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Dissociation On and Off

Teddie

Learning
I am aware that I wanted to speak about my experience with dissociation a little while ago and I have been waiting for the right moment to speak about it.

It’s very frustrating because now that I want it around so I can try to observe it - it’s gone! My memory is patchy and I’m existing mostly day-by-day as per usual but the experiences I wanted to communicate have ran off again.

I think this is mostly because my mood and stress levels have improved since I handed my notice in at work. These specific symptoms do tend to be extremely unpredictable for me. I’ll go through periods where my dissociation is so disruptive that I have seizures and bizarre bodily dysfunctions (?) like catatonic states, feeling like and seeing myself like I’m walking a few meters behind myself, etc. then I’ll have periods like this where I am mostly fine. I still have a lot of memory issues and dissociate in my daily life but it’s not noticeable for me.

I want to share my experiences as they do cause me a lot of concern and I’d like to hear how other people relate in conjunction with their experiences.

I just don’t relate to my own symptoms for the past couple of weeks and I’m unable to express myself. It’s like there’s a barrier between those aspects of myself and the current moment.
 
It’s very frustrating because now that I want it around so I can try to observe it - it’s gone!
Dissociation is often a stress response - our brain checking out of reality temporarily because of the stress levels we’re dealing with. If you recently quit your job and dumped a boatload of stress in the process? It makes perfect sense that your dissociation symptoms have eased:)
feeling like and seeing myself like I’m walking a few meters behind myself
This part in particular is Depersonalisation. Can be a very freaky experience!
I still have a lot of memory issues and dissociate in my daily life but it’s not noticeable for me.
Definitely. Dissociation is a spectrum - from mild to severe. Everyone dissociates at the mild level of the spectrum. Examples are daydreaming, or the experience where you realise you’ve driven 10 minutes and can’t actually remember the trip. Those are perfectly normal, and even without a lot of stress, likely to be still going on for you.

It’s incredibly hard to pin down mild and even moderate dissociation. It’s a bit like trying to remember what you’ve forgotten! One of the key strategies to manage dissociation at all levels of the spectrum is to bring out the mindfulness strategies.

Mindfulness gets a lot of flack, but it essentially just means “awareness”, which is the cognitive opposite of dissociation (checking out). When folks ask “what does mindfulness feel like?”, my best example is going into a public toilet at a train station or something, and you suddenly get hit with the smells and the funky visuals and the only thing your brain is concentrating on in that moment is exactly where you and what you’re doing!! Often other thoughts then take over, but for at least a moment, most of us are pretty grounded in that first moment!

Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as noticing yourself inhaling and exhaling a few times.

Practicing mindfulness for a few moments throughout the day helps combat dissociation, because it refocuses your brain on something happening here and now, preferably something non-threatening.

One of my daily mindfulness practices (time I set aside to practice mindfulness and being grounded - I have DID, so it’s essential!) is handwashing the dishes. I find that exercise is something I’m able to let my mind get completely absorbed by.

That’s just me chatting, really, because I wasn’t sure what you were after with replies. If something there is helpful? Bonus!!!
 
Mindfulness is extremely useful and helped me through a lot of difficult times. It’s a shame that it receives such stigma - I suppose this is because a lot of people associate mindfulness with the whole “have a tea, take a bath” thing. The two are not synonymous, though!!

Having a more severe dissociative disorder, how does it feel when people toy with the idea like I am? Is it frustrating to hear? Did you feel the same way?

Do you often feel uncomfortable when someone speaks of dissociation to such levels and you sense it is disingenuous (this is poor wording - I apologise)
 
how does it feel when people toy with the idea like I am? Is it frustrating to hear? Did you feel the same way?
Not at all.

I personally never really toyed with the idea. I got several years into treatment and was basically told, “yeah, you have DID, and I’ve been treating you for DID for some time now…” That made me feel completely mad for a long time, but I’m over it now.

It’s just putting the right name to something I’d been living with for years, and giving me insight into how to treat it to make my life a whole lot more functional.

For others? It takes an average of 7 years in treatment to diagnose DID. It’s a complicated diagnosis, as is its cousin OSDD, which is almost universally coexisting with a lot of other significant psychological consequences of prolonged trauma. So I try and leave judgment at the door when other people are struggling to understand what’s going on with themselves. It’s not easy to unpick the tangled mess we find ourselves in.

Do you often feel uncomfortable when someone speaks of dissociation to such levels and you sense it is disingenuous
Only to the extent that if that’s their inner experience, then it’s a very difficult and complicated one to learn to live with.

There are some folks who grab the diagnosis with both hands and seem to use it as justification to be dysfunctional, rather than “oh, that’s what it is…now I can learn how to deal with it.” I feel sad for those people as much as anything. Because it doesn’t justify dysfunctional social behaviour if you have access to treatment.

It does upset me that BPD has become such a stigmatised disorder, even within the trauma crowd, that people who clearly have BPD would rather link themselves with DID than accept a more fitting diagnosis of BPD, and sadly, I think this is fuelled more by therapists than sufferers themselves. They can look almost identical, but need very different treatment, to the extent that the wrong treatment will often make the other disorder harder to live with.

It is my one diagnosis that I never share socially or professionally. Because it invites so much stigma. Not just disbelief, but also very real fear and (sadly) loathing.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about dissociative disorders, even (especially) among people who are neck-deep in trauma recovery. If someone is considering whether they have a dissociative disorder, even if they’re wrong, it doesn’t surprise me. And I’m hopeful that the very broad OSDD diagnosis will ultimately be replaced with far more specific dissociative disorders, as a reflection of our better understanding of the different ways dissociation plays out at a pathological level.

The more we learn about dissociation (and our knowledge is still extremely primitive and mostly still at the ‘concept’ stage of understanding), the more it’s clear that it’s very often part of the brain’s ordinary coping strategy to unordinary trauma.

The one thing I often do have to shrug off? Is the “I developed DID from adult trauma” crowd. Nope, you didn’t! It may look like it, act like it, feel like, and respond to similar treatment. But whatever is going on for that person, it’s something else.

Even then? It’s still something. And a very significant something most likely. And if DID has given them a way to manage it, then I may as well park that feeling of invalidation that crops up for me in those situations, because that’s definitely not their intention, and their suffering isn’t actually about me and mine at all.
 
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The one thing I often do have to shrug off? Is the “I developed DID from adult trauma” crowd. Nope, you didn’t! It may look like it, act like it, feel like, and respond to similar treatment. But whatever is going on for that person, it’s something else.
Please don’t feel you need to educate me if you don’t want to - is that because DID can only start from childhood or because an adults brain is sufficiently developed past the point where DID is possible, or are they the same thing and i’m confusing myself
 
that because DID can only start from childhood or because an adults brain is sufficiently developed
Yeah. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but essentially yes.

The child’s brain, till about 8 years old, is able to do certain fantastic somersaults that it loses the ability to do from 8 years onwards.

The child’s brain still tries to make sense of the world it’s living it, which it will continue to do for the rest of its life. It has some pretty funky things it can do (often entirely unrealistic) to understand the world and survive, because it needs to survive with whole lot less brain development that we have as an adult. Somersaults that the adult brain doesn’t do, because it’s developed other areas of the brain, like the one that recognises self as independent of others.

But at the same time, it’s building up core skills, and tossing out things it doesn’t need, at an exponential rate.

A primitive explanation is that the bits of the brain that decide to grow a DID way of defining self and relating to the external environment, pretty much wrap up at 8. The brain moves on to developing other centres, and is finally able to start distinguishing self from others to a degree that a child’s brain can’t. Once it’s able to do that, it’s not able to go back and restart the child-parts of brain development.

The processes involved are simultaneously about which parts of the brain develop when, but also what the brain decides to “throw away” in those very early years of development. It’s more about what the brain has “tossed out” and lost forever than it is about muscles the brain has grown which it can’t grow later on.

So, yes, parts of the brain are finished that stage of development by 8, and the brain gets on to developing more complex areas. But also, the brain is throwing out stuff, up to 8 years old, that it won’t later throw out. Up to that 8, the brain is creating neurotransmitters exponentially, in response to all the things it’s learning. But it’s also tossing out many of those new neuro-links, as it decides “that one isn’t going to be helpful”. By 8 years old, it isn’t paring those fundamentals back any more. It keeps what it has, so it can use that as foundation for more developed growth.

There’s no argument that dissociative disorders can develop from complex trauma experienced later in life. As a seperate matter, personality disorders can develop later in life. But the somersault required to sustain a DID way of coping with stress and conceptualising self takes a muscle that is either grown, or tossed out, during those first 8 years.
 
Not at all.

I personally never really toyed with the idea. I got several years into treatment and was basically told, “yeah, you have DID, and I’ve been treating you for DID for some time now…” That made me feel completely mad for a long time, but I’m over it now.

It’s just putting the right name to something I’d been living with for years, and giving me insight into how to treat it to make my life a whole lot more functional.

For others? It takes an average of 7 years in treatment to diagnose DID. It’s a complicated diagnosis, as is its cousin OSDD, which is almost universally coexisting with a lot of other significant psychological consequences of prolonged trauma. So I try and leave judgment at the door when other people are struggling to understand what’s going on with themselves. It’s not easy to unpick the tangled mess we find ourselves in.


Only to the extent that if that’s their inner experience, then it’s a very difficult and complicated one to learn to live with.

There are some folks who grab the diagnosis with both hands and seem to use it as justification to be dysfunctional, rather than “oh, that’s what it is…now I can learn how to deal with it.” I feel sad for those people as much as anything. Because it doesn’t justify dysfunctional social behaviour if you have access to treatment.

It does upset me that BPD has become such a stigmatised disorder, even within the trauma crowd, that people who clearly have BPD would rather link themselves with DID than accept a more fitting diagnosis of BPD, and sadly, I think this is fuelled more by therapists than sufferers themselves. They can look almost identical, but need very different treatment, to the extent that the wrong treatment will often make the other disorder harder to live with.

It is my one diagnosis that I never share socially or professionally. Because it invites so much stigma. Not just disbelief, but also very real fear and (sadly) loathing.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about dissociative disorders, even (especially) among people who are neck-deep in trauma recovery. If someone is considering whether they have a dissociative disorder, even if they’re wrong, it doesn’t surprise me. And I’m hopeful that the very broad OSDD diagnosis will ultimately be replaced with far more specific dissociative disorders, as a reflection of our better understanding of the different ways dissociation plays out at a pathological level.

The more we learn about dissociation (and our knowledge is still extremely primitive and mostly still at the ‘concept’ stage of understanding), the more it’s clear that it’s very often part of the brain’s ordinary coping strategy to unordinary trauma.

The one thing I often do have to shrug off? Is the “I developed DID from adult trauma” crowd. Nope, you didn’t! It may look like it, act like it, feel like, and respond to similar treatment. But whatever is going on for that person, it’s something else.

Even then? It’s still something. And a very significant something most likely. And if DID has given them a way to manage it, then I may as well park that feeling of invalidation that crops up for me in those situations, because that’s definitely not their intention, and their suffering isn’t actually about me and mine at all.
Thank you for sharing ❤️‍🩹❤️‍🩹❤️‍🩹
 
It’s very frustrating because now that I want it around so I can try to observe it - it’s gone!
the quickest way to get rid of a bum is to give them a job. i, too, experienced this frustration, but not for too awful long. there were no clear markers to say how long, but the dissociation did resume. when it did, i was locked and loaded to be able to observe some dandy aspects of the phenom. i don't care to argue my point in front of a licensing board, but i do believe that natural dissociation is a right handy coping tool. it gets me through boring seminars, etc., better than anything else i've tried. methinks, in its natural state, dissociation can also be called, "daydreaming." just believing. . . proof irrelevant.
 
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