Part one: What it is and what it feels like
I am moved to write something about this topic because it has recently been integrated into my personal spectrum of life’s experiences.
What is it?
Dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.
Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma but may be preceded only by stress, psychoactive substances, or no identifiable trigger at all.
I have no intention to complain or ask for attention through some kind of sob story, so if that is your assumption while you are reading this then I’m sorry but you have misunderstood me.
It is however my intention to explore this life as it presents itself to me. Ever since I was a child I studied the world with awe and amazement and I thought of myself as an explorer, a scientist, an investigator. I have always been so filled with curiosity and questions, driving my parents crazy with questions too complicated to give a simple answer to. Now I’m somewhat older and I don’t bother my parents with all the questions I have anymore, rather I interrogate myself with maddening unanswerable questions. The worst of those has become:
“What is real?”
Must seem like a ridiculous question to most people, because well, why would you question the commonly accepted reality we can all empirically detect? You see, hear, feel, smell and taste what is “real”, don’t you? But the effect this question has on me when prompted is so severe that I would like to investigate what happens to me and structure it by documenting it in text. I share it because maybe people can relate or know how I can help myself better next time.
It starts with a normal day. I wake up and I feel okay. I am a little tired because I didn’t sleep so well, so I don’t feel like doing yoga today. I go out of the house and walk amongst other people. Already I feel disconnected. I feel disconnected from my thoughts, that seem to be absent and if they surface they seem distorted as if the radio has bad signal. I feel disconnected from the people around me as they are talking about subjects that seem so mindboggling irrelevant to “the real”. Then I get a little confused about my incentive to go out of the house. I was going to visit a friend. Why would I? What value does it have? Now I’m already on the train and then it happens. The question surfaces from my subconscious: what is real? The people around me seem to be acting out some kind of story. I seem to be acting according to some story that I do not identify with. I am experiencing this life through a body that I do not identify with. I am processing what I perceive of reality in a system (the brain) that feels as if it is not me nor mine. Then, I wonder, where am I? Where can I find what is real when I don’t even feel as if I am real.
Like an avalanche my thought process accelerates so rapidly that I cannot control it whatsoever. This results in a state of disconnected numbness and great detachment from space and time. I feel as if the energy that keeps my physical body together and connected to the earth is dissolving into the space around me and if I don’t concentrate very hard it will just evaporate and I will not be able to get it back. This detachment from my physical body and the space in which it sits seems to happen within the blink of an eye. The weird thing is that it is deeply frightening, to feel as if I’m disappearing, but I do not experience fear, I just vaguely know that this is something I really do not want. So, then I try to feel bodily sensations. I close my eyes and focus on my toes or I try to listen to my heartbeat. But it’s difficult when I’m in a public space and I can hardly tell what energy belongs to me and what energy belongs to my surroundings.
Investigating and learning
The other day I was babysitting two young girls, who I used to babysit back when I was still in high school. Their parents are really cool people. Both psychologists and vegetarians. They have always inspired me greatly. So, I was chatting with their mother about this and that and then we went into a deeper conversation in which I shared about this dissociation experiences I’ve been having. Since she’s really open-minded I felt comfortable opening up about it completely. Then she shared with me that she also had experienced dissociation in the past and how it felt for her, what had triggered it, how she learned to recognize it and what she did to reconnect. It was such an amazing conversation. Before it I had felt really confused about what was happening to me and kind of lost because I didn’t really know how to help myself or if I was going mad. Also, I felt uncomfortable sharing it with people because I felt as if I sounded crazy and I was afraid that people would think I had lost my mind. Sharing with her and connecting like we did was a big relief to me and I am very grateful to her.
I know that it happens to me because the psychoactive substances I took in Berlin had great triggered disconnection. I am now learning more and better ways to reconnect, on that topic I shall elaborate further in my next blog. Even though these dissociation events are really scary and unpleasant, I am interested to investigate the precede of my journey back to myself. I am interested to gain deeper understanding of what this means, the “self”, and also to feel my own being on deeper levels, connected to the earth, grounded in my physical body while receptive and open to the world around me. It becomes increasingly clear to me how important it is to protect your own energy, while being fluid and flexible in what you identify with. I’m at the beginning of a very long, probably a lifelong, journey to understanding life’s energies. And I am very excited to be.