I’m often asked what it feels like when I dissociate.
I will admit that although I have become better adept and realizing when a dissociation may happen, most still just happen and leave me no time at all to grab on to the present day before I am whisked away to another land where I recall nothing, feel nothing, and regain a memory of.
Dissociating feels like nothing to me. I’d compare it to daydreaming. One minute you are working, making supper or whatever and the next moment your mind is a million miles away and you absentmindedly continue on with whatever you were doing.
For me it is in the coming back where I find my biggest challenges.
Have you ever been in school, a meeting or out somewhere with friends and you drift off to other thoughts quite happily but then all of a sudden you are asked “What do you think?” and you have absolutely no clue at all what they were talking about?
That is how I feel coming back from a dissociation. Like I just got dropped off in to the middle of a conversation that I have no recollection of.
When I did not know what was happening to me (pre-diagnoses), this used to upset me a lot. I swayed between thoughts of having a brain tumour, early Alzheimers, or just being batsh*t crazy.
Since learning of my diagnoses, I don’t worry much any more and I am far more relaxed when I come back. MOST times.
My mind often drifts back to many years ago when I had the longest and most profound dissociation. I was in Grade 3 and that is a year and a teacher that I remember very well. I had been in and out of the hospital a lot that year and every single time that I was in for a week or so, the whole class would sign a big card for me. Even being that young, I recall how much it meant to me.
Somewhere along the journey of grade 3, I recall a day when we were supposed to have learned a certain set of times tables. Every few days we worked on a new set and were expected to practice them at night until we could just spit them out without even thinking. Well… my evenings were never available for homework. I was busy working so day after day I would arrive at school and not learned any more multiplication. At first the teacher was patient with me but by the time we hit the 7 times table and I came to school yet again unprepared, she lost her temper with me. She sent me to the principles office and he gave me the strap. I was then sent back to class and she was still extremely annoyed with me. That is the last thing I remember about grade 3, that teacher, that school or that day.
When I came back to the front again and the dissociation was over, I was horrified to realize that nothing was the same any longer.
The classroom was different, the teacher was a jolly looking, plump woman (the grade 3 teacher was stern looking and at an unhealthy low weight) and “Grade 4” was on the door to the room. As my foggy brain began to clear, I looked around and didn’t know a soul.
There must be some math God that really dislikes me because that day when I came back in to myself, we were doing a multiplication speed test and after not ever doing any, I had no answers. Thankfully this teacher was calm and I told her I wasn’t well. She let me off the hook that day.
So the bell rings and I realize it is 3:30 so it is time to go home. The trouble with that is that I’d been gone so long that I didn’t know where my house was. We’d moved again and nothing was familiar at all. Thankfully I saw my younger brother walking through the fence at the back of the playground and then this happy looking curly-haired blond said “Come on Heather! Aren’t you going to walk home with me?”
I go home and do not know the new house. I don’t know where the girls room was or where my evening clothes were kept. My mother got very angry at me for wasting time but I was really trying hard to figure it all out as fast as possible.
I soon fell back in to our usual routine and found everything that I needed but my fear of losing that much time again has stuck with me ever since. Thankfully that never happened again.
My longest dissociations pre-hospital were anywhere from an hour to a week with a very few 2-4 week stints but after learning of my diagnoses and learning how to get and stay grounded, I rarely miss more than a day. Very occasionally 2. Most of my dissociations now are from minutes to hours and not so hard to recover from but it’s still not easy at times. I miss a lot of conversations so I can agree to do something and have no idea I said I would do it. I can agree to meet someone somewhere and not show up because I don’t recall making those plans. I am VERY grateful to my (husbands) family and my friends because everyone who chose to stay in my life after my diagnoses is even more understanding of these issues now.
When no one (myself included) knew about my DID, I’d get in a lot of conversations where people were confused and they would remind me of when they told me something, where we were, what they said, what I said and nothing would ring a bell. I always feared that they felt I must have been ignoring them.
Now no one even blinks an eye. They just repeat themselves and they know that I must have been away in dissociation land. They are not all confused any longer.
I am no longer as confused either but face it, anyone with 24 or more personalities is bound to be a bit confused at all times right? 😉
I think the hardest thing to deal with these days are the rare occasions that one of my Helpers is really rude or reactive to someone. The other person has hurt feelings and the words did come out of my mouth but they were not my words and I have no recollection of them. Quite often people will take the argument personally and I’ve lost good relationships because of it. The really sad part is that I never know why. I really don’t recall what was said and it is very hard to be truly sorry when you have no recollection of the event. 😦
On a more positive note, quite often my Helpers have their own unique set of skills so having me around can be very useful at times to help out with things. As a group, my Helpers and I speak various languages, we have a very high IQ, there is a photographer, a saleswoman, the boys like working on cars, the little girls are a lot of fun with kids, grumpy Aggie and Charles are great repellents for sales calls during dinner or in a mall… I/Heather love to write and be creative plus I am very empathic partially due to getting cues from all my other parts quite strangely out of my conscious thought but my gut still feels it. You really get a full service friend if you have a friend with a DID. 😉
Have a great week everyone!