Disassociation is a strange creature

Disassociation is a strange creature.

I'm still trying to figure it out. When am I disassociating? How can I tell? How can I bring myself back? Why am I disassociating? What is it protecting me from?

Also: What is disassociation?

Seriously, what is it?

It's numbness. I can feel emotions, but somehow some of those emotions are pretty well suppressed, barricaded behind walls, and sometimes hidden so well I don't even know they're there. Other times I feel the craziness, the sadness, the anger, below the surface at varying depths. Sometimes they're closer to the surface, and I feel like I might go crazy and I feel unsafe even with myself. Other times, they're so far deep at the bottom of the ocean I'm completely numb.

Sometimes I don't feel real. Or like I'm in a dream, watching myself say things or do things that I can't control. There were times when I was younger when I'd sleep, dream about dad's moods, wake up, live dad's moods, go back to sleep, and completely lose track of what was dream and what was real. Eventually it stopped, but it was one of those things where if it had continued, I probably would have been driven insane.

On a related note, it's not always multiple personalitiesSeriously, when I think disassociative disorders, I think about the stories of people with multiple personalities, or alters. I certainly don't have that. But, as I'm learning, there are still parts. Parts that feel foreign to me. It's why you (or I) feel depersonalized or derealized. It takes a lot of work to integrate all of these parts--but I still don't exactly know what this means. I understand this, but I don't know how it applies to me yet. I'm still learning.

It's not remembering things. I remember being so troubled by one of dad's rages for days and days--until one day I completely forgot what it was. Like, you know the memories exists, but they're completely inaccessible. Walled off. It was tucked away so I can try to survive the next rage. And the next one.

But sometimes--it comes back up.

For me, my memory is always tied up with something or other. There will be memories pretty well buried--but one thing will remind me of a memory, and that will remind me of another memory, and as I keep pulling on the string, deeper memories come out. Sometimes it stops. Sometimes it keeps going. It depends. But slowly, eventually, I'm piecing things together.

For some, the trauma was bad enough entirely sections of childhood are forgotten.

Disassociation is also connected with self injury. I learned about this the other day in a book called Feeling Unreal by Simeon and Abugel (only because I want to cite sources).  The connection isn't quite clear to researchers as I kept Googling and learning, but I know one reason. You feel so freaking numb and unreal you want to do something to help you feel real again. You know how you might pinch yourself in a dream? Pinching doesn't work. Blood does. Pain does. Usually. Not always, though.

It's connected in another way--when a traumatic memory comes up, then you sometimes just want to cause a little bit of pain to help prevent and disassociate yourself from this bigger pain. It's the pain gateway theory.


This is just a tiny bit of what disassociation is, but what I have learned is that it is a strange creature. I still don't quite understand it. Or how it applies to me, my circumstances.

And that is what ongoing therapy is for.


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