Remembering yesterday comes easily for most adults. They can recall events and details about where they were and whom they met with relative ease, even after several days have passed. It is not so with people like myself who live with the amnesia that accompanies dissociative identity disorder.
Amnesia in My Life
All my life I’ve been painfully aware that I do not remember things like everyone else. There have always been huge gaps in my mind of not just learned knowledge from school, but also personal events, places, and people. At one time, I put these anomalies off to a bad memory, but now I know it is a functional form of amnesia.
I seem to be adept at selecting which things I wish to remember and which I don’t. I do not remember names, but I do remember faces and voices. I do remember odd trivia facts, but bless me if I can remember events from yesterday experiences good or bad.
People Aren’t Aware
People around me are unaware of this problem. I have become very good at playing along so that they do not catch on. When I meet someone in a store that obviously knows me, I can carry on a nonsense conversation, and they be totally unaware that I just faked my way through.
As time goes on, I have become increasingly aware to just how this quirk in my cognitive ability plays out. I seem to experience life as a bunch of new beginnings. I tend to push away experiences, good or bad, into a corner of my mind and move forward without giving what just occurred anymore thought.
I Cannot Retrieve My Memories
While this was adaptive as a child experiencing severe and repeated childhood trauma, it has become a severe handicap in adult life.
I long to remember from one day to the next the important things done the day before. I do have an overarching memory of the basic facts, such as I went to school, and I took an exam, but the details of who was there and sometimes what day it was on are lost. More to the point, I am unable to retrieve them.
I could go into the neuroscience behind this phenomenon, but I’ll spare you that this time around.
What is important is that I am aware that I don’t hold onto information and that I do it on purpose.
I Would Love to Remember
I hear people online talking about how fearful they are because they suffer from amnesia, but why be afraid? It is a tool that has served us well for many years and is the reason we are not insane from the tragedies of our childhoods.
Would I like to be aware of my movements and actions from day to day? Sure. However, I must be patient and understanding with myself. Amnesia served was a way to remain alive and hopeful in a horrifically demanding and ego destroying environment when I was young.
Had I not been given the ability to “forget” the hopelessness and helplessness would have destroyed me. As it was, I did try to kill myself at age six, and being able to push the despair I must have felt to the back burner of my mind helped me to survive.
For now, I am at a loss as to how to change this ingrained and subconscious behavior. So, I have decided to accept amnesia as an annoying yet understandable part of my life’s experience. It is part of who I am, not my identity, and I do find in getting along in life, and that is what matters.
Some Words of Wisdom
My words of wisdom for anyone who understands what I am speaking of are these:
Don’t be afraid of something that has helped you for so long. Yes, it is exacerbating, but it is not harmful. It’s okay. Really. Fighting against this adaptation is fighting against all the things that have helped you survive. Instead, learn to use this ability and relax.
Nothing serious ever got better by worrying or complaining about it. In fact, stewing on forgetting can and often does make things worse.
Accept who you are flaws and all. You’ll find that life gets a lot easier and the world will seem a safer place to remember.
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” Thich Nhat Hanh