Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Dissociating by falling asleep

I got booted out of uni for not being able to do the work properly after having my confidence completely destroyed by a couple of bullies in authority (like I didn't already have issues with authority, growing up with a cult leader for a father). I was dissociating like mad, zoning out and losing time when I should have been seeing patients on my clinical placements. Anyway, the course director sent me off to a counsellor and told me not to come back until I was better and had a letter to prove it.

It was good to talk to someone who was understanding of the difficulties I'd had but I felt I needed more than a kind listening ear. I needed answers. I needed to know what was wrong with me and why I was having the strange problems I was having: memory problems, concentration problems, strange episodes of being 'upset'...etc. And most of all I needed to know how to fix it so I could get back to uni and finish my degree. I had worked so hard for four years, I was sitting on a first class honours, I just needed to get through my placements. I didn't need to talk. I needed ANSWERS!

But I do remember my counsellor asking me about my periods of 'upset'. I am glad now that she did because I probably wouldn't remember this ever happening otherwise...

As a teenager; moreso in my late teens and into my early twenties, I would periodically become upset, usually as a result of my father being verbally abusive and shouting at me. I'd go to my room and cry and feel like I was trapped in a nightmare.

All the pain of everything would overwhelm me and I would sob my heart out until my head ached and my chest hurt. I was a good girl and tried my best to be a good daughter but my dad only ever saw me as wrong/evil/despicable. I felt his hatred for me and all I wanted was to be loved like a daughter should be loved by her dad. I wanted to escape from the nightmare of living with an angry, aggresive, scary and unloving man like my dad but there was no escape.

It would become too much. The sobs felt like they would break me in half. I would never be able to stop.

The university counsellor asked me what would happen at this point. How did I get over the 'upset'? I hadn't stopped to think about this before but I remember reflecting on this and telling her that usually it would get to a point where I felt I could die of the emotional pain and then all of a sudden I would fall asleep. I'd just conk out on my bed and wake up a few hours later feeling calm.

I guess I didn't really think about it much because it happened so quickly; it wasn't like I really had time register that it was odd.

Looking back on it now and having read a bit about symptoms of dissociative disorders, it seems clear to me that this was my body's way of taking over so I didn't have to deal with these unbearable emotions anymore.

It hadn't really even occured to me that this might be unusual at the time that I recounted it to my counsellor. I wonder if it occured to the counsellor at the time that it was odd? I wonder if she knew then that this was probably a way of dissociating? I wonder if she saw that I had more complicated problems than depression caused by bullying on placement? Did she see the shifts in me that my therapist now has told me she sees? Have I always been transparent to others when I've felt no one could possibly understand me if I couldn't understand myself?

I surprise myself here by feeling that I would be relieved to know that I have always been that transparent. It would be confirmation to me that the diagnosis fits. Yes, I still have days where I doubt that I have dissociative identity disorder, despite what goes on in my head. Sometimes I feel I will never truly believe it until I wake up in a different city having lost two weeks. But I know that is never likely to happen and even if it did, would the doubting part of me find some kind of explanation as to why that wasn't dissociative identity disorder too? It would probably go for the old 'I must have a physical brain problem' reasoning.

I find it fascinating though to think about how the mind can control the body in such a dramatic way without any conscious awareness of what's going on. Fascinating! And it certainly helped me out a lot. I am interested to know if anyone else has experienced this kind of dissociation and do you think it's something that everyone does, or just certain people, or is it a DID thing?

On reflection I've begun to remember this falling asleep technique working for me in many difficult situations over the years. Hopefully one day I will learn the skills to not need to rely on such an alternative method of coping. Perhaps one day emotions won't overwhelm me so much as to feel it's too much. But for now, dissociating by falling asleep gets a thumbs up from me!

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