When I was a kid, I remember watching the movie Sybil. It scared the crap out of me. First of all it was shocking to see The Flying Nun – aka America’s Sweetheart, Sally Field – playing an extremely disturbed women with split personalities. But mostly, it was the abject terror I felt at the idea of losing track of time, of having another personality inside of me launch a hostile takeover of my brain.
Now that I’m older, I realize that the movie was a sensationalized portrayal of dissociative identity disorder. High marks for drama, a D- for realism. However, the experience of waking up to lost time, and the awful feelings of dread that accompany it, are very real phenomenons. I know because it’s happened to me. Not as a result of a mental disorder, but as a result of one too many drinks the night before.
I’ve done awful things while in a black-out. I’ve hurled horrible words at my husband that I don’t remember speaking. I’ve put myself in compromising situations with people I had just met. I’ve embarrassed myself in social settings.
I’ve also done benign things while in a black-out. I’ve watched TV shows that I don’t remember at all. I’ve washed my makeup off, got undressed and taken myself to bed. I’ve had perfectly normal conversations with people that I have no recollection of.
If you haven’t experienced a black-out (and good for you), I can best describe it as someone suddenly turning off the lights in a room. And your memory doesn’t dim slowly, it goes from color high-def to nothing as quickly as you can say Sure I’ll have one more shot of tequila! Poof. Gone.
How stupid am I that I willingly did this to my own brain?
My mom has Alzheimer’s. The disease is relentlessly robbing her of her memories. It breaks my heart. I’m witnessing the cruel, slow departure of someone I dearly love. Her body remains, yet her essence is wasting away and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Yet I have abused alcohol and ended up with hours upon hours of time lost as well. Like wisps of smoke that break-up and dissipate when you try to reach out and grasp them, they are gone forever. Different method, same result.
So now I choose to not drink, for this and many other reasons. No more blackouts. No more feelings of dread. No more jigsaw puzzle brain with pieces missing. I choose to experience every moment, both good and bad. Anna is finally all here. Sybil can go to Hell.