It came back. Every time I think it’s gone for good, it comes back. Nothing scares me more. Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable. Nothing makes me feel so out of control. Nothing makes me feel so alone. There’s nothing that I hate more than dissociation.
It’s been about a year since I had my last episode, and that was the last time I described the experience. I detailed the most common forms of dissociation. You can go HERE if you’d like a full explanation. For this post, I’m just giving a quick description of how it affected me the other night.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
Someone with a dissociative disorder escapes reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy. The person with a dissociative disorder experiences a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity.
Dissociation comes in many forms. The one I experience is derealization, which,
…involves an ongoing or episodic sense of detachment or being outside yourself — observing your actions, feelings, thoughts and self from a distance as though watching a movie. Other people and things around you may feel detached and foggy or dreamlike, and the world may seem unreal…Symptoms, which can be profoundly distressing, may last only a few moments or come and go over many years.
Many years? I can’t imagine the hell that would be. Thank God my experiences are only moments. At most a few hours. What happened to me last Friday probably only lasted 30 – 40 minutes, but it was terrifying.
It had been a stressful day. I was concerned about money, where we live, missing my daughter, and more. I spent most of my day at a Starbucks just a couple of blocks from my therapists office. Despite my emotional day, it was productive. I wrote new drafts from several scenes in my manuscript and was feeling positive about that.
My therapy session went well. We were able to talk through much of what I was dealing with. Not much resolved, but at least got a lot off my chest. The most thought producing subject was about Ecuador. He suggested I discuss with Maurice the possibility of me going on my own. Perhaps spending two or three months there to allow me to determine whether it would be a good place for Maurice and I to live. I liked that it would take me away from my normal days and I could finish my manuscript. Maurice and I had a brief discussion about it and, much to my surprise, he is open to it. Off the top of our heads it seems financially plausible. We just need to put pen to paper to ensure we can split our incomes and meet our financial obligations. My disability income is not much, so I’d have to really stretch my dollars and live more like the locals than the other “rich” gringos that are there. Through Facebook, I’ve already built a good base of people to show me the ropes.
What does any of this have to do with derealization? It’s my guess all the stress and stimulation I dealt with was too much. That was all in addition to driving over two hours to spend Mother’s Day weekend with Maurice’s parents. Within a few moments after we unloaded our stuff I walked down the hall to get my meds in the guestroom. I didn’t bother to turn on the hall light because I could see well enough. I felt normal and everything seemed normal until I reached the end of the hall and lifted my hand to turn on the lights. My finger was inches from the switch when it hit out of nowhere. My hand started shaking violently and it quickly spread through my entire body.
Derealization is always the same to me. I couldn’t hit the light switch because it wasn’t there. The guestroom wasn’t there. The walls, the furniture, the windows – none of it was there. There was no doubt in my mind that if I tried to touch any of it, my hand would go through it like going through Jello. I stood in the hallway in disbelief that it was happening again. That’s the ridiculous part. My mind knows I’ve been through this dozens of times and everything turned out okay. That logic is meaningless when it’s occurring. I stood in the hall trembling violently with a flood of tears pouring down my face.
I could hear Maurice and his parents talking at the other end of the house and I was able to keep it together enough to know they were really there, but I stood there paralyzed from fear. Maurice says I was gone so long that they assumed I was in the bathroom. I was petrified one of his parents would come down the hall and see me in that state. I yelled out, “Maurice can you help me!?!?” Without realizing he was covering for me, Maurice told his parents I must have spilled my pill case all over the floor. When he reached me, he knew immediately what was going on. He reached out and said, “Touch me, you know I’m here. I’ll always be here. Just touch me.” He then took my hands, wrapped them around him and said, ” See, I’ve got you. I’m here. Just hold on to me.” The waterworks got worse and we stood, for what seemed like hours, in the hallway holding each other. Finally he took my hands and walked backwards through the guestroom, gently pulling me along. When we got to the bed, he eased me onto the bed and I did not fall through. Despite my continued trembling and crying, I knew I was okay. We laid on the bed, holding each other, until I was able to pull myself together enough to go back to the den.
It was over.
I started to take some Xanax, but Maurice talked me out of it since we’d be going to bed soon. I only get five pills a month, so I have to use them sparingly.
That was it. What seemed like hours was not a very long time, but even a minute is too long. I’d like to believe it will never happen again, but I know that’s not true. I get no warning and it’s always out of my control. I just have to hope that Maurice will be around when it happens again. When he’s not, my fear is much greater and it lasts much longer. I’m grateful he was there the other night.