Yesterday was a big day for me and my son. He started middle school. I received a painful reminder that I’d be a better mother if I didn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder and the unique memory problems that go with it. I knew it’d be a stressful day for him. The first day of the school year is always a little nerve-racking. Ratcheting up the tension was the newness of middle school – lockers, changing classrooms, six teachers instead of one. I really wanted him to have a good first day. I made sure he had all of his school supplies and some new clothes. I took him to an orientation last week where he got his schedule, toured the school, and met his teachers. We talked about what to expect and how he felt. I dropped him off at 8am yesterday, satisfied that I’d done all I could to make his first day go smoothly.
I Forgot I’m Parenting with A Handicap Called Dissociative Identity Disorder
“How was it?” I asked as he got in the car after school. He didn’t look at me, but I could see he was trying not to cry. I shifted into empathetic mother mode and got ready to save the day. I took my cape off when he said, voice breaking:
I missed the first day of school. It was yesterday. My friends asked me where I was and I thought it was a prank. It wasn’t. Everybody knew what they were doing but me. It was embarrassing.
There’s plenty about Dissociative Identity Disorder that’s painful, but nothing hurts like failing my child. I know mistakes are part of parenting. And I know that you don’t have to have DID to take your kid to the first day of middle school on what is actually the second day. Normal parents with reasonably cohesive identities occasionally forget really important things. But I’m not a normal parent with a reasonably cohesive identity. And mine aren’t your garden variety memory problems. When things like this happen, I don’t smack my forehead and say, “Oh that’s right! I forgot!” Because I didn’t forget. I never knew. I didn’t know yesterday was the first day of school.
When I Say Memory Problems …
People with Dissociative Identity Disorder don’t forget in the same way the rest of the world forgets. My brain’s default setting is compartmentalization to a degree that most people don’t experience or understand. Information comes in, but I may never see it before it’s stored somewhere that’s inaccessible to me. Without outsourcing memory to tools like calendars and cell phone alerts, everything – including parenting – is a crapshoot. I rely on those and other tools to tell me what to do because so often I don’t know what to do. Still, they’re not foolproof. Evidence of that is on my desk in the form of my calendar, open to Wednesday, September 8. Written in large, bold letters are the words, “First day of school!”
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