Thursday, 21 October 2010

Watching my life on TV

There are different ways a person can 'dissociate'. One way, which tends to happen to me if I'm under stress or haven't been sleeping well is that the whole world becomes unreal. I think the experts call it 'derealisation'. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, it usually happens to me suddenly and doesn't last long. Last week I was having a conversation with someone at a function I was attending for work. I didn't really know the person, just met a few times through various work events. They were asking me questions about work and I was answering but it was like I was not actually having the conversation. I was inside my own body, I could see out through my eyes, but someone else was answering the questions and talking to this lady. I wondered to myself, shouldn't I be taking more heed to what I am saying here, but I was aware that the person seemed to be responding to what I was saying without any concerns as to the content so the part of me that was actually talking must have been doing an OK job. It was like I was just watching a TV screen.

Today I was giving a talk to a large audience and the same thing happened. At one point I knew I was saying all the right things but I was detached from myself, looking out at the crowd. And my vision was blurry, almost tunnel like.

This used to happen to me a lot at school; I'd be sitting in class and suddenly everything would become unreal. I'd look around me but feel completely disconnected from everything, as if I was just floating in my own little bubble. I never understood that this was dissociation. I grew up in an environment that embraced weird unexplainable things so I just put it down to 'one of those things'.

Sometimes I mentally disappear, which is embarrasing because I may come back to reality and realise I've missed everything a person has said to me and then it seems like I'm rude if I ask them to repeat.

When I first started going to psychology, over two years ago I was with a different clinical psychologist to the one I am with now. I had been living my life in my own function mode, knowing things weren't normal but not really knowing why or in what way. Starting psychology forced me to think about things that I had spent my entire energies avoiding thinking about and I don't know if I was ready for the intensity of it. I began experiencing dissociation episodes in a more extreme way. I felt like life was permanently unreal. For months I seemed to be walking around in my own world, feeling so detached from everything and everyone. It made being able to function very difficult. I wasn't able to focus. I couldn't work and had to take several months off.

I would also 'zone out' for periods of time where my mind was somewhere else. This is another kind of dissociation. In the therapy sessions, if I was confronted with too much or if I began to feel overwhelmed, I would feel myself freeze up and everything would go all a blurr. I've read about people who, in some situations will mentally blank out and be in a different place. For me, I am usually still aware where I am, but phsyically frozen. I'd like to know if anyone else has experienced similar feelings?

After a few months I changed to a different cilinical psychologist (for no reason other than that the one I was attending left the post) and the new person had a less direct approach. They seemed to be able to read me well and not push me too far into thinking or talking about difficult things. I noticed a rapid decrease in the amount of times I was freezing/zoning out in the sessions and in my day to day life. I am still with the same person now and admire them for their patience with me.

Sometimes I push myself too much though, trying to figure out what is going on in my head, trying to identify who's who and what secrets they have; forcing myself to think about things I've avoided my entire life and pushing myself to try to remember the things I'm sure are there but not available to me. Does that make sense to anyone?

Then I find myself losing function rapidly. I get taken over by my personalities, fighting with each other to be in charge and then the anxious, unsure one who is desperate to figure out what is wrong, what went wrong and how to fix it comes out and I am tormented day and night with these questions. No sleep for me.

In my opinion, the function mode person is much better suited to living my life: they don't think or feel anything but are very capable of doing my work, interracting socially, sleeping without nightmares and being a good wife. They just have no emotion, positive or negative. And I guess, that's not really a life is it? But sometimes, no emotion is better than despair so it's a relief.

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