Is Dissociation a Disorder or a Miracle?

| By Paul | | Comments (12)

For me, the answer has always been both.

If I view dissociation in terms of my early life experiences, I definitely say it's a miracle. But when looking at the present, it's a disorder because it gets in the way of where I want to be and who I want to be.

Like many other inventions, dissociation has limitations. It's not scalable for me at this point the way I would need it to be. As I evolve, it doesn't evolve with me. Plus, as I become more aware, I begin to experience distressing dissociative symptoms that would probably otherwise be ignored, or at least be perceived very differently in the past. So, for me, at this point, dissociative identity disorder mostly causes suffering. At some point there was a tipping point. I cannot pinpoint exactly when that was. But it was probably when I realized that some of what I was doing that I was not aware of was actually harmful to me. I had only limited awareness before that. I came to realize that I had a life I had to live and I had to be safe. Being a father and husband was not compatible with hurting myself. Somehow that notion evaded me for many years. Maybe that is processing the trauma, I don't know. Maybe it was coming to terms with everything and being able to move forward, finally, after so many years.

To give you an idea of why I view dissociation as a disorder, consider the following account from a couple months ago taken from my private journal. The scene is that I was with my 10 year old daughter at a fun public event.

There were some dicey moments when I felt like everything wasn't real and started to zone out and drift away. The experience is like I can tell I'm drifting away and I end up trying so hard to get back. I think sometimes that trying really hard makes it worse because you end up panicking a little. I'll try to help you imagine what it's like. Imagine that you are swimming in a nice little pool on a warm sunny day and you are happy and everything is great. You don't have a care in the world and this goes on for some time. Then all of a sudden you realize you aren't in a safe pool at all but rather in the middle of the ocean and it's raining and dark. Then you think how stupid you were for not knowing this before! You should have prepared for this. But you cannot prepare for it for it catches you out of nowhere. You see a boat that can rescue you off in the distance and you swim desperately to get to it. As you do, the riptides are pulling at you and you seem to be going backwards and taking on water. As if that's not bad enough, imagine that while most of you is in a panic and working intensely to try to get to that damn boat, there's a part of you that doesn't even know what's going on and another part of you that knows but doesn't care. That's kind of what it's like. It's a huge experience. Completely overwhelming and draining emotionally and physically. Even when I do get back, I don't fully recover. I'm almost traumatized by it and something bad sits with me for a long while afterwards.

Notice the account has nothing to do with DID (or parts). This is just your average dissociative experience that is in no way a fun one.

It's important to be able to label something as a disorder because then you can be more motivated to change it. I have learned that the goal is not to focus on the trauma, per se. My path allows me to not focus on what happened to me to make my mind disorganized and partitioned, but rather focus directly on how to fix my mind's partitions. Now one could say that you have to address the cause in order to find a solution. And, that's partly true for me. Of course I do revisit the past. But the focus for me is on skills and how to reteach my mind so that it works in the way it was intended.

As I work to heal, I keep the following truism in mind. Seemingly intractable problems can sometimes be solved. Sometimes they can even be solved quite easily. On the flip side, "little" problems can go unsolved even if one tries really hard. I say this because sometimes one may think more abuse equals more injury equals harder to heal equals need the best trauma specialist or really intensive therapy. I have met many who feel there is no hope. I have come to a position that not all of this is linear. There is always hope. There is always a solution. Sometimes it's just difficult to find.


beauty said:

I loved your use of analogy here and could relate to all of it.

I don't like that feeling of drifting, either. I'm a Nana now and can't afford to not be in the moment when I'm around my grandkids. I seem to have a certain degree of control, but something tells me that if I don't start dealing with my issues something's going to give.

Thanks for your much needed honesty---this is a blog I will come back to frequently.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to beauty:

Thank you beauty. I too resonate with your site. Today I just set up the blogroll as before I hadn't known what was all out there. Yes, I've been using analogies lately (well, over the past year) in an effort to explain things better to people who are helping me. Then I found out they helped me too because I remember them and refer back to them. I will post other similar descriptions of my experiences in future posts.

What an apt description. I've never thought of it quite like that before, but can really relate to the way you've described it.

I also like what you said about the disorder not evolving with you and getting in the way of your being aware. I'm really struggling with that lately. I would also add that it gets in the way of my desire to live in the moment (big time!) and my desire to get rid of expectations. I have to say I resent that.

I like your blog. I'll be back.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to MarjakaThriver:

Thank you Marjaka! I see many who are trapped by the disorder and cannot find a way to heal. I had a hard time, too, for many years. The healing comes from learning how to live in the moment and trusting that you have control and can determine outcomes. I wish you well.

You make a great point that both me and my husband didn't understand in the beginning. This isn't about addressing (or even fully remembering) the traumatic event itself. It's about living daily life and removing the barriers. And not even integration (at least for me I think) but about co-consciousness and awareness.

Your experience and analogy are good for people who don't understand. Not really flashbacks, but with that element of being removed from all or part of reality. I've had them too and scared a few people because I didn't totally realize what was happening. I guess that just recognizing that happening and having some sort of plan (if possible) is part of healing.

Thanks for sharing.

Emily First Girl and Camigwen: Multiplcity

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Emily's Camigwen:

Thanks Emily. Yes, I think we each have to assess what our goals are. For me, this isn't so much about getting to some place as it is finding some peace on my journey. I've more or less accepted that I will have these issues, in various forms, for the rest of my life. This removes a bit of pressure for me.

Shen said:

I am always fascinated to hear accounts of others who have DID. You are SO right about it being both miraculous and disastrous. I am writing about my road to recovery - to integration - in my blog. Feel free to read it if you are interested. I would love to have comments from a fellow DID sufferer.

Kate said:

Hi Paul,

I read this post before and left without leaving a comment. I find myself feeling the same way today. I feel unable to come up with a good comment. I hate this feeling, it is a part of sharing time, for me, and so is related a lot to being multiple. I was more articulate before I knew I was multiple and did shre time. It has gotten better, but I still have moments of not being able to find words or the right words or feeling like anything I say will sound stupid or trite. Sorry, but I wanted so much to say something and it eludes me.

I think that so many multiples and so many people who have beliefs about multiples want to see one side of the issue. It is both. We are complex. We aren't just a miracle. We are living a life in pieces and that is a disordered life. You are always able to encapsulate concepts so well. Thanks.


Nansie said:

Paul, Things are a bit different for me. I know that I have not been with this process as long as the rest of you. Sometimes I find myself fully participating with the people in my surroundings. I really enjoy that when I can fully engage. But then it is like a knot in my stomach reminds me to be cautious and danger exists and I start to drift out. I am trying to figure out if there is a trigger to this feeling that happens outside of myself or something within that stops me from staying present just out of habit a/o systemic procedure. Probably a little of both. I know that if there is one person in the group that I don't feel particularly safe with then I will stay distant from everything. If I am with close people that I trust then I can attend more. When I am by myself I am free to let my mind wander and do whatever. It is like we have created this universe in our heads and at times we allow our universe to recognize and communicate with the universe we physically live in and then other times the two do not merge or interact. When I am in my own universe I feel very light and airy... almost like I am floating through this world barely seen or noticed. This happens quite often for me. It is not a bad feeling but it is disturbing because it makes me feel like I am not even here but I am kind of like a ghost and some can see me and some cannot. I do spend a lot of time with my in-laws around me and my husband. I do not feel trusting of my mother in law. She has proven herself to be kind of a back-stabber and gossip. So, since she is around quite a bit this, floating feeling comes over me often. A lot of times I can find something around me that is causing the intensity of the level of dissociation at the time. It saddens me though that I have had to go to this extreme in life to feel safe. No one should have to. So many people out there in the world that are just about themselves and never stop and gain any self awareness and insights to how they affect the world and people around them. Hope this all makes sense. I liked what you wrote and it really compelled me to share. :)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thanks Nansie. I'm glad you shared. I think for me, and it's hard to know what I was really thinking when I originally wrote this post back in April, that I was talking about the really destabilizing dissociative symptoms (i.e., dissociation leading to self-harm and acting out and dissociation when you lose a sense of reality and things like that). The way you describe these experiences, they sound like you are using dissociation really well.

Nansie said:

What I really try to do is identify the triggers that cause me to dissociate... the severity of the triggers vs. the severity of the dissociation. This gives me clues into what is going on in the here and now vs flashbacks or recall possibly causing the dissociation. The clues give me insight on what to work on in therapy... not that I don't have enough already. I also allow myself to dissociate without judgement. I just want to know what set it off/or situation and/or if I did it just because it is easy and peaceful there. I really want to have a clearer picture on this system.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Wow. That's really great work!

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This page contains a single entry published on April 28, 2009 2:52 PM.

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