Dissociation & Distance

At the start of this week I talked really honestly about feeling like things are failing. Today, in lieu of a poem, I want to give a bit more insight into why I feel that way. To be clear, it is partly because things aren’t working how I want. But it’s also more intense because I’ve been experiencing very strong dissociation the past few weeks – since getting the virus I talked about.

When I get physically ill, my mental health generally suffers. I depend upon certain things to maintain my mental health – routine, not oversleeping, going outside, exercising. If I can’t access those things, and especially when on top of that I can’t do anything but sleep or lie in bed, it gets really hard.

Dissociation is one of the symptoms I’ve always had with my depression.

It’s a catch-all term, though, so let me explain the sort that I get. Dissociation can be a full on disorder in and of itself, but I’ve never been diagnosed with it. To the best of my knowledge I am just experiencing it as a symptom of depression, not as its own disorder. There are also several different kinds of dissociation.

For me, it’s primarily a sense of depersonalisation – feeling detached from my existence. It’s like I’m only capable of engaging with anything on a very shallow level, or as an observer. Which isn’t to say I feel out of control. I’m still in control, I’m just not processing it in the same way. When this happens, everything becomes harder, and it can be incredibly scary.

Talking about it is difficult too, because whilst I’m very good at articulating a lot of my symptoms, I’ve never been able to articulate this very well. Some parts of it I can – I have some memory confusion relating to my early 20s, and partial amnesia is pretty easy to explain. But explaining this extreme of ‘going through the motions’ and the lack of emotion that comes with it is hard.

In fact if you go back and read my last post, you can probably see this happening.

I wrote the post just after acknowledging out loud (with a lot of crying) how bad the dissociation had gotten this time, and you can kind of tell, because it’s a bit disjointed. I can see where I’m trying to be more present and failing to.

That’s one of the things that is so hard about doing this. I have to accept that, sometimes, you are all going to see my symptoms and it’s not going to be from me explaining it. Which feels very different. It’s one thing for me to talk candidly here about even my most extreme symptoms. It’s different when I’m trying to talk about something else, but my disordered thinking is shining through.

Part of me is very confident that I’m okay with this, and that I think it’s important for you to see that too. To see that sometimes it’s happening and I can’t even tell. But there is also the part of me that wants to be perfect, that is ashamed of revealing something without choosing to.

It’s getting better, though – the sense of feeling separate from my life.

Since writing that post, over the Easter weekend, I’ve been working really hard to help myself get out of that. I’m grateful that I’ve mostly succeeded, with help.

I’d love to tell you that I did it in some incredibly clever way, but actually what I did was pull weeds out of my garden. We cut the lawn, trimmed the hedges, cleared up some of the mess, cleaned the house. We had dinners made from recipe books. I got really invested in a new roleplay game, watched League of Legends tournaments, and played an entire act of Dragon Age 2.

The more I did, especially the physical tasks, the more engaged I felt. I couldn’t have gotten up and done those things without help. It took me two weeks to ask for that help – to admit aloud that this was happening. The most valuable thing for me was being listened to when I did manage to talk about my symptoms.

It’s not totally gone yet, but I definitely feel a lot more present than I did. And if it goes backwards again – well, there’s always more gardening to do…