Trying to understand dissociation

I honestly have no idea where to start with this blog post. This morning I was full of loads of ideas and phrases that summed up exactly how I was feeling. But now my brain just feels a little frazzled. I’m stressed, knackered, tired, exhausted, excited, overwhelmed, hating myself, hating everything, loving everything, scared of everything, full of energy and drained at the same time.

Initially I was diagnosed with PTSD – which I do still struggle with avoidance, flashbacks, nightmares and all that not-so-friendly stuff – but I also really struggle with depression, teamed up with anxiety, panic attacks and dissociation. My mind is both my best friend and my enemy. My mind is very good at trying to protect me, the thing is sometimes I don’t want it to protect me. I’m really not a fan of dissociation – I mean I’m really not a fan of depression, PTSD and anxiety, but dissociation is one that I really get embarrassed by, because I simply do not understand dissociation.

Speaking up and talking about things – even in therapy – can be really hard. I find it so much harder when my mind decides to go into ‘protection mode’ – when things are too difficult for me to talk about I simply ‘switch off’ (I have no idea how else to explain it). Sometimes I can dissociate completely and sometimes I know that I’m fully aware of my mind trying to ‘switch off’ but if I try and ground myself it becomes so much harder to deal with. I must say – I haven’t been officially diagnosed with dissociative disorder, or anything similar – so you may not be able to relate to what I’m saying, but I certainly become so incredibly detached from my mind, or from the situation that I am in. I can see out of my eyes, but nothing else seems to happen – I forget how to think? I think. Like, I’m thinking but I can’t think about what I want to think about. I cannot figure out how to say words – or at least I can’t get myself to say things because I’m trying so desperately to reconnect to myself. 

Source: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest

The term ‘dissociation’ has popped up several times, and I can relate, but I find dissociation a complex thing for me to understand. I don’t know why – there’s plenty of info. online, but I just feel that when I ‘dissociate’ it is fuelled by panic, the feeling of being overwhelmed or in too deep, and a desperate need to be anywhere but where I am, but at the same time I’m fighting every inch of my body and my being to get back to reality. It’s weird man – I don’t know how to explain it.

I always go to Mind when I need information, advice or I’m struggling to understand something. They have a lot of info. about dissociation on their website but I still find dissociation difficult to understand, because my experience feels so surreal. Mind are incredible – but I’d love for more people to speak up about dissociation or similar experiences of feeling ‘disconnected’. Because when someone explains dissociation to me it makes sense – but I feel disconnected from my mind and not my body, it’s weird. My whole body feels strange though – not tense – definitely panicky, and maybe anxious, but how can your whole body feel anxious? It’s like when you’re on a roller-coaster and you’re going really fast so you’re trying your hardest to stay in the chair, or to not feel like you’re falling… that’s what it feels like. But, at the same time a complete sense of being overwhelmed, takes over me, my body feels like it doesn’t ever want to move, but in my head I’m trying to run. At the same time I’m trying to make my mind come back into itself, I definitely stare at something and try to focus myself. I find myself begging my mind to start working again… but I don’t know if this is dissociation?!

I definitely have moments where I do things and haven’t realised I’ve done them, or I can’t recall things – but this isn’t too frequent, and it feels different to what I’ve tried to explain above.

Pinterest is of course the only think I can turn to right now to try and articulate what I’m feeling! Here’s how I feel:

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5 comments

  1. hey Ella 🙂 thanks for writing this post. I’m also trying to understand and work with dissociation in my therapy and life at the moment. In therapy for me it manifests as me being incredibly quiet and still, and I freeze and can’t look at the therapist. I have recently begun to connect it to a feeling of it being pointless to engage with or talk to anyone, it feels safer to be numb and still. My current T is finally one who is skilled in working with trauma and when I dissociate she asks me if I can look at her and she talks to me. Sometimes I want to come back to life (as I think of it) and when I do I make a big mental effort and breathe and press my feet into the ground. I had a T in the past who used to tell me to do those things but I always just felt repelled by the idea of breathing or doing what I was told!! The last time I dissociated in a session my T started telling me that it was safe, I couldn’t respond to her while I was ‘out’ but I clocked it and after I came back I told her its not safe! Other times I’ve dissociated and it can go very far for me, to the extent that I don’t feel I can move my body even if I want to. I don’t like it to go that far so I usually try and bring myself back now. It can be difficult but its something I’m working on now 🙂 take care, Em

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    • Hi Em, thanks for your comment – I really really relate to what you’ve said! Especially the wanting to come back to life – it’s strange I feel as if I suddenly do not know how to function – and I agree with the whole not wanting to do deep breathing techniques, I know they work – but I always feel silly/dramatic when I’m told to take deep breaths. It’s funny, it feels like such an incredible incredible fight just to simply bring my mind back around, and it’s both scary and incredibly frustrating! I feel the more sessions I have the more I dissociate, so I want to try and tackle the problem now! But I’m about to start EMDR (trauma therapy) and I don’t know how that works when dissociation likes to pop in!!

      Thank-you for your comment 🙂

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  2. Hey 🙂 I can really relate to what you’ve said and it is a very unpleasant sensation. When I dissociate I become disconnected from my feelings and I can’t concentrate, I have to get people to repeat things and mentally I am performing well below par and have this strong urge to escape. But the hardest part for me is afterwards when my feelings come back as I beat myself about it, e.g. why didn’t you do or say this or that (if its a meeting or something) or why can’t you enjoy yourself why are you so broken (if its a social event). Its strange because it doesn’t always happen but sometimes something just triggers it. What I think is happening is one’s attention is constantly being forced away from the unpleasant stimuli rather like if one’s eye are drawn to something but you keep looking away and its the forcing attention away that causes all the problems. I would guess its a very difficult skill for someone to learn so yay us hah. I don’t really know what the answer is but would guess mindfullness would help as it reconnects one’s thinking brain to one’s feeling brain and its those two that become disconnected during dissociation I believe. Anyway best wishes.

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    • I can totally relate, especially when you say you beat yourself up about things, I do that – even though I hate that I do that! I have no idea what triggers it for me, but I haven’t found a way to manage it yet! haha I can imagine it is a very difficult skill to learn 😉 so there are plus sides haha! I will try mindfulness, though in the past I’ve always found it hard to stay focused haha! All the best, and thank-you for your comment 🙂

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  3. […] I’m not a fan of this, I’m really not. I of course didn’t stand up and be all high and mighty (though, reflecting on the situation now I feel I had every right to point out that I’d come for medical advice, not to be left feeling as if I’d made some huge mistake or error). I understand that the GP may not be trained in that area (I’m not too sure how it works) but I’d anticipated that he’d at least listen to me. He was of course very useful anyway, but I must admit, I was left feeling a little embarrassed. I struggle to understand dissociation – I have times where my mind simply goes ‘blank’ or ‘stops working’ – of course it’s still working, but it’s not… it’s weird. I’ve blogged before about how confusing I find dissociation to be, in my blog post: Trying to understand dissociation. […]

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