What It’s Like To Disassociate

There is very little known about this mental health experience and issue. Everyone is familiar with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, but disassociation is a little lesser known aspect of mental health. It kinda links up with the other three problems but is it’s own issue.

Disassociation is defined as a state in which some integrated part of a person’s life becomes separated from the rest of the personality and functions independently.

I also like Mayo Clinic’s definition:

Dissociative disorders are mental disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life.

I have had some of the symptoms that Mayo Clinic describes including:

• A sense of being detached from yourself and your emotions
• A perception of the people and things around you as distorted and unreal
• Inability to cope well with emotional or professional stress
• Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

It’s known to be more of a coping mechanism that’s used when someone goes through something traumatic, but if left to linger can have lasting effects on the personality.

I first disassociated when I had achalasia, a crippling esophageal disorder that took 4 years to diagnose. It was such a hard thing to go through as a child. I remember just separating that part of my life from who I was as a person. I’d hide it from other people, lie if someone asked about it. It was literally a part of my life that I never wanted to acknowledge. Being sick wasn’t who I was as a person, it was just something I was going through. So separating that aspect of my life from who I was as a person made sense.

It was the longest charade but I refused to let my disease define me. During my worst years, I truly believed that my life wasn’t really my life.

It was an escape mechanism; the ego is a frail thing and in some ways that’s good and bad. I’ll acknowledge that it did help me mentally to disassociate. I truly believe it helped me to keep my sanity and mental health together. But I learned how to disassociate so well, it kinda never left, even after I got better from my surgery for achalasia.
I continue having issues connecting with people. In my social interactions, I can’t just flow the way other people do. I can’t be spontaneous. There’s still a part of me that disassociates and looks at the interaction from a third party experience-from the outside looking in. I’ll subconsciously try to see how the other person feels or thinks about me, in order to try to “socialize better.” It causes me to seem distant. It’s like I stepped out of the situation and am trying to look at it from a third party perspective instead of just looking at it from my own perspective and socializing that way.

I know, it sounds crazy just trying to write about it.

Anxiety also triggers my disassociative behavior, it makes it 100x worst. I’ll just shut down, and try to pretend I’m not even there. That’s my coping mechanism.

I think a lot of people struggle with dissociative behavior and don’t even know it. Like the guy that pulls away every time he gets too close in a relationship or the soldier who came back from war and doesn’t connect with his family the way he used to or even the guy who plays video games all day and starts to find his online relationships more rewarding than the ones in real life.

Overall, it doesn’t effect my behavior too badly other than make me feel a bit distant. It hasn’t gotten to a point where I feel I need professional help but I am interested to find out what causes it.

Personally, I think it’s an ego thing. Something we do to protect our sense of self when we feel threatened. When I’m in a fight or flight triggered anxiety episode, I usually choose flight. I think a lot of people struggle with this kind of mental block and they don’t even know what it’s called.

So far, I’ve found that removing myself from the situation that caused my disassociative behavior helps. As well as calming camomile or valerian root teas. After I’ve managed to clear my head, I can return to the task that triggered me.
I also don’t kick myself over being a little more reserved or distant from other people. Disassociation is just part of who I am because of the things that have happened in my past, just like my anxiety.

But there are more serious versions of disassociative disorders that can cause amnesia or even a complete shift in personality. If this is happening to you or if you have thoughts of suicide, please contact your mental health professional immediately.

Though it’s lesser known, understanding how disassociative behavior affects your mental health is important to keeping it together, at least mentally.

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Why Integrity Matters

As I get older, The idea of living a life of integrity is starting to fade. I miss being “green” and wanting to do the right thing all the time.

But I know that that’s not how the world works. Why is that? Because of greed, selfishness and ego. This is what drives our world.

Integrity, according to Webster Dictionary, means a firm adherence to an exceptional code of moral or artistic values.

As a child I was always concerned about doing the right thing, making sure everyone got their fair share. But even then, I noticed the lack of fairness and integrity in my fellow students, teachers and other adults. I saw the most talented athletes get chosen first for sports teams at gym and given the most floor time. Students that wanted to participate were left to the sidelines. And I’m not even talking about organized school sports. Teachers spent the most time with students who were already very smart, had tutoring and helicopter parents to support their performance. So children who had less were expected to produce more to keep up.

I always thought adulthood would be a lot easier when dealing with moral problems. I thought people are honest. Naively, I wondered why would adults lie? I had thought that my fellow students were opportunistic liars and cheaters because they were immature. But the reality is that these children would grow up to be adults who continued to lack important characteristics like honesty, integrity and virtue. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has a ring of truth.

The childhood version of me imagined that I would grow into an adult that was confident, sure, honest and willing to fight for what’s right but now I’m not sure I’ll ever be those things. Some days I can feel myself shrinking, barraged by the screams of people playing politics and those fighting for themselves.

From the time I was 20-25 years old, I was very optimistic. Truly believing that the world would sort itself out and that what’s right will prevail, but that’s not necessarily the truth. It feels like the older I get, the more “woke” I am about how things work.

I’ve been burned a few times. I’ve written a few posts on that.

The Horror of Dealing With Mold In My Apartment

Dealing with Toxic Work Culture

From friends to work to even my landlord now. They’ve all burned me. When it comes to benefits, money and status, a sense of doing what’s right goes out the window.

I came to realize that there are people who will only interact with you when it benefits them financially, politically or socially. It was a hard pill to swallow, to realize that there were a lot of people who were disingenuous.

But I grew up.

And sometimes when I’m looking at a situation, I now think how can I profit from this, how can I benefit? I hate to admit it but I’m becoming one of those people who are selfish, egoistic and greedy. It’s almost like I can’t help it. Intrusive thoughts enter my mind like, if you don’t take advantage, someone else will or you have to take your share of the pie.

I’m ashamed because deep down I know these thoughts are wrong. I’ve grown to distrust other people to the point that I’m becoming untrustworthy and I hate that.

Am I growing up and becoming less naive? Or am I becoming jaded and callous?

If the young and optimistic version of me met 30 year old me today what would she say? She’d say I’m becoming everything she hates about this world and that I’ve given up. But fighting to keep my integrity and resolve to be an upright, unselfish human being sometimes feels like swimming against an impossible current.

I can count on my one hand the amount of people outside of my family who I respect for their character. Everyone else would easily resort to dishonesty if they knew they could benefit from it.

Maybe that’s why I have no friends… I just can’t accept a friendship that’s false.

So what to do?

I still think that being a good person is important. I want to hold on to that childish hope that as a human being we can care for the good of others without gaining anything for ourselves. Without even a few good people in our society, we’d be living in a literal hell where society is built on bullshit, lies, deception and selfishness.

The truth is I’ve met people with integrity and I hope others can look at me and see that I aim to be a person of good character as well.

So hopefully the child I knew isn’t as disappointed as I feel in myself sometimes. As I aim to be a person who’s better at standing up for what’s good and right for its own sake, I need to learn to not have such high expectations of other people.

Integrity and character matters because at the end of the day that’s all we have.

Check out my other posts

On Gratitude…

The Power of Positivity

The Power Of Change

My Experience With Achalasia

I don’t really remember how it started but I’m pretty sure it progressed quickly. I described it as a “stuck” feeling. It was hurting me, so my parents took me to the doctor. I remember doing all these tests, first an x-ray and then an endoscopy.

An endoscopy is a procedure where they put a small camera down your throat while they look at your throat and esophagus. I was only 10 years old. I had to be awake during the procedure with no anesthesia since I needed to swallow while they viewed my reflexes. Nothing came up in the tests.

Th stuck feeling happened more often as time went on. It was actually food getting stuck at the bottom of my esophagus as I ate . My parents, not knowing what was going on, were frustrated. They didn’t know the cause and were beginning to wonder if I was making it up. They tried to coerce me to eat. They begged me, pleaded with me and eventually…hit me so I would stay at the table and eat.

When food would get stuck in my chest, I would have to wait until it passed, otherwise continuing to eat would be agonizing. Eventually, I figured out how to force myself to throw up to help relieve some of the pressure from the food blockage.

By the time I was 11, I was throwing up regularly. At meals, my parents watched me like a hawk to make sure I ate; they were still skeptical it was a physical ailment and they shamed me for not eating normally. To them, I chose not to eat. So I found excuses to leave the table and threw up in secret. If I had a lot of trouble eating and used up all my excuses to go to the bathroom, as soon as they left the room, I would throw up in a bag, hide it and dispose of it later.

Eventually they caught me. They found one of my bags of throw up.

11 year old me just didn’t know how to deal with it. The tests said that I was lying, that I had no physical problems. So why did eating hurt so bad?

So now my parents knew I was throwing up to relieve my pain. Except they didn’t really know how much pain I was in. To them, I was just choosing not to eat and throwing up. I felt their eyes judging me as I left the table to “use the bathroom.” I could smell their disgust towards me.

These were the hardest years of my life. The pain got worst and by 12 years old, I couldn’t go a meal without pain and that stuck feeling. My parents and I fought while my sisters watched quietly. One day, they demanded that I stay at the table. “Don’t you dare get up!” they said. I squirmed and writhed in pain as I felt the pressure of the food and my own saliva build up on top of each other. I remember my parents threatening me as my eyes rolled back and I started to faint from the pain.

Eventually they took me to see a psychiatrist. Because of my young age, they thought I was anorexic and bulimic. You would think that a psychiatrist would actually know I was in physical pain. But she diagnosed me with depression. She proceeded to tell my mother that she was the cause of all my problems and put me on Zoloft.

Well, shortly after my therapy stopped. My mom didn’t like hearing that. I was better off anyway, looking back, that psychiatrist just wanted to collect on the exceptional insurance that my dad’s work offered.

The following months were more of the same. More doctors, endoscopies, and barium swallow procedures. The barium swallow was the worst. It was like getting an x-ray done while drinking this nasty chalky drink. I did these tests a few times and nothing was coming up. Honestly, I think the doctors just didn’t know what they were looking for. My esophagus hadn’t been working well for years.

The puberty years are so hard and I had to be sick through it. It kept getting worst and worst. By the time I was 13 years old, I had cried so many times over it and was even considering suicide. It really messes with you to be told that you’re crazy. I’m sure my parents felt a lot of guilt after learning it was actually a physical ailment.

Lesson to parents. If your child tells you they’re in pain, BELIEVE THEM.

When I was 14, I finally saw a specialist that was able to properly diagnose me.

I had achalasia.

Finally, I knew what was wrong with me. It felt like a weight being lifted from my shoulders to finally know it wasn’t all in my head. Achalasia is a rare esophageal disorder that caused my sphincter to tighten abnormally and close the opening to my stomach. The stuck feeling was actually called an esophageal spasm. And food and liquids weren’t able to reach my stomach.

By the time I was diagnosed I looked so sickly and terrible. I struggled to eat every other bite. Fluids were getting blocked. I remember I hated taking pictures and was afraid that people thought I was anorexic. I threw up every meal and several times a meal. The pain never passed unless I threw up. The pressure of the food increased and increased. It hurt so bad because I kept it secret from other people at school, so when I had an esophageal spasm, I would just hold it instead of throwing up. It gave me anxiety to eat at restaurants, go to theme parks, or at my friends’ houses. Achalasia literally ruined my life for those 4 years.

Once I was diagnosed, it didn’t get better right away. They did a dilation procedure. This procedure required me to go under general anesthesia while they placed an instrument down my throat; it expanded at the site of tension to weaken the abnormal muscle. That worked for a few weeks but the spasms always came back. We did this procedure at least 3-4 times. But the abnormal muscle just kept getting stronger and made it more difficult to eat. Then I took a turn for the worst. In the end, I needed a feeding tube inserted through my nose since I couldn’t eat a thing. I was so thin and weak, just basically waiting to die. My face was gaunt and my arms like twigs. I had lived with it for so long now the spasms were constant; I felt happy if I could get liquids down. I grew to hate eating in general.

The heller myotomy was a godsend. It was a miracle. It was the final option for me. The surgical procedure cut through my abdomen to get to my esophagus; it cut and weakened the muscle that was giving me problems. When I woke up and tried to eat, I cried as I realized I was fixed. I could eat again. I remember my parents and I being so grateful, we gave the doctor chocolates at the follow up appointment.

Thankfully, I’m 99% better now. I’ll never be fully cured of my achalasia, but I don’t get spasms that often now. Maybe once a month or at most a handful in a month. I forgave my parents for how they ignorantly gaslighted me and shamed me for my sickness. But I still hide my spasms from everyone. Old habits die hard.

Signs Of Social Anxiety And How To Get Over It

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It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since forever. For people who know me well, I’m more introverted than the average person. I’d say I’ve come out of my shell over the years but I still have moments where I just don’t know how to interact with people.

What is social anxiety? How does it affect people? Can you get over it?

Well, social anxiety is an irrational fear of being judged, feeling irrationally embarrassed, not knowing how to communicate with other people, social phobia and worrying obsessively about what other people think of you.

I would say I was like this from middle school to my mid 20s, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I was able to feel more confident in my interactions and had enough experience dealing with people to no longer feel anxious.

Some of the social anxiety symptoms and the issues I had during those years were:

Feeling like everyone was watching me and what I was doing.

I could literally be eating a sandwich in the lunchroom and I would feel like everyone would be seeing my sandwich, judging the sandwich I had, how I was eating it etc. I would be very self-conscious about how I dressed, whether I’m re-wearing something very recently and wondering if people thought I didn’t have enough clothes. I thought a lot about the social implications of how I dressed.

Replaying social interactions in my head and self criticizing how they could’ve been better.

They say practice makes perfect but this was just obsessive compulsive disorder happening because for every word I said to someone I would replay it in my head over and over and over. And try to figure out how I could’ve made it better. I realize now socializing like that doesn’t help you in any way. It just makes you more anxious.

Imagining pretend social interactions and practicing them in case I needed to use them in the future.

This was just a waste of time because none of those pretend social interactions ever happened.

Not being able to convey ideas concisely

Sometimes I would just ramble and then I would see the other persons face getting all confused and lost as to what I was trying to say. I would even get confused as to what I was trying to say. I’d lose track of what I was trying to say halfway through the conversation. This would make me even more anxious and embarrassed.

Trying to control other people’s perspectives of me.

I am who I am and, at the time, I guess I wasn’t ready to accept it. That I’m an introvert. I would get really upset if people told me I was shy or that I needed to get out of my shell because it made me feel like there was something inherently wrong with me; when really I’m more of a listener. If I don’t feel like I have something to add or say, I shouldn’t have to fill the conversation with filler.

Avoiding people if I couldn’t remember their names.

I’m terrible with names. Horrible. And if someone remembered my name and I couldn’t remember their name, I would just avoid that person instead of asking them to repeat their name. I felt ashamed for not being able to remember it.

Avoiding people that I don’t know very well.

I still do this.

Not wanting to put myself in group situations and avoiding events where I would have to socialize on my own.

I liked clinging to my extroverted friends and using them as a crutch to socialize. Then feeling lost when they’re not helping me socialize. It was painful of being at parties or at school and trying to look interesting. At the end of the day, my friends were never responsible for helping me socialize.

How did this affect my life?

I was very unhappy. I thought that I wasn’t doing the right things to put myself out there. I was overthinking everything and I wasn’t putting an effort to get to know people who actually wanted to get to know me. It made my husband frustrated because he felt like I was isolating myself. I couldn’t do things that would benefit my life because they were social. I couldn’t go on interviews. I couldn’t make phone calls to strangers. I wouldn’t ask questions if I didn’t understand something.

My life really couldn’t move forward with how much anxiety I was having.

How did I get over it?

I looked for a job that required me to be personable. I decided to do real estate sales. I had always imagined a real estate person being so outgoing, friendly and easy to talk to. I met a hundred new people that year. Putting myself in situations that terrified me actually helped me. I learned that people don’t care if you say the wrong thing. They don’t even care if you’re an introvert or shy. Most people are just worried about themselves. Most of them won’t even remember your name and that’s normal. I went through a lot of awkward moments with clients and at the end of the day they didn’t matter, I still made money, I still got other clients.

I think it comes more with maturity; accepting rejection, accepting other people not noticing you and just living your own life.

Now when I meet people and there seems to be no chemistry or I think they’re not interested in getting to know me, I realize maybe they’re just not my type of people and that’s OK.

I’m still introverted. I still prefer being in small groups or getting to know you one on one but I’m not shy anymore.  I’m not afraid of how people react to me or what they think of me. I’m not concerned with getting them to like me and I’m pretty happy just being me.

Tags: Dealing with Social anxiety, social anxiety support, anxiety cure, feeling anxious, understanding anxiety

Reduce Anxiety Naturally With These Amazing Organizers!

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One of my first posts included my struggles with anxiety.

Overcome Your Anxiety. 5 Ways I Worked To Overcome Mine became one of my more popular and shared posts.

Though I’ve come a long way, sometimes I still find myself with a pulsating heartbeat and racing thought of impending doom over the smallest obstacle.  I’m not a person that really needs to manage my anxiety with medicine.  But these moments of panic can really be disruptive in my life.

I’m partnering with SHINESHEETS, another blog that focuses on personal development and anxiety management.

Amber, the site’s creator, made these AMAZING organizers specifically tailored for people that suffer from chronic anxiety.  You see the key to anxiety relief is in maintaining some sort of control over what’s happening in your life, regardless of whether your mind is telling you it’s falling apart.

I thought it was a pretty creative idea and I checked it out and was really impressed. Her digital designs are incredible and are almost guaranteed to help you maintain control and direction in your life.

What really drew me to the idea was that these organizers and journal inserts were actually really intuitive on what it means to live with chronic anxiety and also what it takes to fight it.  I believe Amber is someone who knows full well how crippling anxiety can be, so her creating these affordable organizers based on her own battle with anxiety, only makes this product more authentic and useful.

Immediately I knew that these products were something that could help people.  I mean considering that 40 MILLION people suffer from some form of anxiety and only 40% of those people are able to receive treatment, this product could really change lives.

It could make a dent and some progress in a condition that most people have suffer through silently.  So check out some of these products that caught my eye.  I hope these help you fight and organize yourself through the battle of anxiety.

Look at this Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal

I mean, it’s only $6 and these are endless.  You can literally download them over and over and over again.

It’s purpose is that by writing down everyday what you’re grateful for, you can change perspective and find the silver linings in even the darkest days.  Soon you’ll be able to control those spontaneous negative thoughts and stop your anxiety by realizing how full your life is already!

How It Works:

1)Go to the Shinesheets website

2) Choose a bundle 

3) Order and download

4) Print from your computer and start using in your agenda/journal/organizer.

I really can’t support this idea enough.  I would also recommend taking a look at the financial planners.

Finance Tracker

You know how I am about the importance of budgeting and I honestly feel like one of the biggest triggers for anxiety in most people is a lack of financial organization and a lack of financial control.

It includes:

  • Monthly/daily income tracker – track up to 6 income sources
  • Monthly/daily expense tracker – track up to 6 expenses
  • Monthly balance sheet – find out the balance of every day and monthly totals.
  • Yearly income tracker – helps you see what was bringing the most money to your household through the year.
  • Yearly expense tracker – shows you where you’ve spent the most this year.
  • Final yearly total/balance sheet – are you in a profit this year?
  • Yearly savings tracker – track how much you’ve saved every month.
  • Debt payments tracker – a single page tracks one debt for a whole year. =
  • Financial goals sheet – a matching goal setting sheet where you can write down your money flow possibilities, ways to save money and other financial ideas.

This package is only $9, a small investment for finally tackling your stress inducing finances.

This is such an innovative idea and perfect for those who love scrapbooking, organizing or need to get a jump on finding positivity in their lives.

One tip I’d like to share is that you can print them on regular paper or thick resume paper to give it a special touch.  You can also do colored paper.

Honestly, organizing and planning can be an incredible way to put your anxious thoughts away and manage anxiety with mindfulness.  This is a very natural remedy for anxiety and will teach you how to deal with stress.

There’s also a few bundles, this is great if you like a few of the packages she has, you can get a discount and more with a bundle.

Anxiety Bundle

Great for tracking dreams, anxiety triggers and patterns!

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Love Yourself Journaling Bundle

Great for creating a journal of your day to day thoughts, worries, and tracking nutrition

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Goal Planning Bundle

Perfect for creating a path for yourself and achieving it!

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Feel free to share your thoughts, love these and I hope these tools help you accomplish what you need in life <3