Increase in dissociative episodes between EMDR sessions

Renly

MyPTSD Pro
Mostly, I experience emotional numbness - I am still a bit unclear on whether this is a form of dissociation - but this weekend I had 2 dissociative episodes (derealization) lasting about an hour each. Both episodes started after I was having a minor panic attack (both panic attacks I could not identify the reason for - they just sprung up on me). During the episodes, everything was so strange, time slowed down, I couldn't feel my body - I almost felt like I was high on drugs (although no drugs). I kept thinking to myself that maybe I am dead or I maybe I had entered into "the twilight zone." I was initially a little panicked when the episodes started, but then once I settled into them, I kind of enjoyed the experience. It was weird. One of the episodes simply faded away, but the other one, as time went on, I ended up feeling very dysregulated and began doing breathing exercises - then I had to tell my SO to pull the car over and I threw up on the side of the road (I am not sick)...after that everything went back to normal.

I had some pretty significant dissociation during my trauma (mostly depersonalization) which I was mostly unaware of until I started revisiting my trauma in therapy. These derealization episodes made me realize that its not the first time this has happened to me, although because I have memory issues surrounding my trauma its hard to put my finger on past episodes - it is more of a feeling or an awareness that I've been there before, just lacking specifics.

My question is: has EMDR (or therapy in general) increased dissociative episodes for others between sessions? Especially for those who do not dissociate regularly? I do not generally experience dissociation (unless you count the emotional numbness) so this is new to me. I feel like maybe my brain is opening up to me the reality of the traumas I've been hiding from myself and I am becoming more easily triggered? Anyone have any thoughts on my experience? What is it like for you??
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
EMDR was not an established therapy when i went through this phase of my recovery, but an increase in dissociative episodes and most of my other symptoms was part of that early therapy. there was/is considerable debate whether my personal awareness was growing or the symptoms were actually increasing in frequency and intensity. decades later, i'm still not sure, but i am sure the gain was worth the pain. i'm still loonier than a toon, but i am grateful that healing happened. these days i'm more often called, "eccentric" than "just plain crazy."

"emotional numbness" is a good description of the early phases of my dissociative episodes. allowed to escalate, that emotional numbness can take over my physical senses, as well. coming back from dissociative catatonia is an experience i hope i'll never have again. i don't recommend it.
 

Renly

MyPTSD Pro
EMDR was not an established therapy when i went through this phase of my recovery, but an increase in dissociative episodes and most of my other symptoms was part of that early therapy.
I’ve 100% seen an increase in all of my symptoms since beginning therapy, so that is helpful info here!! The “it gets worse before it gets better” is definitely my experience.

there was/is considerable debate whether my personal awareness was growing or the symptoms were actually increasing in frequency and intensity. decades later, i'm still not sure, but i am sure the gain was worth the pain.
I am also wondering this point…especially with my emotional numbness. I often cannot tell if I’m feeling “okay” or if in fact I am just numb - it’s been part of my therapy working on “noticing” to try and figure it out and I am getting better at making the determination. I suppose this may also relate to dissociative episodes, although these derealization episodes were so strange it seems odd to me that I could have just missed them happening (minus when they happened during trauma since that seems pretty straight forward).

Thank you for your insights!
 

MnM

Confident
What @arfie said.

Also.... "voiding", I've learned, is a common process for moving through PTSD (et al). I started puking before work every morning a couple weeks ago. Discussed with psych - is this ptsd? Is it meds? Is it work-related? Stress? Why so nauseous? Then work fired me and the puking stopped instantly. Et voila, c'est ca.

It makes sense that as you work through your trauma, your body will respond by 'rejecting' negative emotions, experiences, connotations, connections, ties, strings, etc. I experience this as a magnetic force field, nausea, puking, feeling like I have to pee every 3 seconds, spitting, bile, my throat closing so as to prevent me from speaking, heart constrictions or palpitations etc. Try to notice when your voiding happens AND when it doesn't happen. Time of the day? After a certain episode? Exposure? Experience?

I did a time chart of what I experience and when throughout the day - it's in my "Trauma Diary" if you wanna take a look, it's totally changed how I schedule my day now and what I can expect of my mind and body throughout the day. Spent today testing the shit out of it and taking extensive notes and my mind is blown. So now even if I want to and feel like I have the energy to finally go food shopping (first time in 2-3 weeks?), it's 4pm and my time chart says don't you fking even try. 4pm is a weird flare in the afternoon for panic around shopping and driving so I will wait for 5-6pm when I am less inclined to dissociate (something consistent for me in grocery stores omg it's just....). Like right now I am feeling panicky that I don't have time, I'm running out of time. To grocery shop. Which I literally have allthefkingtimeintheworldfor. I probably will dissociate, but at least I know chances are less 5-6pm than they are 4-5pm. If it doesn't work, next time I'll go at 6am, which is the best time of the day for that for me.

My therapist said that she sometimes, case-dependent, encourages clients to train themselves to dissociate for certain situations (like talking about crazy horrible or while having a horrid flashback). Like this morning I dissociated while collapsed on the ground in the middle of my walk because I thought about the thought of someone touching me. I don't remember it, but I know it happened. Nobody cares I don't remember it. Literally no one. It's not *bad* that I don't remember it. I am just conscious of not allowing the dissociation to take over and become more prevalent, or to allow me get lazy in putting this fking bitch of a beast to bed. Unless my brain decides that's safer? In which case, Brain is ProtectiveAF soooo.... it'll do it till you have the coping mechanisms in place to feel safe walking down memory lane without dissociating. Grow your coping mechanisms as much as possible and you'll see it go down. But maybe keep it for when you need it?

It used to scare the living shit out of me, made me terrified my personality was splitting. I'm still concerned. But at least I'm concerned. And not terrified. This means Brain still wants Me to come back, Me to live Life, Me to Heal. I have accepted Brain's wisdom and decision making (partly via tracking all this shit, cuz I see it is trying to protect me, totally without my knowledge or permission. Now that I've tracked it, I can see it. I can plan around it. I know when not to drive, or risk black and blue arms from unconsciously pinching myself so hard to stay safe driving. I know when to not shop to avoid screaming children and rushy crowds.

The more you can consciously teach yourself about your unconscious workings, the easier it will make this for you. I'm trying to track all this - therapist said there aren't books on this, which is pretty fking dismal.

Track when you dissociate, and for how long. Track when you don't. Watch to see if it goes down over time, or if it increases, or if the time periods move around. Mine have. I am happy to see any movement, in any direction. It means I'm not stuck. I will avoid getting stuck at any cost. I will bring out any tool, including self-harm, to get unstuck. Maybe not the best practice, but I rarely use it (not eating, pulling body hair, unconsciously-on-purpose cutting myself or burning myself while cooking cuz food is a trigger), and it's never on purpose, but it does have a shock effect and moves things around. I will never do it consciously - I hope. :/

Oh - and I just noticed my anxiety drop six levels. And look, it's almost 5pm. Still don't want to do this, but it's gotta happen. *nausea* 🤞
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
the further i get down my recovery road, the more i believe i could not have survived my childhood without the insulation of denial. these days a minor setback can serve as a reminder of just how much pain, both physical and mental, that i had to normalize just to survive. just letting myself feel pain was a therapy breakthrough.

more and more i believe my awareness of the pain was increasing far more than the pain, itself.
 

Renly

MyPTSD Pro
The more you can consciously teach yourself about your unconscious workings, the easier it will make this for you. I'm trying to track all this - therapist said there aren't books on this, which is pretty fking dismal.
I definitely am at the beginning stages here, but I gotta start somewhere!!
the further i get down my recovery road, the more i believe i could not have survived my childhood without the insulation of denial. these days a minor setback can serve as a reminder of just how much pain, both physical and mental, that i had to normalize just to survive. just letting myself feel pain was a therapy breakthrough.

more and more i believe my awareness of the pain was increasing far more than the pain, itself.
I am beginning to realize the same thing. My brain blocked or "fogged" out many things - and I am beginning to appreciate all my brain did to preserve me instead of being so angry/frustrated. I agree that it is quite possible my awareness is increasing more than (insert emotion here) itself, too!

@MnM @arfie Thank you both for your insights!
 
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