Is it possible to spend years dissociated?

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
Hi, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between depression & dissociated states. I have been suspected of a depression in 2016 when I finished my studies, as my volition sort of went away. But the weird thing is that during all that period I still was waking up and doing things, just constantly caught in a haze and lateral migraines.

During that time, I remember talking and doing things as they were expected to be done, while feeling "something" running in the backstage. I was constantly daydreaming or reading whatever, but all in a rush. It sort of blew away when I started to date people again and it was super painful. I sort of hit a wall I had no idea it did exist, with all feelings hyper sharp. Then it stopped and I went so far in that dissociated mode I can’t even remember what I’ve said or done at the time. I found notes and messages I don’t remember having written.

Now I’m caught by moments of absence and they can last, but I feel I’m much more "there" than what I used to be. At that time I did read about dissociation and I was like omg that’s not me, it’s really more than what I’m experiencing… But I don’t know now… it feels that most of the time, I was somewhere disconnected. I wonder if it’s possible to remain in that way for a really long time. Certain people I know I wonder if they aren’t simply in autopilot forever.
 

grief

Sponsor
it certainly is. i sleptwalk through life for years. memories? forget it. i've encountered some older pictures of me or papers that i'd written and i'm like... i do not remember this at all. and when you look at it it is almost like... how did no one notice that i am basically f*cking unconscious in this photograph? the lights are on but nobody is home. what you are saying definitely sounds to be dissociative. and that can last a long, long, long time.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I think it can be years.
I think I have been for years.
And also real feelings don't feel real. I still struggle with this. It's like I know it's real but it doesn't feel real, it feels outside of me even though it's inside of me, and it's very confusing.

The whole thing sucks!


I suppose you being aware of it now is the way to heal from it?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
I think it can be years.
I think I have been for years.
And also real feelings don't feel real. I still struggle with this. It's like I know it's real but it doesn't feel real, it feels outside of me even though it's inside of me, and it's very confusing.

The whole thing sucks!


I suppose you being aware of it now is the way to heal from it?
I guess so. But I can't get rid of the impression of something boiling in parallel, as if everything was stored in a close universe that is neighbouring yours. A bit like hearing your neighbours having a fight through the wall, and certainly not going there to intervene.

And in the moments it pierces it's just a panicking state that makes me want to close the thing even more violently. I try to let my feelings go across me. But then what I don't understand with mindfulness is that their peace for me much feels like my natural state of dissociation.

So I don't know what to do. I don't dare to engage in events that might trigger sequences of senseless actions then feelings sharp as blades. When I do this I'm gone for a week partying and doing god knows what. But it's annoying because before I get in chaos mode, things are agreeable. So I recluse for safety. In the dissociation.

I think I need a hand I can hold to emerge.
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
It took me years and years to recognize the degree of dissociation I had because I was outwardly functional.

Yes, when the feelings come up (which has happened to me as different parts have emerged and started to talk with the others), it's pure hell for about three months. It feels that there are both common threads of trauma, and my response to trauma, that are hidden. There are also deeply hidden pockets of trauma. That's my experience of the neighboring universe feeling.

I've gotten through each of them one at a time with my therapist. The last one, I thought I would need to retire early from work and sought help from a psychiatrist that specialized in dissociative states. He didn't want to put me on medication, though, because he could see that despite the pain, I was productively working through it. I think it's hard to avoid the pain, but with a good therapist, the pain is not an endless cycle, but a path of releasing the pain. Yes, I do think a hand to hold is very helpful.
 

brat17

MyPTSD Pro
I definitely think it's possible. I feel I have dont that with exceptions. I auto pilot thru life, sleeping as much as possible. Then if things come up that cause triggering, I get myself overly worked up...and feel current trauma, past traumas, early traumas. I may not identify or speak of them, but they surface their ugly head and Im a mess for maybe a week. Then I get back to my normal, which is anything but normal really, but its an emotionless soul that goes thru the motions as if I am indifferent to most things.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
Finding things that distract is disassociation. The parallel universe feeling is what I could be doing if I wasn’t busy with this. It lasted my whole life, got me through it. Like watching a movie you don’t really like and aren’t really paying attention.
 

Friday

Moderator
I have been suspected of a depression in 2016 when I finished my studies, as my volition sort of went away.
About 6 months after graduation?

There’s a normal depressive spike (what’s the opposite of spike? You know how caves have stalactites & stalagmites, where one points up and the other points down? Huh.)... so there is a normal depressive “spike”... that happens about 6mo post BIG ONGOING STRESSORS (like university, domestic violence, wars, retirement, young children no longer being in ones care, etc.) just going away.

It’s a weird human neurological “thing” we don’t fully understand. Or even basically understand. We just know it happens.

If you got your degrees in psych or social work, the clinic you’re getting your supervision hours with would probably be sending you on a symposium-spree (which is why they want to know your graduation date, so they know when to book you for your “mini-school-trip”... since it splits roughly 50/50 whether people start work immediately, or take some time off, and hey need to book your trip at 6mo postgrad, not 9mo. It is THAT predicitble. 6 mon5s put, new grads get depressed as faaaaaaawk. Psych jobs know that, and they know how to fix it (send someone back to school for a week or two, as it resets the 6mo clock, but the next 6mo depression dip following a couple weeks of high stress is usually so severe an extra cup of coffee in the morning sorts it.) Yeah. That easy of a fix. Duplicate the stress load, and engage old habits, for as short a period of time as a couple weeks. Voila. Depression sorted. See you again in 6mo, aaaaaaat 1% of the strength you appeared at the first time round.

How. f*cking. Cool. IS. That???

It’s so well known that it was mentioned at least once -if not many times over- in all my 400 level psych classes, and in a lot of my survey classes (to try and hammer the idea into non-psych-major-heads). 6 months post graduation? Prepare to be flat on your face -or just going through the motions like a robot- for a few months to a year. Unless you wanna avoid that with this super easy trick.

The most dangerous end to an ongoing stressor, however, is retirement. The risk for suicide 6mo post-retirement is through the dang roof. Very few jobs let you come back for a couple weeks though. Managing suicidal depression in retirees is challenging. In people who’ve lost their kids, even more so; but mostly because that 6mo downwards spike often gets mistaken as “just” a rough patch in their grief, and then they kill them selves.

I’ve tangentrd off a bit, but point being, if you hit that spike after school. It makes total sense that our lovely little stress related disorder tried to handle it the way it handles spikes of any/every kind; with what it knows works. In your case? Disassociation. (Mine went to adrenaline junkie land >.< And a whoooooole lotta sex. Snort, because, yeah! I totally forgot what they tried to drill into us with power tools. Until I surfaced about a year later, and went... oops. I knew about this. f*ck.)

Not saying that this IS what happened, just saying it sounds like it might have been.
 

Friday

Moderator
As far as your original Q, though..., Yeah. Totally possible to spend years disassociating, at various levels, in various ways.

Keep in mind, as you’re looking at depression & disassociation, however, that disassociation is one of the symptoms OF depression // many of the symptoms of depression have disassociation at their core. Like anhedonia (not being able to take pleasure in anything) is a type of disassociation, as are other kinds of emotional numbing. <<< They’re just not -for the most part- the 2 types of disassociation we deal with / talk a lot about with PTSD. Although one often finds both depersonalization & derealization with depression.

Also, that there is a normal range of disassociation.. that NOT being able to dissociate -in various ways, at various levels- is actually a symptom of something else.

Clear as mud?
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
Clear as mud?
Like the north sea 🙃 but yeah I pretty much see... It's more complicated than what I thought (it's always more complicated than what we think), but it makes a helluv sense.

I've always spent a great deal of time inside of my head, but it never occurred to me it wasn't the case for everyone. After the spike I did return to school (so didn't know it was that but did it anywhere!) and it went for a while until it didn't. I constant had people greeting me and I had no idea who they were. It was embarrassing. Alcohol didn't help.

I also wonder if there is some form of addiction to dissociation as in my case, it's something cozy I dwell it... Feels safe. Perhaps tense and stupid but safe. I guess the limit between normal dissociation and pathological is when it starts to impact your function? Then I'm very impacted. If I'm not directly talking to people, I'm simply not there. Bleh.
 

Friday

Moderator
I guess the limit between normal dissociation and pathological is when it starts to impact your function?
Exactly.

Artists and writers, for example, may spend 15 hours a day dissociating... and that’s not only NOT limiting their function (at least not in ways they can’t live with: artists and writers tend to annoy the f*ck out of people trying to get their attention when they’re in the zone, or 3 days late for an appointment)... but both a benefit to their lives, and their livelihood.

But if a surgeon off in la-la-land? It would depend on whether the surgeon is zoning out all the physical pain from standing for 15 hours -or- Whoops! Did I cut that??? Dissociating from physical pain / exhaustion would be core to their calling, but their mind chasing rabbits down holes instead of paying attention to what they’re doing? Would be lethal.
 

grit

Not Active
I also wonder if there is some form of addiction to dissociation as in my case, it's something cozy I dwell it... Feels safe. Perhaps tense and stupid but safe. I guess the limit between normal dissociation and pathological is when it starts to impact your function? Then I'm very impacted. If I'm not directly talking to people, I'm simply not there. Bleh.

I am not expert (gosh nooooot at all) but I do have great deal of interest in dissociation. and your quote above is right on to a point. There are dissociatitive states from driving on the highway and to extreme daydreaming to living ambient, passive, distracted way but functional, to to dissociative levels of PTSD, to its end of dissociation spectrum - DID. I even think DID has its own levels cause there are those with DID that can be functional and work and those that cannot.

I sometimes feel (this is my personal opinion), a lot of people dissociate or/and split on their partners and only realized after they get divorce and then become functional friends but will never know or become aware - the reasons they broke up were not realistic but divided attention. IHMO, more people may be dissociating than can understand or admit...I even heard vertigo, migraines are symptoms of dissociation or defending dissociation. It is a very undervalued or less understand reaction to trauma, IHMO.

What worked for me to know my state of dissociation and its sneakiness is this: I know when I am not. I have been to postgrad and I could only do the bulk of my work when I was integrated. No matter what is going on in my life - I would drop all and do my work when integrated cause I would not know when the dissociation will come back again. This integration experience, awareness, actualizing, cultivating, holding, testing it with others and reality - made me become super aware of the other side - the dissociation when I am still functional but again that ambient, passive, slightly distracted, slightly blunted senses, fleeting attention etc. I have quite clarity of them and this distinction makes me not fight against the dissociation but understand it and work around it. In a nutshell, my dissociation is body is here, mind is gone - this takes a huge energy to keep it or (I think risk it to go DID - I think if I was not aware of that energy being divided I could easily fall into DID - not undermining there might be genetic factors for DID as well). My integration - energy is coming from body and mind so that is why I can be highly functional and get things done. Also this is when I can easily explain my state of dissociation to my husband or therapist not when I am in it.
 
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