. and so on and so on... i recently started excessively started picking at face until its completely raw . . I'm so stressed out getting severe skin infections. now i know ill pop a zit sometimes but i dont remember picking at my face for 3-4 hours at a time // Im not doin g drugs at all . could the skin pickinh be a part of my black outs// I'm asking for ANYONE whos going threw the same kinda thing as me and has some advice for me please email me because my doctor isnt helpful at all . and i really want to know whats going on .. thanks so much .. for tehe post ...
Just read the above. I know things are very scary when you start noticing these symptoms. Once I had the support of a good therapist and understood more about what was happening and why I was more at peace. I hope the same for you.
Have to find me a therapist and the sooner the sooner the better...
I just wanted to comment on your husbands twitching in his sleep. I, too, twitch, move, and talk in my sleep. I suffer with night terrors where I relive traumas from my past. Sometimes the dreams are so severe that I wake (nearly everyday) with black eyes that fade after a few hours. My therapist said it is because our bodies are visceral - the emotions can't help but show themselves. If he suffered from anxiety and depression in the past, he may still be reliving some sort of trauma or traumas. Either way, he needs help. He may not want to admit it because of stigma or just plain fear, but the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for both of you.
I've occasionally waken up with weird memory lapses, I've noted the times in my diary and it happens like every two to three months... I'll wake up with recent memories seeming so distant,for example if today is Monday,what is did yesterday seems like it happened long time ago,I can hardly put together what I follow on TV once it happens...
I get this floating kind of feeling... Like am not connected with what's happening in my life of in life.... I notice am so anxious and confused, can't sleep well,it goes on for about a week or so.
I live such a lonely life...way far from family, in a different country.... I don't work coz I take care of my son with Autism... Am so isolated, I had an MRI scan about my memory which besides this episodes is soooo bad and they said it's my life style it's nothing wrong with my brain....
Someone heeeellllpppp before I go mad with worry...
I, too, have been told that DID doctors are few and far between. My psychiatrist and therapist do not specialize in DID, but they have been able to treat me appropriately. One thing that has helped a lot is schema therapy. It may be hard to find a therapist who does schema therapy, too, but it is worth looking into as it has helped me a lot. You may be able to find adequate care, even if you can't find a DID specialist. Good luck to you in your search! Thanks for your comment.
I just got married Dec. 30th to a wonderful man. He's been my rock in the most unsteadiest time in my life...but here recently I've started noticing that what i thought for the longest time was him messing with me might be a serious problem. My husband is in his late thirties and has never been a drinker or any type of substance abuser but occasionally he will start talking some off the wall things...or finish a conversation we had hours sometimes days previous. When I try to discuss this with him he laughes and says he's just kidding around or he'll get fustrated because I don't understand what he's talking about or trying to say. I'm so very worried about his health. On top of this he lacks an appetite, he has strange twitches in his sleep along with a lot of movement (not sleep walking just movement) and talking in his sleep. He's had anxiety and depression problems in his past but I don't know if that could tie into anything. Im just a very protective wife that is desperately seeking answers and was wondering if this at all resembles dissociative identity disorder. If you can help me in anyway I'd be forever in debted to you. Thank you for your time. Have a good day.
I am sorry to hear that you are struggling. I can not rule out dissociative identity disorder, as I am not a doctor. If it were me, I would take my husband and these symptoms to a physician and psychiatrist. It doesn't hurt to get the input of professionals. I am not a professional and can't help to clarify what is wrong. It doesn't particularly sound like DID, but rather a memory problem of some kind... but don't take me word on that as I honestly do not know! Good luck as you try to get him seen by a professional. In the long run, he will probably thank you for it. Take care!
One time after a therapy session, I was most of the way into the next state and had to stop and find out where I was- 2 hours out of my way in the opposite direction. It can be scary.