I just finished the post on childhood abuse. And it lead me to think of dissociation. When I came back from college with my first mental breakdown, one of the things I was diagnosed with was a dissociative disorder. The therapist told my parents, behind my back, that I would never recover from it. They grieved and grieved and were in a very bad place for a long time after that. THANKFULLY the therapist was WRONG. After two years, I was able to feel alive again. More on that to come.
I’m going it do my best to describe dissociation as I experience it. I’ll work backwards, for now. So when I came back from college, so very many things were going on. I was barely alive. I should have been hospitalized but my parents are too scared of such things ruining the future (they didn’t know I was so suicidal). I couldn’t feel, physically. I had no sense of touch anymore. I could close my eyes and touch both a pile of feathers and a pile of sandpaper and not be able to tell them apart.
I was having experiences like hearing somebody talking but not understanding what they were saying and not recognizing the voice….and then realizing it was my OWN voice. I was talking but was so far apart from myself, I didn’t know I was talking and didn’t know what I was saying. I would see a hand reach for a doorknob in front of me and not recognize it as my own hand. At one point, in the midst of the most stressful point of college, the part that lead to the destruction of everything, my vision altered, too. The horizon became diagonal, although my head was straight.
I could go places and experience nothing from it. I wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I was looking down on myself from above — I wasn’t there at all.
At some point, I picked up a childhood dog puppet. Scared my parents TO DEATH. But I could “show” the world to the soft, friendly dog puppet I’d had forever. I could walk around the world and point things out to the dog puppet, and that is how I started to “see” things in the world again. My mom actually allowed me to take the dog puppet with me everywhere I went for like two years during this time. That’s huge for her. There are pictures of me at a music workshop in another state, me wearing the dog puppet and looking out at the ocean, and the dog puppet looking out at the ocean.
The first time I actually experienced reality again was in my childhood bedroom — I had my hand out my bedroom window and suddenly felt a breeze on my hand. That was the first feeling I’d had in two years. It marked the start of recovery from the dissociation. Up until then, we were all told and believed that it was going to be a permanent condition for me. (I made no commitments to life or to stay alive at that point.)
Since then, I was quite afraid of travel in general, for fear it would cause me to dissociate again. But NO, I have NOT gone through another phase like this. THANK GOD.
So when did I first learn to dissociate? Anyone who read my previous post already knows. Childhood ‘abuse’. There were more times than I can tell you for all the times I dissociated as a child. For example, when he pinned me down, held my eye open and touched my eyeball with the eraser of a pencil (yep, that started some OCD symptoms, too — like the fear of me stabbing my own eyes out with metal hangers, that I’ve previously mentioned). You can’t be present for that. Where do you think you go? That is dissociation. I would simply not be present when he would pin me down and do things to me. But not just for physical things — it’s also useful in events of verbal stress. Like if someone is yelling at me.
That’s how I deal with stressful verbal situations today. If you’re going to trap me in “conversation” in which I can’t respond and can’t escape physically, then I’ll mentally escape.
It comes in handy for other things, too, like when a kid throws up on your leg and you’re still 15 minutes away from your destination and can’t do anything about it until then… Just turn your head and go someplace else mentally.
I don’t feel like I’ve described this very well. I’ll probably go back through and add some links later.