Living with severe mental health issues such as dissociative identity disorder can leave people floundering in their pasts. This happens because when dissociating, it is exceedingly difficult to tell which is the “now” and what is the past.
However, if we are lucky, most people living with DID after working diligently with a therapist will find they want to leave the past behind. While this is understandable, it isn’t entirely possible and that is what this article is all about.
The past is gone, or is it?
Caught Up In What Was
When entering therapy many multiples find themselves caught up in the memories of what happened when they were children. The pain and struggle to understand the questions “why” and “how could they” are palpable. It hurts to realize how abnormally our caregivers were and how much damage they have done to our lives.
We get so immersed in the grief and shock that we get swept away by it and begin to believe the world “owes us a living” and that “they should pay”. Both are very real and understandable thought processes, but they are both dead ends.
Getting Lost in the Fog of the “Now”
The opposite of being caught up in the past is getting lost in the “now”. This happens when a multiple lives so much in the now and the future that past events are lost in the fog.
I’m not speaking of memories of the traumas from childhood, I’m speaking of losing what happened or who we spoke to in the recent past.
For example, speaking with someone and making an appointment or obligation to them and then promptly forgetting it because it has now become the past.
Living with no past is just as damaging to relationships than living lost in it.
The Consequences of Living Too Much in the “Past” or the “Now”
There are indeed consequences to living bogged down in traumatic memories and it’s opposite, leaving behind any memory of what has occurred. While the latter may sound a happy alternative, neither of these memory problems is helpful in forming new relationships, working any job, or maintaining clients.
In fact, I live with the latter problem of losing the immediate past and when I have described my problem to therapists and psychiatrists they sound envious and usually tell me they wish they had my problem.
To be clear, living either lost in the past or with none is helpful or fun and certainly shouldn’t be desired. I do not like having people ask me about obligations I have made and my having no idea who they are or what I promised. It makes me look like a fool and I feel foolish too.
Memory problems take a toll on your self-esteem and how you view yourself as a person.
Leaving Our History Behind is Not Possible
When I state that I do not remember my history, I’m speaking of the immediate past not the long past such a when I was a child. In fact, my childhood memories are easier and clearer to me than those memories I’ve made recently.
My days jump from hour to hour without my knowing it and I have a horrendous time remembering what day it is or even what time.
However, I can never, ever rid myself of my history because it is past and cannot be changed by anyone, not even God. Those facts, of how I was hurt and the other things that occurred in my childhood and up to the present day, are set and there is no going back and no do-overs.
History is set in stone. Period.
While under certain brain injuries forgetting totally what has occurred in our lives is possible, for the rest of us it is what it is and we had best realize that and move on.
Accepting Our Pasts as Part of Who We Are
Since we cannot ever change what has happened to us, what do we do with the horrendous memories of abuse and sometimes torture? How do we handle knowing what happened to us and that it was perpetrated against us by those we depended upon as children for safety and love?
Working through it and getting it deep down inside that, that was then and this is now is vital to healing as much as you can from DID.
That work is arduous and takes longer than what we’d like but not as long as we fear. The old saying, “The Only Way Out is Through” certainly applies to the memories and realizations of what happened to us as kids.
We are not our pasts, but our history is part of who we are and has shaped us into the people we now find ourselves to be. That identity, a survivor of horrendous abuse against the odds, is a wonderful one so long as we don’t get lost in that too.
It’s okay to be a survivor, it is not okay to make that your entire identity. We are other things too, writers, poets, artists, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, in other words, humans.
What This Article Was Meant To Do
This article was meant to stir up myself and my readers to help us understand together that getting lost in the past or living without one are neither one good alternatives to living a healthy life. Our past is part of who we are and we cannot disown it because of that.
Learning to live in the “now” without forgetting to hold onto the recent past and accepting the long past leaves us desolate of the ability to form new relationships or hold onto old ones.
It becomes too damn easy to walk away and leave people who we have known baffled and grieving.
We must learn to live in the “now” while paying attention to what is happening daily, and we must do all that while putting our traumatic histories into the past where it belongs.
It is no wonder healing from dissociative identity disorder isn’t an easy fix that takes only a few weeks.
We’re all learning together. Remember that and keep the knowledge in your heart that you are and will never be alone. I’m rooting for you!
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards.”~Søren Kierkegaard