July 31, 2010
One of the diagnostic criteria for dissociative identity disorder is experiencing amnesia or lost time. While losing time may seem like an obvious hole in your every day life, it really might not be as obvious as it seems it could be.
For dissociative trauma survivors, the sliding of time is a normal everyday way of life. It just is how it is, and time feels very different for DID survivors than it does for other people. Dissociative survivors may or may not pay attention to the minutes that are gone, or the hours that have slid quietly by. They are very used to the ebb and flow, and unless there is reason to pay specific attention to the idea of lost time, they may not really be genuinely aware of how much time they lose.
Every dissociative survivor I have met has recognized specific periods of lost time in his or her life. Sometimes, multiples think they do not lose much time, but with a few detailed questions, it can soon enough be shown that there are very clear gaps in memory and awareness of regular life events. There will be everyday type things that they know they should know, but they don’t.
Some multiples will notice big chunks of time that seem to be gone. It will be 2 pm, and then suddenly, it’s 9 pm, and the survivor has no awareness of what happened during those seven hours. Those hours are considered lost time because they feel completely lost and unaccounted for. The host parts don’t remember what happened. If they look around, they might get some clues about what may have happened, but for the most part, it feels like time completely jumped seven hours ahead. Time feels lost to them because there is basically no information and no awareness about what happened.
Other times, DID survivors will feel like they are mostly aware of everything that happens through their day, but their ability to remember what happened yesterday, or even to remember what happened this morning, or an hour ago is extremely limited. This is a different kind of lost time in that the recall is so nonexistent that it becomes the same as lost time since the survivor has next to no idea what happened.
In both of these situations, time is being quantified from the perspective of the front host personality. Time loss can include other parts of the system as well, but the questions about lost time are typically addressed towards the host. This is an important distinction to remember.
Because you see, even though time feels lost to the front host personality, in all reality, time is not lost at all.
Yes, you read that right. Time is actually not lost. Time has not actually gone away. The DID survivor’s day is not shorter than everyone else’s day. Time has not disappeared in the way that it feels.
While we use the term “lost time” all the time, that is actually not what happens. In fact, no one with DID actually loses any time at all.
So where does the time go?
Actually, what happens is that the dissociative trauma survivors have switched to another part.
Yep, they’ve just switched.
Switching. Shifting from one part or another. “Transitioning” as US of Tara called it.
That’s all that happened. You’ve switched!
The hours of time can be completely accounted for if you know who was out and what they were doing. Time itself isn’t missing. What is missing is having the awareness or knowledge about who in your system was out doing what.
So when the host or front personalities are completely unaware of life events, and there is no knowledge of what has happened, they have simply switched to someone else in their system who is out and doing all kinds of things. The body is likely up and active, and any number of things could be happening. Someone inside the system will know exactly what happened between 2 pm and 9 pm!
For there to be “lost time”, this switch occurs with parts that are so dissociated and separated from the host personalities that the host personalities are not aware of what happened.
Actually, this kind of time loss / lack of awareness can happen between any part of the system with any other part of the system. Many of the insiders may not be at all aware of what the host personalities are doing either. Part of the reason for time distortion, triggers, and flashbacks is connected to the insiders not being aware of the outside life in the current day, place, or time.
Sometimes the lost time between these parts are just from not paying attention. For example, one set of parts can simply be daydreaming or drifting off, and simply not concentrating enough to be aware. Maybe they were choosing to have an internal nap or be otherwise internally occupied. However, if they actually tried to be aware of what was happening in the outside world, they may fully well have known exactly what happened during that lost time. Or with a little effort, they may have been able to get close enough to the front of the body to be aware enough to see, or hear, or know.
Other times, the dissociative walls / amnesiac walls are much thicker and less penetrable. In these situations, one set of parts does not want the others inside to know what is happening, and the blocks put between them are strong and absolute. Parts from within the internal system are specifically dividing themselves away from everyone else so everyone inside is not aware. If you have parts that are specifically hiding their activities from the rest of everyone else, this is an important issue to address in your therapy.
In my opinion, integration is not necessary for successful stable functioning. But, eliminating time loss and/or periods of unknown switching is important for exactly those reasons. It is ok that everyone within has their chance to do what they need to do, but it is also important to build the communication around what is happening. You all share the same life. Being more aware of what happens in that life is important.
So the next time you want to know what happened during that chunk of time that you don’t remember, ask inside. Ask who knows about it. Ask who was out, or who saw what happened. There will be someone inside that knows exactly what was happening during that chunk of “missing time”. You might need to work on increasing your internal communication with those parts, but once you know the others in your system, that time loss will decrease.
Even if the time loss is happens, but if you know who is out, that can help with knowing what happened. The more you know your whole system of insiders, the less unaccounted for time you will have.
Once again I’ll say, internal communication is the central core of treatment for dissociative identity disorder.
If you want to know what is going on, talk to each other!!!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 25, 2010
Last night I lost my keys in the office. It was a silly ordeal – they were hanging right where I last put them – but it took me awhile to remember where that was.
I had a little help finding them, and I am really thankful that Mr. Janitor Man was so very kind. He was patient with me, looking everywhere with me while I retraced my steps of the evening. We looked under couches, in between cushions, under pillows, through trash bins, in the fridge, in drawers, in cupboards, on shelves. I knew they had to be there – after all, I had just locked myself IN the building. I hadn’t gone anywhere because I needed my keys in order to unlock the door to get out of the building, so I knew they couldn’t be far.
But where were they?!
It took awhile, but I gradually got closer to the last place I left them, I remembered exactly where they were.
Success!! There they were – right where I left them.
And thank you, Mr. Janitor Man for your patience with me.
In order to find them, I simply had to stop and think about where I was when I last remembered having them, and go from there. My keys were just a few inches from that place.
Today, I had to wonder how my thought processes were the same – or different – from survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) who have to search for their lost keys.
A few weeks back, I was on the other side of this equation.
A DID survivor had lost her car keys for several days. She had looked everywhere. She had the feeling that they were still in the house, and remembered where She had last set them. But the car keys were nowhere to be found.
To help her sort through the lost key issue, She and I had an entirely different process than I did with Mr. Janitor Man.
She had already re-traced her steps best She could. It was clear the keys were not anywhere She thought they should be.
Because of the dissociative issues and system conflict in her life, there were several additional issues to consider:
- Had anyone inside moved the keys after She put them on the table?
- Were the insiders purposefully hiding the keys from her?
- Was this an issue of self-sabotage, system conflict, or simple dissociation?
- If She didn’t remember where the keys were put last, which insider did remember?
- If someone inside remembered, were they going to tell her?
- How long were the insiders going to keep this secret? Did they think that was funny?
- Were the keys sitting right there in plain sight, and was someone within her system purposefully blocking She’s vision?
- Was She simply “not allowed” to see where the keys were?
- Was someone inside hiding the car keys to keep her from driving?
- Why did they not want her to be able to drive?
- Was this a safety issue (to prevent some self-harm options that required a car)?
- Was this a power and control issue (“we can do what we want, and She can’t stop us”)?
- Were the insiders trying to sabotage and ruin She’s plans for the weekend?
- Was this a system punishment of some sort?
- Were the keys genuinely lost, and were all our questions about insider involvement way off track?
It became obvious that She didn’t know where the keys were. There was no use wasting more time asking her to find them on her own.
Asking inside – asking the parts in She’s system – to tell her where they were wasn’t working either. Everyone was quiet inside, and no one was willing to say where the keys were.
The only feeling that She got in response to the questions was that the keys were still in the house. She had noticed She could feel a little rise in tension when She looked in the kitchen. She was guessing the keys were there, but She still had no idea. She had looked everywhere in the kitchen – a few times – and still couldn’t find them.
She asked her insiders again, and again – and still no one would cooperate with a direct answer. Where should She look in the kitchen? Should She keep looking in the kitchen? Now what?
It was beginning to get clearer that either someone was hiding the keys on purpose from She. It was also becoming clear that others inside were feeling too scared of Key-Hider to tell She where the keys were. The awkward silence was very telling.
We tried directly asking Key-Hider where the keys were. The only response to that question was a bit cheeky. “If I wanted the keys hidden from her, why would I tell you where they are?” Oh ok. Got that message loud and clear. So Key-Hider wasn’t going to cooperate.
Hmmmmm. Now what?
I asked She to go stand in the kitchen. Since it appeared that the insiders didn’t feel like they could show She where the keys were – She was clearly not supposed to see the hiding spot – we didn’t go against that rule. Instead, we respected that rule. I asked She to close her eyes. I spoke to the insiders through She. They were, of course, listening behind her. As a rule of thumb, when talking to any part of the DID system, expect that there will be others listening in the background, even if the part you are speaking with is not aware of anyone else being near.
I asked She to keep her eyes closed, and to put her hands out to feel around in the kitchen. With DID, one part can be in charge of the most of the body, while someone else can gain control of the hands (or any other part of the body). I reminded She that this was possible, and encouraged her to let someone pass through her to be in charge of the hands.
While She and her insiders were rummaging through kitchen areas, I continued to speak to the inside system. I reminded them that She was not looking, that She could not see anything, and that they would not be breaking the rule of showing She where the keys were located, but I asked them to work together as a team. Together, they were searching the kitchen for the car keys.
One of the things I mentioned to the Insiders was asking them if anyone else saw the Key-Hider hide the keys. By this time it was clear that Key-Hider wasn’t being supportive of She. Key-Hider was not going to say where the keys were hidden, and Key-Hider was acting more in direct opposition to She. I asked for those who were willing to be kind and helpful to She to think about what they saw from behind the scenes, fully expecting that someone inside could have seen where Key-Hider put the keys. I asked if any of the Helpers saw Key-Hider hide the keys, and if any of the Helpers could help She to find them. I continued to remind She to keep her eyes closed, and to let the Helpers find the keys through her hands with their hands.
Within about fifty seconds, She giggled. She could hear the keys, and once She was holding the keys, She was allowed to open her eyes.
After being missing for days, the keys were found!
She was thrilled, to say the least.
She mentioned that the most significant things I said were that She herself didn’t have to be told or shown where the keys were and that Key-Hider wasn’t put on the spot with demands for immediate answers or cooperation. The idea that we could completely obey the rules, respect the opposition, and yet go around the rules by working with the other Insiders made a huge difference. She said she would not have thought about asking her insiders for help, but it made all the difference.
So what’s the moral of the story?
- If you are DID, remember that there are many others in there, and some of them will be on your side.
- Even if you feel like others are against you, there will be some that will help you.
- Using system communication, talking together, approaching problem-solving as a team will be more effective than you trying to work out issues alone.
- Talk to each other!
- Work together!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 14, 2009
I’m trying something new today — a blog poll.
I’m not quite sure how they work yet, so other than asking people to click their answers… I can’t really explain it yet. This will be new for me too!
However, I am very interested in knowing whether or not you all have found therapists to be effective in understanding dissociative disorders, and whether or not you have met any therapists that could appropriately treat dissociative identity disorder.
Part of my clinical work as a trauma therapist is to teach other therapists about how to work with DID / dissociative identity disorder. Your opinion matters to me in that it helps me to give appropriate feedback to other therapists. Your opinions can be included in my presentations to other therapists.
We have spoken about the importance of trauma specialists in other Discussing Dissociation blog posts. Please refer to that article for more detailed information about my own personal opinion on the topic.
Also, if you are interested in providing a more detailed opinion about therapists, AbuseConsultants.com has a survey titled “Do Therapists Actually Help?” Your responses there can be completely anonymous. To participate in this survey, please go to AbuseConsultants.com, enter the site, and then click on the Survey 2 icon near the top of the home page.
Please feel free to add additional comments here in the blog as well, especially if you’d like to explain something further in response to the survey questions.
Thank you so much for your participation. I appreciate it!
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 26, 2009
Do you use twitter??
I’m totally new to the idea, but I’ve added it today to this blog.
I think it’s working correctly, so for those of you that enjoy twittering, my twitter name is Kathy_B_from_AC . That’s a shortened version of Kathy Broady from AbuseConsultants.com, of course.
Since I’m new to this, I’m not sure what all I’m inviting you to – but hey, it’s the newest thing, so… let’s have fun with it!
I hope you are all having a great day –