Tag Archives: self harm

What dissociation feels like to me

I’m aware this may be different than what I’ve written before. My understanding of it tends to be limited to what I can access in the moment. 

Today, my understanding of my dissociation is as follows: 

My dissociation is varied. When heavily triggered, I lose all memory of a period of time. I have very spotty memories from my childhood, maybe a handful from my entire 18 years before moving to college. I’m starting to regain some of those memories, but they are all trauma memories coming back. 

When I’m less dissociated, it just feels like i’m floating in a grey fog far away from everyone and everything. Sometimes I can’t hear people talking to me. I’m not always aware of the dissociation until someone points it out to me, but there are times I’m very aware. Those times it feels like i’m on autopilot; saying and doing things because that’s what’s expected of me. 

There are times when I’m surprised at my appearance and the fact that I have a body & a face. That used to happen a lot more when I was younger. I would walk past my reflection and stop to stare at it. I needed to study it because I had no clue that’s what I looked like, or that I even existed as a corporeal being… those instances have lessened in severity. I still stare at my reflection at times, but it doesn’t take as long to understand I’m actually a person. 

Regardless of the type of dissociation, I generally don’t feel anything like physical touch, or even pain… Sometimes the dissociation is accompanied by flashbacks, but other times my mind is blank…


What’s your experience been like with it? 

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More anxiety

My chest is still tight. 

Woke up today… triggered? It’s not exactly the right word for it, because triggered implies more intensity. I was “on”, activated. I started journaling about the story playing out in my head. When I went back to it later to proof read it, it felt hollow and substance-less. I thought I had put more detail, but I guess most of it only played out in my head only. 

The story I woke into left me feeling triggered and on edge. I really wanted to cut. I was aware of the intensity of the desire for the release and balance that comes from it. I was also aware that I needed to try to avoid it… I decided to take a shower.  My usual showers last about 30 minutes on a good day, without that loop that has me feeling unable to get clean… Anyway, today’s shower took almost an hour and a half. I can’t recall any reason it would have. For some reason, I lost an hour in there. And when I was done, I no longer needed to cut. I know I didn’t (I wasn’t bleeding at all), but the desire was abated and my body was a bit sore… 

The loss in time caused me to run late for therapy…

I talked to Dr C about it a bit. She then mentioned something related to family that I had apparently told her previously. I don’t recall telling her anything like that, and I’m not sure I would have necessarily described things in that way, but I believe her when she says it’s something I’ve said to her… that got us onto the topic of dissociation and memory gaps. I expressed my frustration at being faced with more recent episodes of amnesia. I understand the function of it for traumatic events, but this random trigger that somehow connects to the trauma thus leading to dissociation frustrates me. I thought I had gotten to a point where I didn’t completely lose time anymore, but apparently I’m not. I still forget spans of time. Today it happened twice totaling over two hours. The second time happened while shopping after therapy. I thought I had been shopping for maybe an hour, but I had been there for 2.5 hours. Nothing notable happened, but it’s occurrence confuses me. Maybe it was left-over triggering from either the “memories” this morning, or my session with Dr C…

With this sudden increase in noticed loss of time, Dr C suggested I leave pen and paper around in hopes I may journal while checked out. She suggested journaling on my phone may be too complicated in a dissociated state. I dunno. It’s comfortable enough a medium for me… I’ve checked out while trying to journal in my art journal before and ended up just sitting frozen in that position while I was “out”. I’m not sure leaving a pen and paper around would do much. I think i’m more likely to journal on my phone. I know I’ve done that in the past while I was dissociated. Sadly, the app I had used at the time glitched and I lost most of that journaling. I do recall at one point before the app failed that I read several entries I had no memory of writing. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve found a few entries I don’t recall at all, along with several I’m aware I wrote but cannot feel a connection to. I also know I’ve written quite a bit while dissociated in my private journal blog… none of it looks like anything vastly different than what I remember writing except for the entries that detail the flashbacks and memories; those I constantly have to reread in order to know what they contain. I have the general gist that they describe details, but I wouldn’t be able to recite most of it without reading it. It feels like someone else’s story…

Anyway, I think I lost my point for this post. I feel a bit better though. The anxiety isn’t as crushing after writing for a bit. I don’t necessarily feel grounded, but my chest isn’t tight and twitchy. I still want to cut, but I think I can get myself to bed without giving in. I just hope I can actually sleep tonight. I have work tomorrow. It’ll likely be a 10-hour day again. They are so exhausting, even though they “only” involve camp…

Oh, another stressor; my disability is being reviewed. I think I filled out the form correctly, but I was partially dissociated while doing it. I’m a bit worried I might lose my benefits. I felt weird getting it in the first place, though the providers I worked with seemed to think it was appropriate. I know I don’t have the energy to look for (and accomplish) full-time work. I currently don’t have the emotional head space to succeed at it even if I tried. I feel fake though. I should be able to suck it up and plow through all this. I should be able to be productive in society. I shouldn’t be so lazy and unmotivated… I feel like i’m wasting resources, but Dr C says it’s not a waste. She says having needs and taking time isn’t wasteful… I dunno. I think being so needy is wasteful and a pain in the ass, but she disagrees…

There’s that anxiety again. Guess I should sign off before I send myself into a tizzy over something which I have no control…

Sorry this post is so long-winded. I hope it makes sense and that autocorrect didn’t butcher it too badly because I have no energy to proof read just now…


Intrusive thoughts and insights

I find myself thinking about the past a lot, even when I’m trying to distract. It’s seeping through both my conscious and unconscious thoughts. I try to distract from it only to find it making an appearance unintentionally…

I think that was what triggered my sudden and “baseless” anger that later faded to resignation and defeat. I wasn’t really sure where it came from, or why it would quickly dissolve into sadness. I think I put it together finally; I had been absent-mindedly messing with watercolors this afternoon. I was trying to rekindle the relief I had found in session by painting “blood”, then later painting the feeling of comfort cutting would bring. Without meaning to, the pattern the watercolor took on resembled an image representative of the images/sensations I struggle with. I noted the resemblance, them moved on to another page to experiment with more watercolor. 

I guess the first image stirred stuff up because in less than 30 minutes, I was feeling rage bubble up. I snapped at L about something stupid, and wanted to isolate. The rage fizzled to resignation and depression shortly after… I wasn’t able to identify a potential trigger though till after returning home and contemplating the mess I made with the watercolors. I realized seeing the first piece that reminds me so much of trauma bubbled the anger again… and shame. I’m ashamed that the art I was trying to use to satisfy the desire to cut turned into a trigger. I’m ashamed at what I see in the splotches. I’m ashamed of the conflicting emotions it brings up.  I’m feeling a resigned sense of acceptance about these “memories” being accurate… and there’s grief there too: grief over losing the life I had thought I lived. I guess Dr C was right; this depression is at least in part fueled by grief. 


Exhausted

Therapy was difficult today. I’m back to insisting I’ve made everything up. It’s too much to swollow to believe it’s not all made up…

I think I started crying like three times with her. I rarely cry, but lately it seems to come more freely in therapy… I felt really small. And the thought of ever having been a baby terrified me. 

I’m really lucky Dr C is so patient. She puts up with all my crap, and still agrees to see me again…

We were going to try to do some art today, but I digressed. I showed her some [graphic] stuff in my journal, and then we talked more about it. I still need to come up with an acceptable “pass” to allow myself permission to step away from triggering situations. I think we are going to work on that more tomorrow and next week. I’m not sure I have a good idea of what might work. I need something that will not only give me internal permission to step away, but also that would potentially make it ok for anyone else I’m with. When triggered, I feel an obligation to stay in the triggering situation if there’s someone else there that may disapprove of my leaving… it’s difficult to find something that may meet all those conditions. 

So yeah. More therapy tomorrow. I didn’t want to leave her office today, but at the same time, I wanted to be out of there already. It felt safe, but I was really overwhelmed. I wanted to keep the safe feeling while escaping the overwhelm. 

The feeling of desperately wanting to shred my flesh off so I stop feeling the flashbacks has abated somewhat. I still want to obliterate my brain, but that can temporarily be accomplished through alcohol…


Am I pushing myself too hard? 

The emdr stirred up a ton of stuff. It’s not settling much, just cycling through things. She called it progress, but not necessarily relief. I’m not sure how well I can handle this, though when I just unintentionally triggered myself intensley, I was able to sit through it.

I’m feeling this huge internal pressure to talk to someone other than just Dr C about what’s going on, but when I try (even anonymously or ambiguously) I trigger myself… I’m back to doubting if I can tackle trauma processing outside of an inpatient (or at least intensive out patient) setting. I guess I’m doing ok because I haven’t resorted to cutting. I’m just scared I might be pushing myself too hard without enough safety nets in place. I mostly trust Dr C, I’m just not sure I trust myself…


Emdr (TRIGGER) 

Did some emdr kinda spontaneously on Monday. I was really struggling with some intrusive memories/body memories, and Dr C had extra time. 

We aimed for my resistance to emdr, and to deal with the fears around it. That quickly progressed to the body memories. It was fragments of things flooding in and washing each other away just to come back in a few minutes. It was intense. I think I was dissociated through some of it because we worked on re-centering and returned to the fear around exploring these memories. 

One of them was really weird. I think it might have been a memory of both the dissociative experience and the abuse melding together. It was similar to a strange dream, where impossible things are happening, and I’m at once experiencing them and watching them. I was at once floating in the ocean feeling the sun on my body, and being molested in a bed… 

It was incredibly intense afterwards and I kinda freaked out. It was the longest I’ve sat in Dr C’s parking lot after a session (almost 50 minutes) trying to center again. I’ve text her a lot since then. I feel like I might be pissing her off. 

Part of the emdr also covered the self-harm. It feels like the shame and guilt around it are gone, but at the same time, there’s a fear of the consequences. I guess that’s good. I want to destroy the parts of my body that remember the abuse, but I also want to avoid the hospital. 

I made another appointment for later this morning to process this with her. I felt like I was bothering her too much through text. I’m also hoping that seeing her in person and talking about this will help set my mind at ease about the process. I’m starting to remember some of this discomfort and turmoil after the first round, and I’m starting to remember that it passed in a few days. It’s been a bit better this morning. 

I had a really weird dream/memory/thing last night (another thing she said would be normal and expected). In it, I was a kid curled on my bed trying to sleep (similar position to how I was laying in bed last night, so I’m guessing the position was a lead-in to the memory)… it was another impossible situation though. There was a snake moving around the backs of my thighs and found its way between my legs. It felt very strange, not what my pet snakes feel like when I hold them, so I’m guessing it was something my understanding substituted for what was actually happening at the time… it reminded me of an article I read a few years ago that described the arrest of a man for animal abuse and assault when the kid said the man molested her with his pet snake. I think the man told the kid his penis was “his python” and so the kid kept calling it that… it’s quite difficult to make a snake do something it doesn’t want to, and a snake has no interest in worming it’s way into tight body orifices… 

Anyway, so… yeah. I’m waiting for time to pass before I have to leave for my appointment. My body is still shakey from my lack of sleep, and probably also from everything the emdr has stirred up… I wish I had the availability to do that intensive emdr now, but I have to be at work for the next few weeks… I might dissapoint my boss and end up needing coverage soon if I stir up too much. I’m trying to be available out of a sense of obligation to help out (staff vacations need coverage, and one of the main customer service reps is leaving for a full-time job after my boss gets back from her own vacation), but maybe I need to be a little less available. I have the option at this point not to work at all and just concentrate on my therapy. In theory, I should take the time I need to help me alleviate my symptoms… but at the same time, work is a good distraction. I didn’t exactly plan to be less available when we are already under-staffed, so I shouldn’t feel guilty about needing to say no, but I do… L and I need the extra money to help fix the car situation… and I have a huge thing about helping out, even to my own detriment, when someone needs it (especially someone I like/respect/care about). When I first started working there again, I was a bit better about maintaining my boundaries and not taking on too much. I’m falling back into that need to please everyone. I can see it heading to a huge disappointment when I finally find the courage to say I can’t cover too much… ugh. 

If I could find a way to just do therapy super intensley until I got to a point where I could get a handle on the symptoms and triggers and side-effects, then I could be a real, functioning human again. Insurance has limited that though. They don’t want to pay my therapist for more than one session a week. They don’t want to pay for an iop or php because I’m not in crisis (and if I was, they would want me inpatient first)… it’s frustrating how little they help when the whole reason I have them is because I struggle with mental health issues enough to make regular functioning near-impossible… there’s hope though. I just switched to the basic Medicare, which I’m lead to believe covers stuff easier than the crappy advantage plan I was on… starting September 1 st, coverage for therapy should theoretically be easier. 

There’s a tightness in my chest from all of this… Maybe I will ask Dr C about trying an iop as adjunct to the emdr we are doing. Maybe medicare will pay for it in hopes of getting me to a place where I can get off disability and get back to a real life. I just wish there was a close trauma iop or php… Maybe I could get into that place in Boston this time around (I was too acute 5 years ago when we first tried it. I landed in DC because their program was able to do crisis stabalization).
Sorry this was so disjointed and scattered…


They feel far away

It doesn’t feel real anymore, those “memories” that felt so real when I lived down south. The further I get away from having lived there, the less convinced I am that they were real…

Dr C says that it’s “normal” for trauma memories to be encapsulated & only accessible during certain conditions… I believe her because I trust her expertise, but at the same time, I doubt the validity of my own experience. Yes, if they are true, they explain a lot of seemingly random and unexplained things (like my strong negative reaction to male genitalia, my intense dislike of being touched unexpectedly, the weird body sensations that seemingly never leave, the huge gaps in my memory…). But…none of those memories feel real anymore. As out-of-touch with my earlier adult life as I felt while living at home again, that’s how out-of-touch I feel with what came up living “at home”. The only difference is that I had proof of my early adult life (a resume I could look back on, friends, my wife, journals to re-read, etc). I don’t have that for my life growing up. The only journals I still have are ones that talk about friendships and kid things. There’s nothing in the book I found that would corroborate the story in my head. There’s no person that could or would validate it. Bitch took my journals from middle and high school when she stayed in my room after I had moved to my aunt & uncle’s house down the street for my senior year in high school (they were already dead and the house had been sitting empty for a few years. Some vandalism happened. I jumped at the chance to get away from my parents’ constant battles and offered to “live” there). It started as only sleeping at their house, but eventually I spent more and more time there. At the point I left for college, I had been living at the house full time for several months. My mom moved in there shortly after I left for school; she needed an escape from my dad also… he was really abusive to her. I think she used the excuse that I had left my animals at the house and they needed tending, combined with the house needing the “security” of being occupied. My brother stayed with him in their house, but he had always been safer with G. There were a lot of double-standards flying around when I was little, from both sides (though it took me a lot longer to see some than others). My brother got away with a lot by my dad. He was held to much different standards by my mom & K. The same was true on the flip side; I got away a lot lighter with mom & K than I did with G… I realize now that so much of what I thought was normal growing up was actually really abusive. I had thought my brother escaped much of it, but in reality, he just caught it on another front. 

I’m connecting with some of those memories that came up while living down south simply by having talked more about growing up, but they still feel just barely out of reach. It feels like something I can just barely brush my finger tips against if I reach out really far. They don’t feel totally fake when I think about the specifics of growing up there, but they still don’t feel real either. Part of it is that I don’t want to delve into describing them too much here. What if they really are simply a sick, twisted story I tell myself. If I wrote about them, they would potentially be damaging to those others involved. Unlike the domestic violence incidents, I have no corroboration to them and they are not “public knowledge” within my circle… it feels irresponsible to write too much about them right now. Another part is simply that they are very disturbing to me. I’m afraid of thinking about them and accidentally flooding myself with trauma memories I can’t contain. They do enough of that unbidden, there’s no use inviting it outside of the safety of Dr C’s presence… 

They’ve faded again for the most part. It’s back to the faint tingles in my body, the echos of touches… these I can handle at this level for the time being. There’s no drive to cut the memories out of my body. They don’t trigger a desperation to be rid of them at the moment. They had in the past; it’s how I ultimately ended up at The Center in DC 5 years ago this past week. They had tripped me over into desperately doing anything to change the sensation in my body. I didn’t understand them at the time, I just knew when they got bad, I needed to cut the feel of duckboy out of my body… and in my dissociated state, I admitted to the doctors that there were other memories I was trying to cut out, but the only ones I consciously remembered then were the duckboy ones (it was a combination of disturbing and validating to go back and read that the concept of other sexual abuse had been brought up years before I “remembered” it down South. I have no memory of telling the doctors at the er, but apparently I did during more than one visit. And I didn’t read those files till after the memories surfaced with De; after I had switched to TL)… if I think too much about them, or let my brain wander towards those memories, they intensify and threaten to flood again. I can’t afford that right now…

Now I’m afraid to write any more and also afraid to put this down to try to sleep. They feel closer again, threatening again… I feel like I have to keep rambling to “hold the door” against them, but not rambling in a direction that helps them push forward. Maybe if I put this away and try some music I’ll be able to sleep for the hour or so before I have to wake up. I could ease some of the tension and just cut, but that would bring about a whole host of external consequences I really dislike. Better to sit with those urges instead of giving in. I’d break my “clean” steak also, and that would be frustrating to realize in the morning… yeah, better to try to listen to music and sleep a bit more.