Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dissociation

So for the most part I'm reasonably 'normal' in my craziness. People get annoyed or frustrated but not scared. When it comes to anxiety and depression and the like people may have misconceptions but they know of them, they have a starting point. Things like self harm, suicidal thoughts etc start bringing in hints of fear... though mostly people are scared for you (amongst other things) rather than of you.

Then we have dissociation.

Which scares people. Which is weird because most people will have experienced it in some way or another. Like most mental phenomena it's a continuum... At one end you have the extreme cases such as dissociative identity disorder (often referred to as multiple personality disorder). But at the other end you have things like daydreaming or arriving at the shops with no real recollection of the drive that got you there.

Google dictionary defines the word dissociation as 'the action of disconnecting or separating' and goes on to describe its use in psychiatry as 'separation of normally related mental processes, resulting in one group functioning independently from the rest'.

However, as I said, it's a continuum, and that continuum spans a huge range of experiences some pathological and some everyday. They can be caused by stress, sleep deprivation, drugs, trauma- both current and historical- and many other things, even boredom. I have no real interest in sitting here and listing them all, and I'm sure you'd have no interest in reading them. Instead I'll tell you about my experience.

Nowadays dissociation is something in my life that occasionally crosses the fine line between 'normal' (whatever that is) and 'problem'. But for the purposes of this I'm separating out a particular time in my life when it was particularly influential.

I'm not sure exactly what the trigger was at the time. I know I wasn't sleeping enough and I was stressed out at work and with life in general, was filling every hour of every day with busy busy busy trying to run away from my brain. So I guess it's just an extension of that.

It's hard to pinpoint a beginning as well tbh. I remember an increase in those silly little everyday things, the drifting off whilst driving then snapping to not quite sure where you are, missing turnings etc. Then they started getting annoyingly regular and I'd have to focus hard to remember the way to places I went all the time. I remember sitting in a carpark ringing my friend cos I couldn't remember the way home from a village i went to every day.

Then I started writing silly things in the paperwork. You know how you might write last year's date or the wrong month, or maybe miss out a word for no reason? Eventually I was writing total nonsense though. My friend would point out that I'd written stupid things like 14/15/22. I signed my name wrong, at one call I was Frank. I gave ladies two squares with orange (toast and marmalde) or a cup hot (tea). Typing and texting were a total no-go, words turned into a mush of jumbled letters. Predictive text meant I got real words but couldn't distinguish between them, if I turned it off I got snectenef kel I his t (sentences like this). I freaked a friend or at the pub one night speaking slow slow and disjointed. But then sometimes I'd speak super fast and it'd become a jumbled mush.

And all the time nothing was real. I touched things to confirm they were solid and that didn't help. I had a strong urge to just drive straight ahead at corners or drive into trees because I was pretty convinced I'd just go straight through them and I wanted to know for sure. The world felt flat, thin like stage backdrop or a hologram and I worried about leaving the ground floor because it felt like floating. I made everyone text me everything, meetings with friends, extra work...I didn't trust my memory or anything I'd written (or tried to write) myself because I couldn't distinguish between what had really happened and what I'd thought or dreamt. What was really there, was this an actual object or an illusion, am I sleep or awake, dream or reality?

I posted a lot in a support forum at the time and despite the fact I'd met several of the members I was convinced that everything was written by one person, photos were fake it was all make believe. Maybe I'd written it myself. Anything or anyone I couldn't see didn't exist. My friends kept wondering why I didn't call or answer the phone, was I ignoring them? It's not really polite to answer 'no but I'm fairly sure you don't exist so talking to you makes my brain hurt'... That's probably considered rude.

Simple things like driving or dressing or making tea got really confusing. I talked myself through them step by step. Sat in the car and tried buttons and levers to turn the lights on. Thought hard about how to use a gear stick and what those pedals were for. Put a teabag in a cup fill it up with orange juice. Put a successful cuppa in the fridge. Put milk in the kettle.

And my brain couldn't decide if it was too full or totally empty. There were thoughts flying around everywhere bouncing off each other and making a tonne of white noise. But I couldn't grab hold of any of them to do anything with, they all just fluttered around and dodged away every time I got close. And if I eventually managed to pin one down it turned out it was only half a thought, half formed, or a mutant cross between two unrelated thoughts. Everything trailed off into nonsense and noise.

And I was fine. Fine fine fine. As long as I kept moving kept busy didn't stop everything was just fine. Fine. The word like a mantra. Nothing was real so it's not like it mattered. And maybe this is what happy is like. It's fine I'm fine nothing to see here. And I really did believe it.

Then inevitably fine crashed down around my ears. I turned up to a double up sat leaning on the car trying to smoke...which is a challenge when you can't remember how a lighter works or how it relates to a cigarette. I just sat and stared at the two random objects that may or may not have been real. My double up partner found this weird when she arrived. Especially when I didn't answer her or even react to her talking. We must have gone in the house cos we were in the kitchen then, she left me some menial job to do while she did actual work. I stood and looked at nothing. Trying to talk to her, answer questions failed. I wrote 'can't words' on my phone and she said 'I know' I showed her a friends number and she said 'yes'. I drove. I had somewhere to be. But I didn't know where. Another call. Don't know the way. Don't know who or what or how. I stopped. And then the friend rang me cos the double up person called her. Pretty sure I didn't speak to her either. Then my boss called wanted to know where I was so she could come find me. We seemed to figure that out between us, a name of a service user nearby.

I ended up at the friend's house. They called my mum. They called out of hours gp. They wanted to call an ambulance. They called me psychotic and bipolar and dangerous. They said it was scary and 'not right'. They said I wasn't safe. For myself or others I don't know. I think I cried a lot. And then I saw the Dr and he said it wasn't ok and it wasn't fine and that I shouldn't go to work tomorrow but see my gp. And my boss convered my calls for a few days. And I was signed off for a while. And I was assessed for the billionth time and never heard anything more. Then I was less sleep deprived and less stressed and I set up boundaries with work and it was all fine. Fine fine fine. Well life was real anyway.... which was less scary than unreality but hurt a lot more.

This is a bit of a mush tbh. And this is the reconstructed version. What I've got by trying hard to remember, speaking to people, reading back things I'd written or text. It's all mushy. And not all really dissociation probably everything was a big swirling mess so it's hard to recall it now. But that's my little story. Maybe it explains something. I can at least promise you I wasn't dangerous. I didn't even really fail at my job. The paperwork was shit and I didn't do a great job which is pretty shit but I never did anything dangerous I don't think. But I could be wrong. Oh well a picture of nails to end. Cadillacquer echo which I swatched badly long ago and maybe did a better job of this time. X