Fighting the fog of dissociation in a pandemic when the world is already surreal

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Justmehere

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Right now, much of life for many people around the world has been changed by the pandemic. I recently read an article about how a nurse getting through the Spanish flu wrote about her experience in a dissociative manner and described symptoms of dissociation.

For me, as the pandemic hit, I was getting through normal life crap, PTSD, and stressors in a survival state. Even as things changed, I was grounded, present, ready, adapting, fighting to hang on through each challenge. Life felt real. I could feel. I got through surgery on my leg, complications, a wide variety of life stressors, shut downs, work and life changes, pneumonia, possible covid 19 infection and battle, etc, etc...

Then last Friday, I had a good day.

For the first time in 6 months, I could stand without pain. For the the first time in two months I could take a deep breath without coughing fits. Pressures were off my schedule that day. I had a little more time to be and do something FUN. The sun was up at 5:30 am and I popped out of bed to do what I would normally do this time of year...go for an early swim... only to run smack into the reality that I couldn't. Because pandemic. All the pools and bodies of water around here are closed until no one knows when. Then I figured I would do this, then that, then this... but all were a no because of the pandemic. Quickly, the reality of the pandemic, outside of survival mode, hit me. Like a freight train. The rest of the day was an unwinding into a fog of depersonalization and derealization. Neither myself nor the world felt real anymore. I was foggy, floaty, and flat.

It's been a week of battling it. My doctor has tried to help me understand the pandemic has been a life threatening experience for me. Sure, maybe, but that part of this didn't flip me into dissociation. I can't swim and that's what sets of the week of battling the fog of dissociation?! UGH.

Thing is, so many people feel the world is surreal... and it is surreal! Things are at best, WEIRD, everywhere around me.

I went inside a market for the first time in months and it was arrows and masks and plexiglass barriers and... everywhere I go... everything is different. I expected it. We are setting it up at my own workplace. I have been through major changes before. I have live in other places where my ways of doing life changed.

But this... I can't find ground. I am struggling to find anything that feels normal. I want to feel again. I want to be present again. I want out of this fog.

Any suggestions?
 

Sideways

Moderator
Any suggestions?
Knowing just how important going for a swim is for you when you're out of sorts, it may be that some radical acceptance of "things are gonna stay tough for a while lomger" may be helpful? Not judging it - it's neither good nor bad, it just is. Life will feel abnormal for a while longer, and my number one coping strategy isn't available.

That said? I'm having a lot of trouble getting grounded. So I've lowered my standards.

I know that I'm not going to feel grounded outside my home right now. The world outside my door is a bit like an alien planet.

And the pressure is fairly constant, even when I'm at home, because there's an alien planet right outside my door.

So my expectations for getting grounded and 'feeling' stuff? I've brought right down. Short periods, at home, doing something (like cleaning, washing dishes, brushing the dog) that I know will ground me. And not expecting it to last long.

The point of that for me is maintaining the ability to ground, in a situation that my mind is clearly finding very overwhelming. So that I have some hope of returning to some kind of normal when that alien planet outside is replaced by some kind of normality.

Maybe not helpful? But FWIW, all of the news here would suggest that while things are super stressful here in Australia, the situation in the US has become unbearable and terrifying for a large portion of the population right across your country.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
No real suggestions, just saying, you're not alone.

My survival mode I was in initially is wearing off. My usual self-care mechanisms are unavailable. I don't know if I'm dissociated or depersonalized or what, but I've been in a "meh, whatever" state for a few weeks, now. I don't care about a lot of things I usually care about. Everything is strange and different on a personal level; I've been going on walks/hikes almost every day, if not every other day. I literally haven't been going on walks/hikes in years. I don't even like it. Usually. Normally.

Home is the same as before and yet not. I hardly go outside, but when I do (groceries), yes, everything is just surreal. And somehow not.

A lot is exactly the same as pre-pandemic. A lot is significantly different. This creates a lot of cognitive dissonance and doesn't really compute for me.

Alien planet sums it up about perfectly.

My T keeps reemphasizing to just really take it day by day. Accept that that there will be days that are harder than others. Which is totally ok. Day by day.

ETA:

@Justmehere You're religious, aren't you? Is your faith something that could help you with this?
 
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eSp

Policy Enforcement
The rest of the day was an unwinding into a fog of depersonalization and derealization. Neither myself nor the world felt real anymore. I was foggy, floaty, and flat.

Thing is, so many people feel the world is surreal... and it is surreal! Things are at best, WEIRD, everywhere around me.

I'm kinda new to wrapping my mind around what dissociation entails for others.
Though I've had not one, but two GFs professionally diagnosed with D.I.D. I dealt with their dissociation from the outside in.
Personally, in my formative years I experienced social anxiety and withdrew inward to the effect of mere introversion -- as contrasted with autism and Aspergers.
As I'm pondering this, it seems that I `dissociated' -- from a flaming extrovert's perspective -- inward, thus not in THEIR world. However, while `inside' I experienced my own thoughts without experientially-manifesting depersonalization or deRealization of any sort other than the Real-for-Extroverts notion in which their reindeer games and consensus reality pass for `reality'
It seems that the difference between dissociation as experienced by those experiencing depersonalization and/or derealization and my own disconnect from mainstream `reality' was that when I `went inside' I was typically experiencing my own thoughts, feelings and ideas independent of the mainstream ducks. As such I was building a culture of one.
This seems a major distinction; if one can't collect one's thoughts or even experience cohesive oneness in the form of an ongoing cohesive identity, personality, or such once can't build an internal world to compete with the the Consensus reality co-fabricated by those participating in Mother Culture.

Any suggestions?

Sure. Though I suppose I'd suggest options available to you in your context.
Where I live there is plenty of greenery and natural spacing between people, so -- unlike with closely packed cities -- one may carry on pretty much the same way as pre-Covid-19. We pretty much all carry face masks with us for use when we enter public buildings or find ourselves in a crowd, but when we're out walking around, riding bike, or walking a dog we count on the sterilizing sunlight and naturally ventilating breezes to keep us hopefully safe enough as we're dispelling cabin fever, getting psychical exercise, and receiving mood elevating affects.

If there are books on your reading list ... why not get to them?
If journalling would help, or scrap booking or creating your own stand-alone web pages to share with family and/or friends, then why not try it?
If you've got land which can be used to gardening, it might be soothing to plant a garden and get out and tend to it.

I suppose I'm weird in that I've noticed opportunities which wouldn't have manifested otherwise. One such is the presence of school kids out with their mothers during what used to be school days. A week and half ago I met two different pairs of mothers with kids at a local creek in a park. As I skip stones and well enough to attract attention, I get requests to show kids and moms how-to. The moms and kids get an ad hoc field trip and I get to play a role otherwise only happening on a weekend day.
The pro forma `educators' are home staying safe and kids and parents are free to discover sources of education, inspiration, and diversity within their communities.

So ... what kinds of opportunities have opened up since the conventional stuff has tapered off? Joseph Campbell used to suggest/recommend/advise, "Follow your bliss."
What floats your boat, warms the cockles of your heart, promotes you feeling alive and anchored both in the moment and in your own self-appreciative feelings?
Look for the kinds of things which promote happiness, contentment, self-appreciation, mindfulness of possibilities and/or opportunities.
Do you enjoy meditation, reflection, and such?
How about music appreciation?
Arts and crafts?
What kind of seasonal activities are possible in your locale?

Just brainstorming here. I hope I stirred up some ideas within your own mind which you can run with.

Cheers!
 

Friday

Moderator
Yeah... I hear yah. It’s been a can’t win for losing series of adventures round these parts for the last 5 years. Big Thing... survival mode... wraps up (yay! Back to life!) ...only to NOPE! :confused: f*ck f*ck f*ckity f*ck f*ck. I thought we were getting back to normal. Need a new normal. Okay! Have to come up with an entirely new way of... wha? Right... a new way of ...wha? Blink blink... right. A. New. Way. To. Manage...what? What was I doing, again?

Best piece of advice I can offer is to substitute, and sub hard. Because the things I “usually” do -read, don’t have to think about, because they work, and are established patterns I can rely on working- aren’t viable at the moment. But trying to come up with an entirely new way of managing my stress? Takes too long, before I get thumped by the symptoms of my stress not being managed. :wtf:

You’d THINK I’d be getting all versatile, and shit, after 5 years of everything going sideways. Mostly? I’m just coming to expect to lose several months as I reinvent the wheel. Rather than grieving and railing and fighting against reinventing the wheel.

Seriously, though, every little bit helps. Because trying to build a new routine? Is a stone cold bitch.
 
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Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Someone wise told me life doesn't have to be real, to be lived...

And heckuva good advice, that.

Don't focus on shit sideways, JMH.
That tends to flip people deeper into it.

Grab what makes sense - and you can do with, even when all else sense of real gone kaput.

Because ain't matter everything is off.
You still you.
Trust that strong as f*ck lady to pull this gig, as she has every darn time.

Edited: Some times, the things that click are small. A-ha, the same pants I had on yesterday. The bottle of coke where I left it. The meal overleft. Someone's texts. Trash one didn't yet take out. Comments in a pet thread & laughter of other days. Color of the walls. Meds one needs to take, day in day out, even if they feel strange, unfamiliar and new.

That a lot changed ain't mean all has...
And that all feels changed, doesn't make it so.

The world is real, you are real, will be alright, and back to some more sense making baseline.

It's just a wait drag, till then.
 
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Justmehere

Sponsor
Maybe not helpful? But FWIW, all of the news here would suggest that while things are super stressful here in Australia, the situation in the US has become unbearable and terrifying for a large portion of the population right across your country.
Yeah. Much has been turned upside down. Doesn't help much that my emotional support system is a mess and reaching out to me... of which I've had to step away a bit and be more boundaried to keep them from drowning me while I'm trying to get air myself.
Knowing just how important going for a swim is for you when you're out of sorts, it may be that some radical acceptance of "things are gonna stay tough for a while lomger" may be helpful? Not judging it - it's neither good nor bad, it just is. Life will feel abnormal for a while longer, and my number one coping strategy isn't available.
I've replaced my usual swimming goals with some walking ones around my area. I have a map and slowly ticking off streets, a couple a day. That's been fun. It's also a tiny bit of experiencing new areas in a super familiar city.

My physical therapist commented about how I've been asking to do PT (most of it on telehealth) with socks off on grass outside my place. I keep craving the actual ground.

I wish I could feel what I'm numbing away - it will come eventually. Hopefully not as a flood.
You're religious, aren't you? Is your faith something that could help you with this?
My faith? Yes. One part of the day I feel more ok is when I'm lost in audiobooks by CS Lewis, Phillip Yancey or others that wrestle with doubts, grief, and joy. I'm in two regular book groups, now on Zoom, one old... one new... and that helps. Feeling a little lost in some of the expressions of my faith that usually happen with others.

Big Thing... survival mode... wraps up (yay! Back to life!) ...only to NOPE! :confused: f*ck f*ck f*ckity f*ck f*ck. I thought we were getting back to normal. Need a new normal. Okay! Have to come up with an entirely new way of... wha? Right... a new way of ...wha? Blink blink... right. A. New. Way. To. Manage...what? What was I doing, again?
Yes. This. Exactly.

Routine has been helping. It's been wonky, but now that I can breathe, I can put in a routine. Mondays, get food. Tuesdays, pick up prescriptions... it's adding new rhythm into life.

I keep grasping for things that worked to keep me steady when things were uneasy and they are all gone. New connections, got to find new ones fast.

Doc called in low dose naltrexone at my request to try and push me out of the fog a little better. I had a slightly expired dose, and she said I could take it, safe enough, and sure enough, it's clearing the fog a bit. Whew. Some relief. I also now realize a shit ton of sadness? anxiety? something is behind all of this. Not about the pandemic but about other things, the pandemic is just a big blah on top of it all, making what was hard even harder. Gah. I hope they can get the refill of this med done soon - may take up to a week or two to get it compounded. Has some downsides. If I can pull myself out of this fog, or stay out of it, without this med, that would be fantastic.

@eSp - Good thoughts - for me, this fog takes something different than distraction. I have distractions and work to do in spades.

Rumor had it a local body of water was going to open. I nearly chased the news... only to read online that nope, still prohibited. But there is a river close enough I can go stick my feet in tomorrow morning. Frigid, but it might be a moment of feeling here. Now.

@Ronin, very well said.

Because ain't matter everything is off.
You still you.
Trust that strong as f*ck lady to pull this gig, as she has every darn time.

Edited: Some times, the things that click are small. A-ha, the same pants I had on yesterday. The bottle of coke where I left it. The meal overleft. Someone's texts. Trash one didn't yet take out. Comments in a pet thread & laughter of other days. Color of the walls. Meds one needs to take, day in day out, even if they feel strange, unfamiliar and new.
Yep. yep. yep.

Did the dishes like I do every morning. All looked strange, even though it was all the same old same old... and the dishes are still clean.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Your mentions on both literal and emotional sense swimming / drowning led me to a few thoughts (ok, one image-moves-scene thought, but) -

Sounds it might need both distance & supports solid?

I mean trying to hold someone up & help on sea, while not well off myself, might either need a few close up to keep afloat and alive and not injured worse together... OR keep far / safe out while support / airlift is on its way, but keeping myself okay first.

Also thinking the somehow more root / hard to shake dissociation may be your brain trying TO meet that need for distance, already, just overdoing it...

With reachable to supports the crisis mode might lessen, back out from f*ck. Air. Need...

To: uh. Water. f*ck. But I can do this, and I'm getting *Out.*

So: What conserves your energy when you have a long wait ahead of you?

Do *that*.
 
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