This question came up in an online support forum, so I thought I may as well put my response here too.
Most often when I dissociate, I space-out and feel like I’m either miles away behind my eyes, or in a dark space that is safe. I speak much slower (or at least it feels that way) and I have trouble responding to people and things around me. My processing slows down, and I often will ask someone to repeat whatever they said. Sometimes I get lost in a memory. Other times I watch things happening from a corner of the ceiling. Occasionally (more often when I’m under a lot of stress and feeling overwhelmed), I completely lose time. I appear to act and function normally to the people around me (even my wife had no idea I was “gone”), but may be more clingy than usual. I tend to seek out help when that happens, but I have no memory of anything. Recently, I lost 2-3 hours that way, but in the past it has been days or weeks. Grounding is very difficult for me whenever I dissociate, and I almost always need help with it. When I dissociate in therapy, I guess it’s mostly the spacing out kind because my therapists have been able to notice and ask me about it. I can generally answer their questions, but I feel really separate from my body. The things I am saying don’t feel like they are coming from the part of me that has drifted off, but the part of me that knows what I “should” be doing or saying, kinda like being on autopilot as the “good, smart girl”. If they ask about where I am though, I don’t necessarily know how to answer them. On rare occasions, I can admit to my therapists that I am on auto-pilot and not necessarily connected to what I may be saying to them. The last 2 (D and De) were able to get me to speak more honestly with them at times like that, but that’s relatively new (I’ve only noticed that in the past 2 years, it’s like an aware dissociation… I’m not sure how to describe it)… ~SJ
I’d like to open it up to others if you are interested, please comment on how you experience it. I’m finding from the responses on the forum that while there are some similarities, everyone seems to be a bit different.