Monday, 14 September 2009

Blurring The Edges - The Mind Thing

The mind thing.

That's what I called it before I heard the terms 'fragmentation' or 'dissociation'.

For a long time I have been aware of the mind thing. It happens sometimes when my anxiety levels get really high begin to tip over into panic. Sadly, it doesn't hang around when a full blown panic attack strikes. Instead it usually appears at the most inconvenient time, usually when I am in a situation where I am engaged in conversation with someone and cannot possibly indicate that there is anything even slightly wrong.

Picture me, driving up a dual carriageway, with one of our more 'interesting' students in my car (minbus overflow - educational trip - kid not to be trusted in large groups).
Of course I have been stressed. ALL trips out raise my (normally too-moderate-to-be-comfortable) anxiety levels, but it's not as if I am panicking or anything... At least, I don't think so, until the zooming begins and the swooping darkness and the sense of that I am losing my grip on reality. It is as though my mind has suddenly begun to push against itself to create a little dented fontanelle, space enough to fold inwards.
I am battling the growing sense of what I can only describe as 'being corridored'. My mind is becoming a breath stealingly narrow passage lit by low energy bulbs which won't warm up.
And all the time, the disaffected student is talking and I am trying to focus on the words and respond at the same time as forcing my eyes to blink hard and believe that the road and traffic ahead is actually real. It is not a computer game. I am 'in' this.
My steering wheel feels part of my hands and when we arrive, I fall into the disquieted aftermath.

The warning often precedes a panic attack which doesn't always come, but if it does, can be a sweeping tornado which wreaks havoc on my inner landscape.
Panic attacks are really a post all of their own but I give them some mention here because, although not always, they are often linked to 'the mind thing'.

Another of the strangest and most disturbing things that I experience when I am zoning out is that the person who I am trying to focus on ("act normal for goodness sakes, act normal!") begins to blur around the edges and then, as though I have starred at the sun for a long time and looked away, the grey patches appear and start to swim around them and over them.
Disorientating to say the least. To say more would be to describe the nausea and the dizziness that swells and washes in crested waves through my head and gut.
I'll leave it there for fear of drowning!

The mind thing happened in therapy. It often does to some extent.
Last session she zoomed in and out and was almost overwhelmed by the monsterous steel grey amoebic blobs which looked as though they were trying to blot her out completely.
Today I knew when it was going to start because the volume went down and I hardly dared look at her. When she asked if she was zooming in and out I explained that she was blurry, as though looking at a photo taken with a soft focus lens. She thought that my mind needed to blur her. It's a protection thing. Psychobabble?
I'm not sure.

I would be interested to know if anyone else experiences this, fragmenting of their mind when they try to talk or anything similar.


  1. My therapist tells me I do it all the time with her. She says I'm am dissociating. I have had this happen at very poor times, like when talking to my boss,etc. Most of the time this happens without warning.

  2. Oh yes. For sure. Mostly (but not exclusively) in therapy and yes, there is something about protection. I know I dissociate. I've learnt to be more aware of it and to a certain extent to control it sometimes. It's hard.

  3. I have never had this experience. It is very interesting, I would love to understand it better.

  4. wow. you've described this so right on. I've had that and still at times when afraid have it. It's so weird. I feel like I'm not inside my body, but outside and sometimes drifting and things are foggy, hard to focus right. Hey, have a gentle day ok and stay safe. Sarah

  5. It's different for me. Although I do sense it coming on, I sense it in a very detached way, and then the time just goes missing. When I "wake up" I don't know what has happened during the fragmented time. It's so hard to put the pieces together - finding fresh veggies in the trunk of my car, I must have gone to a farm stand; noticing three cigarettes are missing and finding and a giant mcDonald's cup with nothing but melting ice at the bottom, and a quarter tank of gas missing, I must have been driving around for quite some time. I sometimes "wake up" to my cell phone rining because I am late picking up one of the kids. As a child, it was particularly difficult to have to explain to my parents why I was gone an hour when I was sent to the corner store for bread or milk, and then returned with no groceries or money.
    I grew to understand that I was doing things during the missing time, and invented explanations. God had taken over my body because something needed to be done. A demon was controlling me. Maybe life was a dream, a fantasy, and none of it was real at all.

    Then, in my teens, I read "Sybil" and I realized that a version of my story was being told in those pages.
    The actual explanation was a lot less scarier, but still not something I wanted to share with people for many years.

  6. Yes, very much so. It's a tough one 'eh. And is, for obvious reasons, so tricky to get clarity or decent perspective around to use as a grounded base to really work on it from.

    Actually there's a blog I've been reading that has info that helps more than most in the regard:

  7. Hey thanks so much folks...
    Really interesting to hear other people's experience of this and not something I want to actually talk to anyone in 3D about..
    I have read more about it since posting but am disturbed by the fact that it is associated so much with trauma and to my mind, that seems to be something I don't really have a lot of. At least, not 'valid' trauma!

    CK, thanks for the link... I am going to have a look...
    Shen - thanks for stopping by and for reading. I've never heard of 'Sybil' before...Your experiences with this stuff sound terrifying and extreme. I imagine it feels very out of control to 'lose time' in that way.
    Thank you for sharing.