I posted about dissociation last July, immediately after I had an occurrence. I can’t recall experiencing this dreadful disorder since then, up until last Wednesday. If you’ve experienced dissociation you know how disabling it can be. I was proud of myself for working my way through it much better than I ever had before – it was still frightening.
What is Dissociation?
On their website, the Mayo Clinic has a good description of dissociative disorder,
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.
Types of dissociative disorders
There are several forms of dissociative disorders. I’m going to give a brief definition of all three. These are all from the Mayo Clinic website:
Dissociative amnesia: This is the one you see on television all the time. In fiction, it’s usually caused by a bump in the head, The real story is that the main symptom of this disorder is memory loss that’s more severe than normal forgetfulness and that can’t be explained by a medical condition. You can’t recall information about yourself or events and people in your life, especially from a traumatic time.
Dissociative identity disorder: This is one that seems to be used in soap operas. It used to be called multiple personality disorder and is frequently confused with schizophrenia. The reality is it is characterized by “switching” to alternate identities. You may feel the presence of one or more other people talking or living inside your head, and you may feel as though you’re possessed by other identities. Each of these identities may have a unique name, personal history and characteristics, including obvious differences in voice, gender, mannerisms and even such physical qualities as the need for eyeglasses.
The One That Gets Me
Depersonalization-derealization disorder: This is the one I am too familiar with. Fortunately, less now than before. Its definition is,
…it 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 (depersonalization). Other people and things around you may feel detached and foggy or dreamlike, and the world may seem unreal (derealization). You may experience depersonalization, derealization or both. Symptoms, which can be profoundly distressing, may last only a few moments or come and go over many years.
I’m happy to say mine usually last a few minutes to an hour or so. I can’t imagine it going on for years. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll give it a try. I will be doing something mundane like walking across a room, brushing my teeth, or vacuuming and suddenly everything glazes over. I feel it all over my body that I’m not really there. I do everything I can not to touch anything. Walls, doors, etc. because I believe if I touch them that my hand will go right through them and will prove I’m separated from the world – validate its all just an illusion. They almost always occur when I’m standing or walking and I’m forced to just freeze. I stand still terrified to move. Sometimes, when I’ve been in the bedroom I’ve forced myself to fall into the bed so I no longer have to stand. Falling into the bed is risky business because what may happen if I fall through it. Once in bed I still don’t believe the things around me are real other than the bed. Even the bed is suspect although I am on it.
I’ve lucked out a few times and had Maurice home when this occurred. He will hold both my hands and repeatedly tell me to,“Feel me, I’m here. Feel the floor.” By holding his hand and realizing I wasn’t falling through the floor, I could get past the fear in just a few moments.
It Came Back
As I mentioned, this nasty disorder hit me last Wednesday. I walked into the kitchen and froze. As usual I stood there afraid to touch anything. Maurice was in the living room, but I didn’t call out to him. Instead, I decided to force myself to keep moving. I opened the refrigerator and pulled out two apples. It was an odder feeling than normal because I was touching things and carrying things, yet still felt I was in a cloud and it was not happening. I was hyperventilating as I carried them to the sink. Maurice heard me and asked if something was wrong. I told him I was disassociating, but was okay. Washing the apples was the most difficult part. It required me to feel the apples and run the water, yet oddly felt like an illusion. I was terrified as I held the apples. They shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have been touching the water. As I went to cut the apples, my breathing got heavier and tears were flowing down my cheeks. By the time Maurice walked up behind me, I was terrified. He put his arms around me while I took many deep breaths until the feeling mostly went away. As I sat in the living room eating my apples, I still felt uneasy and was shaking. It took longer than I would have liked, but it was a huge relief when it finally passed.
In the end I was proud of myself. I felt the fear yet did it anyway. It was nice having Maurice help me, but overall I did it on my own. I hope when it happens again that I will be able to keep my head together remember that day. It is one I will never forget.
For more about dissociative disorders, I highly recommend checking out The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation website. Their FAQ page is excellent.
Have you experienced a form of dissociation disorder? I’m interested in reading the details.