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Do I Dissociate By Choice And Has Dissociation When I Was Little Shut Off My Feelings Forever?

Discussion in 'Flashbacks & Dissociation' started by monkeynutz, Oct 2, 2010.

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  1. monkeynutz

    monkeynutz New Member

    Hi all

    I have been reading through the threads on this subject and realised that dissociation is something I have done for my whole life due to various issues, prolonged CS Abuse, family alcoholism etc but I still, quite frequently have these "episodes" where I space out in exactly the same way that another user described like being in a tunnel.

    It can happen anywhere, whilst I am sat at home watching TV, driving (which is worrying) and in my therapy sessions to name a few. I think they have gotten more frequent because I recently started therapy and a lot of these memories are coming to the surface when I am least expecting it.

    I do understand why I dissociated when I was young, to stop the pain and to physically survive each experience of abuse but I didn't exactly know I was doing it then if that makes sense. Now I know what it was, I am wondering, did I do it by choice or did my brain do it automatically? Did I physically choose to shut off?

    I also worry that I am stuck with this "habit" of shutting off or mentally running away from any feelings that may arise because that is what it seems like I am doing. The second that I think or talk to my therapist about anything from my past I can feel myself almost stepping away from myself mentally. Is there any way I can actually begin to 'feel'?

    The problem I am getting at is that I am at a point in my life where I so want to heal and move on from all of the bad past, hence the therapy, and I think that this is a huge barrier because if I cant feel things how am I supposed to live my life to the full like I want to- I don't want to run on 'numb' any more.

    I am sorry if this doesn't make much sense, I am still learning to express things about myself but I would really appreciate any feedback about your experiences of dissociation and any pointers on how to control it if it is possible. I am just at the beginning of my therapy so she may be able to help too but I am not sure what her experience of PTSD is to be honest.

    Thank you

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  3. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    The choice to dissociate happens almost instantaneously. It was something you did as a child to simply survive, and it was so effective that it became a regular defense for you to manage difficult things. That is why it is so hard to fight it off now--it's become second nature.

    Reducing the dissociation is a process. Mindfulness is its opposite. The more you are able to simply be aware of what's going on inside you, the less often you will dissociate. It is not an easy thing to do and it will take many weeks and months of you learning to be present for that to become your new coping mechanism.
    Muse and The Albatross like this.
  4. monkeynutz

    monkeynutz New Member

    Thank you kers for your reply. It makes sense and it highlights how amazing our bodies and minds are really with what they are capable of to help us to survive the bad things that happen to us.

    I am sorry to respond with another question- how do we actually become aware of what is going on inside of us if we automatically dissociate as a learned response to thinking about the bad things? I am going to my therapy session on Monday and I am going to ask her too but it would be interesting to hear what people here say too. I am not at a stage yet where I can pull myself out of the haze back to reality.

    Thank you
  5. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    We are all trying to understand this better. It sounds like you are putting a lot of effort into trying to change and heal. I don't know how it's been for other people, but for a long time--we're talking months and YEARS, here--my therapist encouraged me to simply notice when I was dissociating. Once I knew when I was gone, I could notice the difference between being present/not being present. Then he started to work with me on strategies for staying present, like grounding exercises (naming things I see/hear/smell, etc., mindful breathing, etc.). I still dissociate a lot, but it is much less distressing and less profound.

    For me Shame was a huge thing that kept the dissociation going. I was ashamed that I did it and that kept me from attending to it and changing it. I'm not sure it's like that for others, though.
  6. Nora

    Nora Member

    Hi Monkey, I struggle with dissociation as well. One thing that has helped (but far from cured!) my episodes is to do some proper self-care. Dissociating is a coping mechanism. It serves a real purpose, to avoid feeling things that seem intolerable at first. But now that I've had some experiences that truly help with managing the feelings, the bad coping mechanisms seem far less appealing. I have found much greater and more genuine relief from acupuncture and restorative yoga, journaling, and talking intimately with a select few friends who understand what I'm going through. Maybe there's some activities that really makes you feel better too, that you can choose to do deliberately instead of 'finding yourself' doing them when you didn't really mean to. I've been trying to make more time for these self-care deliberate choices and while it has helped me function a lot this week, I still have agoraphobic, dissociation-filled times. It's hard to do away with bad habits, when there's nothing better to replace them with that addresses the underlying issue. My main goal right now is to work on feeling safe and not shut down completely in the face of fear.

    The Albatross and Junebug like this.
  7. Artista

    Artista Well-Known Member

    Good suggestion Nora.... to look to do more things that make you feel good, even if it's a slightly better feeling. Can be hard to when we get mired into this haze of dissociating. Feeling safe, and recognizing the good in anything is something you need to consciously do and eventually it will be second nature too. It has served you well, to dissociate. Now you seem to want to find more for you... enrichment to help you enjoy things and do more than survive but live. Some days survival is enough... I hope you have more moments of just living too. I have found a lot to appreciate over time... it's out there. ((hug)) wishing the best!
    Muse likes this.
  8. monkeynutz

    monkeynutz New Member

    Hi all

    Thank you all for replying, there is definitely some food for thought and some great suggestions. I was going to talk about this with my therapist today in my session but she cancelled due to being poorly so I will have to wait another whole week :crazy: to speak to her again.

    Artista, one sentence in your post stood out
    This is what I want! So badly. I know that I am just at the beginning of my therapy and my journey so to speak but I am very impatient about this. I feel that enough of my life has been taken away by others ( 13 years of CS Abuse and continuing abuse from an alcoholic mother) and I want to get control back of my life and start living it for me, not just getting through day to day, numbing or cutting off from the pain that my mind has obviously not felt ready to deal with yet. I must admit that I am quite resentful of the stolen years.

    So I suppose, I am thankful for the dissociation, for all it has helped me to survive, but I think I need to start to feel to be able to heal. It is a scary thought.

    Thank you

    Monkey :wall:
  9. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    Hi Monkeynutz!

    Nice to see someone else from the UK on here.

    I too have problems with dissociation ( not least spelling it), and thought I was doing so well keeping it in check, until yesterday when I lost it completely. My abuser was jailed last week, and I thought that would be me out of therapy and back to real life. I could not have been more wrong. It waited a week and then the symptoms all pounced on me at once when I had my guard down!

    I feel better today- although not 'normal'. But that is another step in the right direction. I find the whole concept of PTSD and CPTSD fascinating, although something I would rather not have to deal with! Today my Therapist suggested I look up 'Trauma- window of tolerance' on the net. Sure enough there was ample evidence of the symptoms I have been experiencing this week and the reasons why. As he said, it underlines the fact that I am not 'going mad', which is exactly how I felt yesterday.

    I hope your therapist gets better soon, so you can fire all the questions at her next week!!!

    Best Wishes

    Lucy x
  10. monkeynutz

    monkeynutz New Member

    Hi Lucy :hello:

    Thank you for replying.

    I also find it fascinating albeit terrifying though too but it makes me feel so good that I'm not on my own! Hey don't worry about not feeling "normal"- what is normal when we have ptsd?!:crazy: I have also worried about going mad but my therapist assured me early on that that was not the case which made me give a huge sigh of relief.

    I'm still dissociating a lot but my therapist doesn't seem to think its anything to panic about and she has promised me we will work through it so I suppose i'v got to try and trust her.

    Looking back its been a while since you replied on here, I hope you are feeling OK at the moment.

    Kind regards

    Monkey x
  11. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    Hi Monkeynutz!

    I'm good thanks. Had a reasonably peaceful week, except for a night in a hotel, alone with a power cut, but I've written about that in another post. I was worried that it would trigger another series of events, but once I got home I was able to put it into perspective. And I now keep a torch at my side!!! ( Actually downloaded the app for my phone so it is NEVER more than a few feet from me!)

    When I look back to last week when I was bad I find it quite frightening. I don't want to go back to feeling like that again, but keep being assured that it WILL happen. The thing is to have a plan to deal with it, and bring myself back asap. I guess it is getting better. Back in the spring it took weeks. Now it is just a matter of days. My therapist was able to see me dis-ing in front of him. So he quickly and effectively dragged me back. I remember little about that session except that he told me 10 or more times to take my medication ( an extra dose) there and then. It certainly helped and after a few days on an increased dose I have returned to my usual.

    My T. has asked in the past, when I dis. where do I go? and How do I get there? They are hard to answer. I think I go out the window but I don't know where to. However I am not always indoors, so if I am already out I have no idea.

    My T. has spent a lot of time talking about feelings. Such as ' what does your left leg feel at the moment?'. Ok so I can say it is numb, or cold or tense or whatever. Then, however, he says 'what colour does that feeling have?'. It makes me so frustrated that I want to hit him. I cannot comprehend the question and told him so. 'Don't worry about it' he says and then next time we go through the same senario. Since the last session I have told him on the phone that I JUST DON'T GET IT!! Do you have similar questions that you struggle with, repeatedly?

    Lucy x
    monkeynutz likes this.
  12. 221177

    221177 Active Member

    Thanks for posting Lucy - I'm going through similar, and struggling to find a balance between connecting with emotion, and getting in a head spiral about worrying that I can't, which often leaves me more out of body than before. For me I'm finding that the more I try and just rest, letting it come, the more I disassociate, so I effectively need to balance doing with being. I am chasing myself on this one, but it comes to chasing myself away, so I'm now trying to understand that with every moment that comes, that I can deal with that then, but for now, focus on what I doing things, that can in part absorb me, which means something physical.

    I so often get into a trap of rest rest rest, but then I feel I could sleep forever, which isn't helping me live my life, so I'm not putting undue pressure on myself, just having the intention to incorporate more balance in my life with food, physical exercise/doing things, and getting creative, and keeping a simple safe routine and then incorporating new things into it, so there are perpetual interesting things for me to engage in more fully.

    Have patience with yourself - mine has been getting worse since my therapy, but then I've been clinging onto it being fixed because I now know what's happening, but unfortunately it's not working like that for me..

    Big hugs to you, Elisa :) x
    Abstract likes this.
  13. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    Hi Elisa,
    Its good to hear from somebody else who really understands.

    I too sometimes feel I just need more sleep - even though I have had loads and slept soundly. I guess it is another way of escaping from the world!

    This difficulty in feeling/recognising / understanding emotions is just so hard. I cannot believe that I am an adult struggling with what, in a way , could be considered normal toddler behaviour. Is that not why they have temper tantrums - because of their frustrations at understanding and making sense of the world around them?

    If you don't mind me asking what country are you in? I am in the UK.

    Best Wishes,
    Lucy x
  14. Teddy

    Teddy Active Member

    Hi all,
    Thanks for all the posts. I am having a heap of this stuff happening to me and it frightens me so much. I don't 'feel' anything any more. I used to feel the world and now I couldn't care less. I am aware of the changes but can't seem to change them back. I have been in therapy for ages and it just doesn't seem to get me far.
    Can I ask, do any of you work full time? I run my own business and it is falling apart as I just don't care about it either. I am responsible for paying the family accounts and for the first time in my life I haven't and I don't seem to care enough to do anything about it. This is so unlike me. Usually so up with all the important things and now they are all going to the garbage. And again I couldn't care.
    I seem to disasociate all day every day. I feel rolling Anxiety attacks and can't explain why they are happening and for that matter, don't care.....
    I am on antidepresants but I don't think they are working. I have been told this one is to stop the anxiety and yet I have noticed no difference at all. Do you think that the pills might play a role in this stuff? Could changing my meds help lessen the 'episodes'?
    I live in Australia.
  15. Brontie

    Brontie Well-Known Member


    I agree that keeping things simple helps. I found the more we struggle against it the harder it is to deal with. I found going with the flow helpful. I think things tend to get worse during therapy because we are so aware of what's happening and yet at the same time being more aware means we can do what needs to be done to simplify our lives.


    Don't beat yourself up too much for the amount of sleep you have. Sleep can be very healing to the mind and the body. One of my first stays in hospital we were woken up early and had to go for breakfast, it was all such a struggle. One of my later hospital stays we were left to rest and it was so much more helpful. A nurse popped her head in and told me she was just checking that I was okay. What a difference that made.


    Fighting against it seems to make it worse. I found that relaxing and going with the flow helped alleviate some of the more distressing symptoms. It was all about finding out just what was going on and why and then taking really good care of myself and just go with it recognising that it was part of the healing process as in 'it has to get worse before it can get better'. Staying calm seems to help. The more upset we get with what is going on the worse the symptoms seem to be.

    I don't work anymore, I'm on disability. It must be so very difficult to run a business and deal with these health issues. I crashed and ended up in hospital and my doctor helped me fill in a form for disability. The pressure of work was too much.

    That's what I found with antidepressants, they take the 'urgency' out of paying bills and staying on top of things. I think trying a different one might help.
  16. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    I work full time.

    I can't say that it is easy, but I have always enjoyed my work and would be sad to give it up. It is in Health Care, and I am employed by the NHS but my immediate line Manager has no inkling of my CPTSD diagnosis or the health issues I struggle with. I am hoping to keep it this way.

    If it were not for my T. who is very accommodating and enables me to have appointments with him without having to find excuses at work, and my very supportive husband I would not be working.
  17. Abstract

    Abstract I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Hi Monkey,

    I think it can actually be useful as it can tell you when there is something very emotionally charged in that area. I find the less I ruminate or worry about what is happening then the more I can come out.
    Look up grounding excerces as they can be useful.
    Look for threee different colours and say them out load. Feel where your body connects to the chair/ground. Move and look around.

    Remember that dissociation is nothing to be ashamed of. It is merely a coping mechanism and you can learn to deal with it
    monkeynutz likes this.
  18. Muse

    Muse I'm a VIP

    I don't function very well on medication. I'd rather stay off them. But they can help some people. If therapy and meds started at the same time, it's hard to say which is at the heart of dredging this up for you. Just please don't quit anything cold turkey. You have to plan it and do it with support.
  19. 221177

    221177 Active Member

    Hi Lucy, I'm in the UK also - Surrey based.

    And yes sleep.. god sleep is divine... :) x
  20. Teddy

    Teddy Active Member

    How I would love to sleep. I would sleep all day if I didn't have to get up to work.
    My T has been trying to get me to go to hospital for years but as I support the family and the mortgage etc, I can't. The cost to the family is too great. The responsibility with that is half the problem some days. There is just no break.
    I would love to go some where that I didn't have to argue with teenagers to get the dishes done or the dirty washing put out to wash. Where I didn't have to work out how to cook a potato. (Do you know how stressed I get when I can't even remember how to cook a potato??) Talk about disconnect.
    I am coming off the meds slowly and yesterday was the first day I missed but took one tonight as the head spins are too much to go cold turkey. Just shows how much they do to you...
    Australia doesn't have much hospital support for PTSD so it is hard to find over here any way. Probably just as well.
    Today I feel too connected. Have had moments of feeling like I have to hang onto the feelings before they disappear but I am trying the mindfulness as talked about.
    Please keep up the suggestions. I can do with some help right now. I am starting to feel very desperate....
    Thanks everyone
  21. Muse

    Muse I'm a VIP

    Hi Teddy,

    You can't wean off the meds too slowly; plan to do it over two or three maybe four weeks. And even when you wean off so slowly, the time when you are completely off, the second or third day off all meds, is when the fever and dizziness can be the worst. And you may not feel like doing much for a day or so. So I'd plan it to be over a weekend so you can get some rest. Have the kids get pizza delivered, etc.

    But I felt pretty good after a few days off completely. Slowly went back to normal. Hope it works like that for you, too. Strongly suggest to keep going with any Therapy you can or even get a new one if the old one is not working.

    Also, if you feel too bad off of it all, think about just finding the right dose or changing meds. The only, only, only thing that did anything for me was the lowest dose possible of Floxetine/Prozac. This one is supposed to be activating, so usually used for anxiety, but hey, I didn't have anxiety on Prozac, so go figure. :p I am on nothing now since I hate the side effects of Prozac, but I'd try a short round on it again if need be. A low dose, I think 10 mg/day, is easy to just take when you need it and drop without any withdrawl as you want.

    This is just what worked for me, but obviously, I am not recommending it to you because I am not qualified, so just think about what options your doctor gives you and realize that there are many options other than all or nothing.

    Hope you find what works for you sooner rather than later. Let us know how we can help!
  22. Brontie

    Brontie Well-Known Member


    I struggled for a long time before I found things that worked and people that were helpful. I'm in UK so things are different here in that we don't pay for hospital stays. I know how expensive treatment can be outside the UK.

    I don't mean to make light of anyone's struggle, I can only post from my own experiences. And I understand that what seems to come quite easily to one person, and work for them, may not come so easily to another person.

    I've been on many health discussion boards and I do feel for people in other countries struggling just to pay for meds. And I do appreciate how lucky I am to have found the help I needed. I kept so much of the struggle to myself for a long time and that resulted in some serious delay in being diagnosed and treated.

    As for the rest and sleep thing… I know it's not an easy thing to do - step out of your life for a couple of weeks in order to have some much needed rest - but it was my saving grace. I had struggled my whole life from childhood to being married to a soldier and bringing up three children - just life. Right? - But with very little sleep and stress building constantly day by day, and Depression on top, something was getting ready to give.

    I was headed for the mental ward. I didn't realise it but thankfully someone did and I was left alone for around two weeks - even hubby was discouraged from visit for the first week. I hope you can find some way to have some me time away from family and stress. If nothing else, maybe a long walk somewhere nice - just to gather yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s self-awareness. When we take care of ourselves we can better take care of others.
  23. Teddy

    Teddy Active Member

    You know I think just coming on here and hearing that some one actually hears me and gives a damn enough to write something back is just as good a therapy as anything I have done in the last 17 years. I feel heard. I feel understood.

    I have asked twice to be taken off the drug I am on now and put back onto prozac. It has been the only one that seemed to help in the past. I am starting to think my GP gets a kick back from the tablet company for having me on these tablets. I am going to come off them, have told my therapist, and then if the GP won't change them I am going to go to a different doctor. I reckon after 17 years of being on pills and not being on pills, and being able to look after a family and run a business then surely I have enough sense to know if these pills are working or not???

    The time off is definately needed and it is becoming all the more clearer as I travel along.
    My husband has just started a new job this week so hopefully that will be a permanent thing soon and he can earn some much needed money to help with the bills.
    My work is starting to pick up too so hopefully that will mean some money to get the bills paid. (I am missing payments on the house for the first time in my life so it is getting very desperate around here.)
    i know money worries are a major cause of my stress and I have learnt not to panic just to keep moving in a forward calm manner and it will pass so I am doing that. Being able to 'disconnect' is very handy at times. Most days I don't give a crap and if we loose the house well then too bad, this time I am too sick to care....

    I love going for walks and was determined to get into that and then sprained my ankle very badly, I still am unable to walk on it for very long, so as you can see it is a bit messy but I will definately be trying your suggestions.

    Has any one got any clues about this....

    I have been waking in the middle of the night in desperation of chocolate and lollies. Have been doing this for months and will actually get up and go hunting for something in the middle of the night. Now that is totally mental. I have gained about 10 kilos over the past 4 to 6 months. There is a tv show here called 'the biggest looser'. It is all about these people trying to win the competition by loosing the most weight. I can certainly tell them where it is if they need it back. :)
    Do any of you do these binge eating things? If you do then how do you overcome them?? I have never been this way before. To give you an example I am eating up to 3 packets of chocolate coated biscuits or 1 kilo of chocolate a day. Now that has gotta be seen as serious binge eating. Well I feel it is and I was having cripiling panic attacks if I couldn't get to the chocolate / lollies.
    My kids and husband were going out late at night in their cars just to get chocolate for me.
    I am slowly trying to wean myself off but last night, I woke from a dead sleep, pumped full of sleeping pills, and was desperate enough to search the house and finally found the white cooking chocolate.
    I am down to not allowing any one to buy any of it and not to 'support my habit' by being kind and going out for it myself, but the anxiety attacks are physically and mentally extreme. I end up curled in a ball terrified and begging.
    I have never done this before and certainly never stooped to hiding it from people so I don't have to share. Yet over the last 6 months this is what is happening.
    I know my PTSD got extreme about 8 months ago so the timing was pretty connected. It started out with one bag of lollies and a few jokes and now it is shameful.

    Please give me some feedback if you have any. Could pills cause this stuff?? I am totally lost on this one.....
  24. Teddy

    Teddy Active Member

    thanks every one for caring. I must sound like a total idiot!:)
  25. AzureMind

    AzureMind Well-Known Member

    Hey MonkeyNutz! I'm right up there with you!! :)....Dissociation is a great defense, and it doesn't really matter whether you do it by free will or not....all I know is that if you are doing it, you started young, when there wasn't MUCH of a choice in the matter or you may have discovered the ability through experiencing stress that seem unmanageable, and you did it; it's a defense we all use from time to time, but some of us can do it at will.... I've been using it ALOT lately, and found out that I can do it at will if I want....

    I suppose it has alot (at least for me) to do with my perception of what is REAL and what ISN'T. I've learned/read that dissociation is a type of auto-hypnosis (self-hypnosis) that alters your perception.....I realized by favoring my own 'internal experience' i.e. my emotions/responses to a threatening/highly emotional situation (it triggers the fear response of 'fight or flight' and I flee and that fear keeps me in that "world of mine") I can dissociate, or trigger the ability when overwhelmed by 'external experience' i.e. reality....both are perfectly valid and real as far as I can tell, but 'my world' is more favorable, and safe to the 'external world'.

    I can stay in that state to a point where I can COMPLETELY log out of 'external reality' and join with my internal experience, and completely filter the experience and come back and not remember anything....I go away in my head so to speak.....I can even edit memories, and even things about myself that I don't want like personality traits.....the personality is only a psychological reflex, nothing more, nothing less, and I learned that anything can be edited, deleted, moved, anything....

    I can't explain it, only that I know that if I don't want it, I can get rid of it....It's worked for me, and reduced some anxiety, but also caused some havoc as well in my life such as my chronic dissociation, and often it's intrusive, preventing me from absorbing information.

    I do however know that with treatment, and the right therapist, this can stop if you wish to have it so....dissociation does cut of the emotions from the normal 'flow' of consciousness and therefore, aren't integrated into the ego....(the conscious self).
    monkeynutz likes this.
  26. Brontie

    Brontie Well-Known Member


    This thread is from Oct last year. I think you’ll get a better response if you repost creating a new thread.

    You don’t sound like an idiot at all. Just get it all out there. By doing so you are facing up to the things you want to change.
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