DID Stories — It WAS That Bad.
My parent’s spanked me, and I turned out ok. I can remember agreeing with people who said that, way back. At least I thought I did, until a couple of years ago I found out that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) because my brain had to create amnesia walls to forget most of the trauma I experienced. I had to forget it in order to function as a competent person in my life. Which I did for around 60 years, until suddenly I didn’t. The charade was over and I started to remember.
First of all, I was kind of semi-aware that there were missing bits of my life here and there in childhood for most of my life. Stuff like 7th grade math that I had made good grades in, totally forgotten, along with a good bit of 7th and 8th grade across all subjects. I just vaguely remembered lots of fights between me and my dad and mom. And I was caring for my 1 year old brother anytime I was not in school.
Let me back up. My first memories of my childhood were just short snippets, which is probably normal, and most of those memories were something scary, like falling in a deep snow bank as a toddler in Illinois. I remember my brother, Joe, pulled me out. Probably normal too. But there were a couple that were just strange snap shots. One was a little kid (me? not me? It didn’t feel like it happened to me.) kind of flying sideways, arms stretched out. That is it. Another was the inside of a car. That’s all. Blue leather upholstery on the inside of a 50’s type car. And the hot rough pebble texture of a concrete bench. Again…nothing else. I didn’t think too much of it, to be honest. I just thought everyone did that. You know, had odd picture memories with no context?
I did remember some spankings, and I remember my dad was not allowed to spank me, but I did have to watch when my brothers got “spanked.” By the way, that is the last time I will use that word to describe the discipline I experienced. We were beat. Often with a belt, or wooden paddle. Or, in my case, since I was a girl, mom spanked me…with a metal frosting spatula. It left marks. I remember most of my mom’s spankings. If that had been all, I would have been ok. Maybe. I don’t know.
Maybe I should explain that this is a collaborative effort of four of my alternative consciousness states. In this narrative, “I” is “we.” We will introduce ourselves later. What is happening is that there is a conversation going on in my head about what and how to write, and then whoever is able to type and string words together well, repeats it here. When we want to quote an alter we will indicate them by name. I hope you can be patient with us, as the memories are still piecing themselves together, and there are some memories I will not uncover by choice. Each alter holds memories that they have absolute veto over revealing as well.
What we want to do is try to tell some of our stories. We know a little about DID as a diagnosis, and we have been able to get a little therapy as well to start on the way of unravelling it all. It was the action of writing out memories that caused me to remember more. That felt safe when I had a therapist, but they retired, and I couldn’t find another therapist. I learned that I couldn’t mention even suspecting a dissociative disorder, because I would be told, “We don’t treat that here.” So that is a thing.
For most of my life, I realized that discipline in my childhood home was “harsh.” But, I would immediately correct my memory to “it wasn’t that bad.” not realizing there were gaps in my memory and those gaps in my memory were created to shield me from memories, and convince me “it wasn’t that bad.” Over the last few years, I have remembered and worked on in therapy that it was indeed, “that bad.” That there was a memory about how I got that broken collarbone that showed up on x-rays 7 or 8 years later. And yes. When you knock a three year old across a room hard enough to break her collarbone, because she tried to stop you from beating her brother it was indeed, that bad.
When you lock a four year old child in a hot car while you go into a store to shop, as a couple, because your four year old would be a distraction because you were buying something that cost a lot of money, it is that bad. It is that bad if her memory of it is trying to gasp in overheated air in a locked car, and sobbing uncontrollably from fear and discomfort. . And it is that bad if you scorn and scold her for “getting that worked up” at her sweat. snot and tears that betrayed her experience. It’s that bad when she remembers laying in her bedroom, and hearing her dad come into her room where the crib was. Where you and your visiting aunt had fruitlessly been trying to stop baby brother from crying. beat her 8 month old brother to make him stop crying. Even if you did pin his head down so he wouldn’t get whiplash, you still hit his diapered bottom with great force. Force that would shake that baby’s brain hard. And force that probably shook my own brain long before I formed a memory of it. I remember my Aunt Virgie’s helpless sobs, after you snarled at both of us to go back to sleep. It was that bad.
It was bad enough that I have a life-long mental disorder that only develops under long-term, extreme trauma. It is called Dissociative Identity Disorder. You have probably seen the movies. I watched the movies too, of how Sybil’s mother would torture her by making her hold her urine, while feeling the vibrations of a piano and shaming her if she couldn’t. I didn’t see my parents’ days long cross country car trips and refusal to stop at a rest room, as that bad. My brothers all learned to pee in a coke bottle. Or the family’s laughter at my discomfort when I would be forced to break down and pee on the side of the road. After all, they didn’t know I was being sexually molested, so nudity had become a trigger for me. So had the pebbly texture of the road, the same texture as the bench I was molested on. No one worried about the days of dehydration for me that was the norm, not just on those long trips, but throughout day to day life. . If we were away from home I would never take more than a few sips of water or beverage. Yeah, not that bad at all. Except for the pain and the shame.
But the result was the same. At some time in my childhood, repeated abuse by my father and neglect from my mother caused my personality to develop differently from every one else’s. Instead of all an infant’s various consciousness states eventually fusing into one conscious state, as yours probably did, mine remained separated. These altered conscious states, present to us inside our head as different people, and each one has different memories, and some have no memories of trauma at all. And that is the problem and benefit of DID.
I have an alter who is a certified genius, I have an alter with amazing people skills, I have one with exceptional proficiency at swearing. A truly remarkable talent. I have one who is a teacher, I have one who is a loving mom, and I have child alters, not just to amuse us, but for the hardest job of all, remembering the trauma and holding it safe from the alters who have to function as a person interacting with society. The trick is to call upon the right alter at the right time, and that is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. Because alters can be contrary bitches. They keep secrets, they sneak around and do stuff they aren’t supposed to do, but they also held down good jobs, and had a successful career and a happy marriage, So, at this point, I have to learn to trust them.
The first big thing I trust them about?
It WAS that bad.