Friday, 1 July 2011

One kind of dissociation: getting stuck

Last week you may remember me telling you that my clinical psychology session didn't go well, but I didn't go into it. I will write about it but first, here is something I wrote a few weeks ago after the previous psychology session. It will set the background for when I tell you about what happened last week...

"Last week I had a tough session at clinical psychology. I did talk about some of it (the discussion about the rope... cringe) on a blog post a day or two afterwards but I haven't reflected on the other parts that made it tough.

I was dissociating during the session again.This for me can involve a sort of shutting down of my ability to do anything. It tends to happen if I get overwhelmed which is always a possibility being in a psychology session. Just the silence is enough to send my insiders into a whirlwind.

It doesn't happen as much at home and I think that's because at home, I am not so likely to feel highly anxious and if something triggering was to happen, I would allow the process of dissociation just to happen for instance: by zoning out or falling asleep suddenly, or just curling up in a ball and shutting down. At home I might also find some way of dealing with the overwhelming emotions, such as hurting myself, which would prevent the emotions from becoming too much.

In a psychology session, none of these coping mechanisms I use at home can be allowed to happen. I am required to stay 'in the room'. I can't just shut down and I wouldn't want to either in front of someone else. It's not safe. Obviously, self harm isn't an option either. Another obvious thing though, is that freezing up and becoming glued to my chair isn't the safest option either. It's like part of me is trying to get me to shut down and another part wants me to get up and run away and both are pulling in opposite directions, so I end up 'stuck' in the middle unable to do anything.
I know that in the past it has been very specific things that have caused the dissociation to happen. Last week though, I felt it was separate from anything I was really aware of. It felt more like a physical process that began of its own accord and was not related directly to how I was feeling. I have no doubt however, that it was related to some other part of me that was feeling overwhelmed in some way by something frightening.
I can feel the fear in my body even if I don't know what it is that's causing it.
Apart from the obvious horribleness of the experience, it can also cause the session to run over time. I am then trying to pull myself together in order to just stand up and walk out to my car but failing to be able to do so. My head is telling my body to get up but my body isn't co-operating. I hear T telling me that we need to leave the building because it's closing (I always see her last thing in the day) but she is far away from me. Or I am far away from the person she is talking to. I am conscious of everything happening in my body and I can hear her, but I'm not in control of my body. I'm not connected enough to be able to move.

I don't know all that the part that is overwhelmed is thinking or what it is they are battling, but I do get a strong sense of fear. I feel it in my body. I sometimes feel other things in my body too at these times.
To add to the horribleness of the situation, I tend to get a really irrational fear that if I don't snap out of it T is going to get fed up (or more fed up) and leave me in the building by myself to get locked in. Sometimes she gets up to get her things together while I am in my frozen state and I feel a panic rising in me that I am going to be left like this on my own. Logically telling you this now, I know she wouldn't do that but in those times it's a different logic. There is someone inside at those times begging (unspoken) for her not to leave them alone there. I (or some part of me) also get scared that she is going to hurt me/them in these times. I fear she will get angry and start shouting at me or physically hurt me. A few times she has gone behind me to shut the window and that part has been waiting in that moment for something terrible to happen from behind the chair, but still... unable to get up and run away. It's a kind of chaos.
And that's just my experience of those times. It's one dimensional, I am just one part of the several people who attend the sessions and I'm sure others are thinking and feeling differently at that time. Sometimes I feel like the only measure I have of what is going on in someone else at those times is what I can feel in my body. It's in those times that I hear a doubting part voicing their confusion; because if I don't have DID, then why are these things happening to my body? Sometimes I can feel the emotions too. Fear, as I mentioned, is a big one.

Related posts:
Dissociating by falling asleep

From other blogs:
Dissociation, Freezing, and Falling Asleep
A recent post by Astridetal, which links in with this one. Astridetal talks about her experiences of this type of dissociation.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to this feeling of freezing a lot. In fact, I have a specific part who is able to do the talking and walking etc. when I'm frozen. She can't always get out though, so sometimes I still end up totally stuck. I thought it was part of autism, a reaction to overload, and this may be the case as well, but now that I read your post I realize it may also be a dissociative phenomenon. I also do get the intense fear, but for me it's intractable fear and panic rather than a specific fear.

Thank you very much for haivng written this post. It helps me understand myself more. I am sorry your session didn't go well. I can relate to that, too, and I'm also fearful my therapist will get fed up with me.

By the way, you briefly mentioned falling asleep when something overwhelmes you. Do you think this is a sort of dissociative mechanism? I have a lot of excessive sleeping, and have always wondered why it is.I was recently treated for anemia, but it coudl also be my meds, or stress, or liek you say some kind of coping mechanism.

JustEliza said...

Hi Candy,

I was going to write about this soon, but perhaps you might find it useful now:

There are theories that complex PTSD is on the same continuum as DID, and it might provide some insight into how your DID developed (or at the very least insight into the feelings you are experiencing).


rach3121 said...

I end up stuck and frozen in that state a lot in therapy. I am pretty much catatonic. No one has any chance of getting me to move, speak, respond.. it is horrible! My psychologist is great at working with it. Usually if I'm left to just sit for a while I'll settle enough so that I can come back and am able to leave. Other time my psych and her colleague have had to move me to a couch out the back... physically pulling, lifting etc to get me there cos my body won't do anything.
Thanks for sharing.

Candycan said...

Hi Astridetal, the falling asleep 'phenomenon' is something I have written about in another post:
Falling asleep suddenly could be caused by a number of conditions although if you are anaemic you may be more tired than usual because of the iron deficiency. However, it can also be a dissociation thing. For me it only happens in moments of extreme despair, where I feel completely overwhelmed by emotion. I don't usually feel sleepy at these times, it's more like I just pass out. I have read though that sleepyness/extreme tiredness can be a dissociative defence too.

Candycan said...

Eliza, that article is very interesting. I think the four Fs could be divided between some of my alters quite well. E.G the fight response fits very well with one person but not with someone else. Likewise the other three responses would be natural for other alters.

"it is also important to emphasize that recovery is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a gradual one marked by decreasing frequency, intensity and duration of flashbacks."

This is something useful to remember; I think in my head I still sometimes tend to imagine that one day I will just have an 'Ah ha!' moment and become suddenly cured.

Candycan said...

Rach, I'm sorry to hear you go through this in your therapy too. It's very tough. I will be writing more about what happened last week at the next session soon. Have you discovered anything apart from having the time to come round, that helps to get you back in the room?

Meronym said...

My first experiences of being DID were of going catatonic. It was nearly twenty years later before I realized these catatonic 'fits' were part of splitting and dissociating. I had to just scan your post without reading it; I'm being held back from reading thoroughly. But the catatonia is definitely familiar.