Dissociation when I was a kid was very helpful. The mechanism of dissociation enabled me to survive the otherwise unsurvivable. It enabled me to cope with the shocking constant horrors of abuse without my mind shattering. I have no doubt that without the mechanism of dissociation I would not have mentally or emotionally survived and would probably be in an institution today. Dissociation was an incredible coping mental mechanism for which I’m very thankful.
Now that I’m on my healing journey I’m discovering that dissociation is not always helpful, it can sometimes be incredibly disabling.
Last Thursday was a difficult day for me. I’d been stuck in bed for several days, emotionally unable to face the world. On Thursday I had to be up and out because I work voluntarily in a project in my town on Thursdays. I didn’t realise how bad I was emotionally. I know I wasn’t feeling like ‘me’ in any way shape or form but didn’t realise what the true situation was. I didn’t realise not only was I emotionally unable to find any motivation or strength to face the world. I was also in a dissociated state. Thinking back on those days it is clear that I was dissociated. I remember little of those days and cannot account for them at all.
I really don’t like those days when I wake up dissociated. They are disorientating days that feel crazily out of control. It’s a horrible scary feeling not knowing who I am and not recognising myself. I’m not talking like ‘me’. I’m not reacting like ‘me’. I’m not sure how I got there. I’m not sure how to get ‘me’ back. That’s how it feels.
So I woke up on Thursday morning feeling absolutely dreadful. I forced myself out of bed, through the shower and out the door to catch my bus to town. I don’t really recall the first half of the day all that much. I know I forced myself to go through the motions and do what I was committed to do.
I remember walking in, my colleague looking at me then looking at me a 2nd time then asking me if I was ok. I remember hearing myself say “no”. I remember being asked what kind of week I had. I remember saying “horrible”.
It was only at lunchtime when I took a short walk outside that things changed. My mind had been occupied multi-tasking for a couple of hours and I took a break in the sunshine. As I walked through the town centre I remember taking a deep breath and suddenly feeling this peace inside which is always absent when I’m badly dissociated. I remember taking that deep breath and saying “phew, I’m me again, thank goodness for that, what the heck was all that about?” And I was ‘me’ for the remainder of the day. Once I was back to me I was relaxed. Up until then I’d been very tense, full of angst and fear. I felt terrified. I didn’t want to have to communicate with anyone or have anyone communicate with me. I would have been far more comfortable curled up alone in the far corner of a dark room than being around and about feeling so awful.
In terms of the mechanism of waking up dissociated I don’t understand that. I wonder if I was in a dream or memory in my sleep and when my alarm clock jolted me awake I was stuck in that place. But I really don’t know. I’m familiar with dissociating in reaction to events and people around me but waking up dissociated really disorientates me. It happens maybe 6-10 times a month. But most times it doesn’t matter and no-one knows about it because I’m at home. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me because it does. It’s really odd looking in the mirror and not recognising myself. It’s also really odd hearing myself think or speak and not recognising myself. Knowing it’s not ‘me’ but not really knowing who it is, where ‘me’ went to, or how to get ‘me’ back. It’s disorientating and frightening. It’s a very strange feeling and very hard to explain. It also feels so out of control. I hate that out of control feeling. It’s really horrible. Sometimes I feel really small. Sometimes I ask and get a name and age. It’s not much fun not knowing who you are, how old you are or where you are. It’s really scary actually!
It’s only on those days when I have to be associating and communicating with people that it gives me problems, like it did last Thursday.