innerlight

authenticating my symptoms — dissociation & its ingredients

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A few days ago I posted on what mania is to me in “authenticating my symptoms — manic manifests as confusion“.

'exhaustion' by Rafi Talby

‘exhaustion’ by Rafi Talby

Today, i have been escaping my feelings all day, and gradually working myself into a dissociative (rated 3/3) and suicidal (1/3) state — the other side of the borderline coin.

The two grains of sand that have gotten me to a diary card score of 96/100 are:

  1. underestimated exhaustion from an afternoon of (extremely positive) social contact with a bunch of new friends yesterday evening. I keep thinking I am normal again and can handle these things like a ‘normal’ person, ie. be fine the next day. I need to remember how easily and extremely exhausted I get, even from positive stimuli; and how easily thrown off my sense of routine I am from doing anything spontaneously.
  2. invalidation / external reality changes: My doctor’s appointment this morning, which I had forgotten about (because of the spontaneous socializing yesterday) until I woke up a half hour before I was supposed to be there and had to skip prayer, meditation, breakfast and coffee in order to make it on time. The real “grain of sand” in the doctor’s appointment however was not the chaotic manner in which I arrived, but the conversation I had with her about my mental health treatment. Although it seemed like no big deal in the moment, it turns out that it was a huge deal to learn what i did. Someone I thought was helping me in a reality of validation in recovery I thought I had accomplished is actually not really there at all (I will write a separate post in this). What it took me the entire day to understand is that this news was a sudden loss of identity and validation.

So, how does exhaustion + sudden loss of validation affect me? If i am unable to acknowledge what i am feeling, the result is dissociation. I’ve linked the word for you, so you can look up what the DSM says about it; but for me, this is what dissociation feels like:

unknown artist / source

  1. Suddenly, it feels like nobody sees me. I disappear. I long desperately and dangerously to be held, enveloped by another’s love for me. I am extremely needy. I cannot remember that I am loved and connected to people.
  2. Loss of all structure — nothing makes sense, nothing has purpose, nothing feels secure.
  3. I become lost in a sea of chaos that swallows me; I have no sense of where I am, who I am or what I am doing here in life. I have no place in the world.
  4. All motivation leaves me. All I want to do is escape and distract myself.
  5. Compulsive escape & isolation — I escape these feelings with compulsive and meaningless activity such as looking for images on Google for hours on end, and cease all self-care such as eating. Anything that takes me away from this type of activity in this state is almost unbearably annoying.
  6. No sense of time: I forget about everything on my to-do list and feel like I have all the time in the world. Life is a great abyss of the unknown, and passing the time with distraction and escape becomes my survival method.
  7. Panic and despair leading to suicidality. I slowly become more and more aware of what is going on, and it feels increasingly unbearably and hopeless.

I need to note that when I use the word suddenly, I do mean that with one interaction, one statement, in a very short moment, my entire sense of reality can change; however, and contrary to traditional descriptions of dissociation, it is not nearly as dramatic for me as it may sound. Actually, in the moment, it is not even evident to others OR MYSELF.

'The Mask' by EgoAniAnqueetus (altered by HJ)

‘The Mask’ by EgoAniAnqueetus (altered by HJ)

This is an aspect of my experience that astounds me. That I can be having a traumatic experience and no one, including me, can have a clue that this is happening. It comes out in the 24 hours afterwards — a “delayed” reaction, you could say. First, there is compulsive escape and loss of motivation and no sense of time; then I begin to feel panic, hopelessness and despair which leads to suicidality. At this point, I realize something is going on (!) and I need to employ a tool, such as calling a friend, or journaling, or 12-step work. These things allow me to get in touch with my feelings, which de-escalates the whole situation. It is almost inevitably a big whopping Homer Simpson “Dope!” experience, in the sense that it has taken me all these hours to simply be conscious of a (usually healthy) emotional response to a situation (which, if it causes me to dissociate, is usually a re-lived experience of trauma).

In this case, it took me about 12 hours to get in touch with feelings of abandonment, anger and outcry towards the mental health care system in my part of the world, which I will be writing about subsequently (you can now read about this experience in my post ‘government-funded mental health care for BPD in bc, canada‘)

So, dear readers, what is dissociation to you? Any other Quiet Borderlines out there relate to an extreme internal experience that is completely invisible to others and yourself?

With great love,

HJ

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Author: innerlight

A capricorn horse. Creative dreamer, over thinker. bpd, insecure attachment and any other labels for deep and chronic wounds and other gifts of brilliance that propel intense and eclectic lives and make for good art. We are high needs and high return, all the way, all the way. Surrender, integration, repair, rebuild, connect, create, evolve. Deeply.

6 thoughts on “authenticating my symptoms — dissociation & its ingredients

  1. I wrote about how dissociation feels for me recently here – http://showard76.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/paranoia-delusions-and-dissociation-in-borderline-personality-disorder/ cutting off and being on ‘automatic robot’ seem to be some of the key elements of dissociation for me.

  2. Two wonderful blogs here in these responses so far. This was such a huge break-through for me. Dissociation is just not nearly as dramatic as I thought it was — i couldn’t recognize myself in it. I am excited today about all the connections I am slowly gathering of courageous and articulate people such as yourselves. Oh, the places we could go. Love, HJ

  3. Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  4. Hello Underground
    Really enjoyed your blog on Authenticating my symptoms.
    Many thanks, and keep up the work of staying public as long as it doesn’t cause you further harm. As a clinician I see that it helps people, many of whom may never respond to you.
    Julian

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