Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is It All In My Head? Dissociation v Reality

Dissociation, like depression, has a wardrobe full of different outfits.

It can appear smoothly, draped in a fine mist of white muslin, allowing a hazy, overexposed world to blur before your eyes.

Other times it can rock up dressed in an altogether more jazzy little number, a more textured material with large purpley grey blotches which grow and intensify as you look at them.

Occasionally it can make quite a dramatic entrance wearing a dark, kaleidoscopic cloak which wraps around the edges of your eyes, warping distance, making things zoom in and out. Making the world a computer game. Those cars racing you... they're not real... Nothing is really real.

Sometimes dissociation involves sound... an indistinct blurring of a voice with the silence of the space it falls into... The words take a sudden dive before they reach your ears... Sometimes the letter blends that make up the words don't even get to you in the right order. Syllables stretch into each other, yawning languidly into each others' beginnings and endings and beginnings until there are no gaps in sound, just distant, fluctuating tones.

And then there are things that I fail to understand.

I ALWAYS thought I had an atrocious memory. I remember so very little about being young. Whole trips, events, months, years don't exist in my mind. Somewhere in me lies a terror filled conviction that I am in the early stages of Alzheimer's... Early onset... It seems an inescapable fate, given that it's both my long and short term memory that is an issue.

I often run upstairs to get something and by the time I'm up there, it's gone... I have conversations and stop mid sentence, unable to complete what I've been saying.

I go to ask my boss something, tap on the door, say hello and then.... then nothing. (And NO, I'm not anxious around my boss. We're good friends).

Recently, my family recalled a trip to a cousin's christening. We'd stayed the night before in a pub and I had apparently become hysterical with fear upon entering the place. Something about some drunk men in the bar...

"You must remember! You were about eleven! I was only six and I remember it!"

The nerves in my leg have all gone dead and though I watch the skin dent under their fingertips, I can't feel them pressing down on it.

That's what listening to stories of my childhood is sometimes like.

According to the woman, and to others who seem to know, my memory loss is dissociation. It's indicative of 'something'. It 'says a lot'. Really? I can't believe this. It's sounding too strange and I know, after all, that I just have a terrible memory compared to my sisters.

But I don't remember a lot of sessions either. Whole therapy sessions aren't there the next day. Someone pointed out that I pay too much to be forgetting everything. Hence my new resolve to write, despite resistance.

This post is too long but I wanted to include a song by a man I'm sure I could love (if only for his voice).

It's called In My Head and it's a question that tortures me.

Something sometimes happens in therapy where I find myself asking if anything I feel really exists... I suddenly doubt that the pain and the desperation is real... I doubt that I am even telling he truth... I don't know whether anything I feel exists in reality. I beg the woman to consider that I might be making it up... that it might all be in my head. I don't want to waste her time. I don't want her to believe me if my feelings aren't even real.

I'll leave Mr Sean Mullins to explain the rest.

Is it all in my head? Is it all in my head? Could everything be alright
without me knowing?

Is it all just a game? Where everything stays the same? Is it all in my


  1. I can so relate to this. Stay safe and be gentle with you ok.

  2. Thoughts stop completely, the space in front of my eyes turns into a vast sea of off-white and I go deaf. And I have no control over it. It would almost be amusing if it weren't so detrimental to the therapy process.

    I hear ya.

  3. Hmmm...This could be me writing this. I thought I was going quietly crazy for many years until I was finally told what was going on with me.

    I just had this 'do you think I am just making this up?'conversation with my T yesterday. But in reality if I were making it up would I be asking this question? It's really frustrating so I hear you.

  4. I had blocked out 4 whole yeras of my early teen years! I didnt block out the abuse itself , I blocked out the time when I realised what happened to me! Last year during trauma therapy I dissociated a lot. Crossing streets without knowing it, turning on the stove and not knowing it, hearing my cell phone ring in the fridge!!!! Some things I by now can laugh about yet some are dangerous like crossing streets, truning on the stove. My team of therapists explained that I shut down some functions to protect myself when overwhelmed, when I have to deal with to much stuff. Well, I get better,slowly but surely. But have you seen my cell phone?

    I am in your corner. Love from my heart to yours!

  5. (((((( hugs ))))))

  6. you are an amazing writer.

    I think that lack of memory almost always means we weren't having a good time, and were feeling pretty unsafe - but in the end I don't know.

    I hear you with the "in your head thing." It's a tough existential issue - and I think ultimately projection makes perception.