Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. – Dr. Seuss
Memories. We all have them. Sometimes those memories are positive, and sometimes they are negative. For a survivor, memories can be triggering at times. And at other times, a single memory can all inclusive.
For instance, I have this memory of spending time with the family at Disney World. We would drive down, spend time in the parks, then drive home. At the time, we did not live too far away and this was possible.
The trip was filled with laughter, smiles, joking around, and having a great time together. We would be standing in line waiting for a ride and we would engage in conversations about things in the park, other peoples outfits (how cute or wonder where they were from). This memory included getting ice cream at the park, which for us was a rarity since we really didn’t have a lot of money growing up. This day though, we were able to stop at the ice cream store on Main Street and get our own cone! Getting our own was a huge deal. We didn’t have to share!
A great memory of time with my family. But the more I remember this day, I can hear the yelling from my mom. I see my dad sitting there in silence, not interfering on my behalf. As I got older I realized my dad was also a victim to my mom’s words. She yelled, manipulated, lied, belittled, put down, and was condescending in everything she said to not only me but to my dad. Years later I realized there were people outside of the family she did it to as well.
The memory was plagued with the packing of the car to make sure everything was packed her way. If it wasn’t, watch out and duck. I see the threats all day of not getting ice cream. Every time we stepped in a way that was not approved by my mom, she would make a threat. In public, she would never hit us or yell. She chose to manipulate or make snide remarks that were meant to put us down or let us know how stupid and retarded we were.
That day, I chose to get butter pecan ice cream. It has always been my favorite, even today. However, there are times when I will sit down with a bowl and flashback to that day. How she threatened me all day with not getting it. Or how she wouldn’t let me finish it because I was too fat already and didn’t need anymore. There are times where I will see my sister finish hers, my dad sits in silence as he finished his, and my mom throws the rest of mine in the trash.
I sat there trying to pretend no one around us heard my mom’s comments. I sat there trying to hold the tears back because crying would only make things worse for me. I tried to pretend people were not looking over at my family enjoying ice cream while I sat there with none, or that I didn’t see the looks of people siding with my mom and I was just a bad kid being punished. They didn’t know the story of what happened, just what they say.
The next thing I remember we were in the car heading home. (Now I know I dissociated and an Alter in my system took over for the rest of the day).
For years I could not eat butter pecan ice cream. Sometimes I would find myself crying into my bowl and not realize it. I was triggered. There are still times today where I don’t push the limits and instead pick a different flavor.
You see, the memory was of a great day with my family that ended in a trigger which has lasted a lifetime. Be careful how you treat people, those actions can lead to a lifetime of reactions.
I have learned the value of this moment. That moment was one where there were so many people around who could have helped. People who could have said something, anything. My dad could have said something, or done something. By staying silent and watching, he is just as much to blame. This was also a moment where an Alter came to my rescue to protect me. I don’t know all the moments where Alters have protected me. But I am grateful they were there. Some say DID is a curse. Sure, it does have its disadvantages, memory losses, feelings of inadequacy, and much more. But at this moment, I value the memory an Alter holds because, in a way, I had someone there to care and protect me. That is what I am learning to value most.
A. G. Ballard