Trigger warning for discussions of dissociation, depersonalization, hallucination, society treating mental differences like shit, abuse and trauma, and reactions to trauma, etc.
I dissociate. Depersonalize. It’s sort of like when everything becomes so intense that everything I am, takes one step (or a few) back from my body. I begin to feel like I am not part of my body, and sometimes that my body is not really mine. Sometimes I lose some physical control, I have trouble walking, picking things up. Sometimes I hallucinate or get paranoid and afraid. Sometimes it is very scary. At times it has made me panic. The more time passes, the more I realize that the reason it gets so bad and so scary, is because I am taught I am not supposed to do this. This is a disorder. Don’t let this happen. You are sick. I developed fears at times- what if I lose control completely? What if I suddenly lose it, like in some psychological thriller (I shouldn’t watch these, but damn, they are so good)? What if I hurt myself, or a lover, or one of my animal companions? What if I snap? I began to have little movies play in my head of me snapping and hurting someone in a dissociative state. I was terrified of losing control.
In reality (whatever that is), is it that far fetched that for a super sensitive person, the brain might just need to check out from the body on occasion? Just to take a break?
When I first began noticing my dissociation episodes, I began researching. The DSM and other sources seem to think it is a disorder and it stems from trauma. Ok, maybe it stems from trauma- God knows I’ve been through a lot of it. But, a disorder? Why is it a disorder? What is the proper way to deal with trauma? I have not read that anywhere. No one can tell me how we are supposed to deal with trauma. All I ever see is the pathologizing of our reactions to abuse and trauma.
Is it not normal to panic as a result of abuse and abuse triggers? Is it not normal to wanna check out for a while when things get to be too much? Is it not normal to cry and scream and get very very angry? Is it not normal to be afraid after trauma? I would say those are pretty damned normal and healthy expressions of trauma. That is not to say they are not painful, that we do not need to work to become happier. But, it seems to me that the first step of working on ourselves should be acceptance, not pathologizing and ostracism. So, I began asking myself, how much of my panic and severe negative experiences with dissociation stem from a world that teaches me I am abnormal, sick, dysfunctional, and so on? How much of my fear stems from the fear of being unable to meet the impossible standards of “mental health”? How much of my fear of losing control stems from a world that teaches me I will? Could accepting the present of my mental changes be the first step to being comfortable with myself?
So I did an experiment. With the help of a suggestion from my mom, who told me not to fear it, not to fight it, I decided not to. I decided that when I felt the dissociation coming on, I would not react with “Oh god. It’s happening again. Oh no. I have to stop it from happening. I will lose control!” I decided I would react with, “This is familiar. I have always made it through ok. Why not try to enjoy this altered state of consciousness? Let’s just be careful riding the bike on the street.” I decided to be gentle with myself. Gentler than the world has been. I deserve it.
So far it has worked, though it did take practice at first. When I begin to dissociate now, it stays fairly minor. I have not lost control of my body physically at all since I started accepting it. Any hallucinations have stayed slight (a line seeming to move) and without the accompaniment of fear. I have actually often felt relaxed during or after dissociating. I have begun to accept it as a way that my brain deals with things when things get to be too much for me to consciously deal with. And today, I am ok with that. I’m here. It took some practice, but I am here. And sometimes there. And that’s ok. Maybe it’s even “normal.”