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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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

My Postpartum Experience: What I Didn’t Expect

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So I just did a thing….I had a baby! You’d think I would remember what it was like to be postpartum considering I went through this 6 years ago with my first daughter but I completely forgot. I really thought I was going to have free time and do stuff! ???. I had a whole list of things I was going to do that went out the window once my daughter was born.

It’s nice to be home from work as a new mom again. I thought that pregnancy was hard with all the weight gain and fatigue but OMG Postpartum is way harder. My postpartum body was to be expected so that didn’t surprise me. I definitely underestimated the first 3 months of my daughter’s life and how hard it would be.

So what is postpartum? Postpartum is the period after your labor/pregnancy when your body is getting used to not being pregnant. It can last 3 months to a year. Below is a list of all the things I was totally unprepared for. I love my daughter to death but it was so challenging.

1. Getting the shakes right after delivery and the fatigue that followed.

This didn’t happen after my first labor with my now 6 year old. I guess it was because I was so doped up on the epidural medicine. But right after I popped out the baby my body started to full on tremble. Like I was freezing, but I wasn’t cold. It freaked me out! Like why am I shaking? Is this normal?

I looked it up later and a lot of women experience the shakes after giving birth. Your body has just done something so intense and amazing that your physical reaction is to shake to cope with the trauma. I could feel my teeth chatter as the nurse put a blanket over me to deal with the shaking. I would say the shaking lasted an hour.

Finally the baby was out and I tried to get back into the groove of things and for a few days my will to get things done trumped my fatigue but by day 4–10 postpartum, I felt like I was hit with a truck. I couldn’t even lift my legs. I wanted to sleep so badly but my milk was still coming in and that made for an angry hungry baby all hours of he day. My belief that I could finally get things done around the house basically flew out the window.

2. How bad my nipples hurt from breastfeeding in the first two weeks.

This always happens when you breastfeed. The sore, cracked and sometimes bleeding nipples are to be expected. Why, I don’t know. Maybe because your nipples are still getting used to the suction. Or because the baby is sucking so hard it causes trauma. I don’t know.

My baby could barely gain weight during those first two weeks. I couldn’t bring myself to feed her every two hours while my nipples we feeling like they could fall off. I’m talking toe curling pain. I used some lansinoh cream to help with the tenderness, but the pain was still surreal.

Thankfully, the pain got easier by the third week and by 1 month I was breastfeeding in my sleep.

3. How much time I had to spend breastfeeding in the the first month.

I’m literally breastfeeding every 2–3 hours during the day and 3–4 hours at night. The sessions could be as short as 20 mins or seemingly endless. I really struggled to understand that I needed to feed her on demand the moment she started showing signs of hunger like sucking on her hand or fussing. All out crying and she’s already famished!

One week I calculated I spent 8 hours a day feeding the baby. It’s so exhausting.

I tried everything to stimulate my production including pumping and consuming Mother’s Milk tea.

I’m now 7 weeks into my postpartum period and its gotten easier. The breastfeeding sessions can get a little long but at least they don’t hurt. I wouldn’t say they are 100% comfortable but they definitely don’t hurt anymore. Yay!

4. How annoying it is to get other people’s opinions on babies.

Everyone has an opinion especially the grandparents. My favorite one is “Don’t hold her so much, she’ll get too used to it”

I’m sorry…what?!? I mean my daughter is a newborn baby that had spent 9 months in the womb and now has shoved into this cold cruel world. Let’s not make it colder and crueler by not holding her when she cries!

With my first daughter, I was encouraged to give a her rice with her milk. Rice?? Rice can’t be digested until like 5 months.

Because I really love these people, I’ve kept a tight lip and let the parenting comments go over my head but OMG are they are annoying.

5. How annoying it was to entertain people wanting to see the baby.

Around the second week, close family and friends wanted to come around to see the baby. Not wanting to be disagreeable I said yes, but I was so exhausted. What I so really needed was for people to help take care of the house that was falling apart, help me get rid of those dirty dishes, hold the baby while I vacuumed, etc.

I am barely holding it together and I’m expected to entertain? It seemed unreasonable. My freaking neighbors also keep trying to get me to go outside and hang with them. “You need fresh air, get out while you still can!” I know, I know, I know, but I’m so tired.

Feel free to to say no to people during your postpartum period. On the outside I wanted to be able to be very social, but I could barely keep up conversation.

6. That taking care of myself and also the baby felt impossible.

Cluster feedings, constant diaper changing, bath meltdowns, and comforting seemed to be my main reason for existence. I often felt torn between trying eat, shower or sleep while she slept. I was neglecting my postpartum care.

And my husband can only do so much because he’s still working and needs to sleep at night. And honestly he sucks at changing diapers, they always leak when he does it. ???

Finding a balance feels impossible. I thought I would have time to maintain myself, go to some Drs appts, maybe get my hair cut. That could only be done when we had a third pair of hands and my mom was staying with us.

7. The random postpartum depression and anxiety

This really caught me off guard. It snuck up on me. The changes in hormones felt crazy. I was not myself. It’s like I had been jacked up on estrogen for 9 months and suddenly had none and it was causing these intense mood swings, anxious thoughts and anxiety. I wanted to be chill and couldn’t be chill.

I made the stupid decision to look at my work phone and send some combative emails during this period. When I got called out on it, I got all weepy because I created more anxiety and stress for work I’m not supposed to even be at. I seriously wondered if I had postpartum depression and anxiety but my doctor said it was only the baby blues.

Right now I’m just focusing on getting rid of the random feeling of impending doom that hangs over me. Hoping it gets better.

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Overall, it’s been awesome taking care of my little one. Her little smiles and coos light up my day. I feel wonderful that I get to be a mom to an newborn again. And even though a lot of this stuff caught me off guard, I know it’s temporary and that I need to take the good with the bad.

Tags: Postpartum depression, postpartum syndrome, postpartum after pregnancy, feeling down after birth, state of being a mother.

On Anthony Bourdain & Kate Spade: The Face Of The Suicide Epidemic

Anthony Bourdain Kate Spade Suicide Epidemic
Anthony Bourdain Kate Spade Suicide Epidemic

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When I heard about Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef and entrepreneur’s death, I felt my heart sink. My husband and I would watch “No Reservations” and now “Parts Unknown” religiously. My husband really found a part of himself in Anthony Bourdain. He loved how he would go to these remote places, get to know the locals and focus on the meaning that the food had on the community. I think that’s what made Anthony so special and why he was so loved by the public, it was his way of connecting people from around the world. Kate Spade was a surprise too.

I didn’t really follow her celebrity but I’m very aware of her brand. It’s hard to go anywhere in the city without seeing one of her bags or her jewelry. She has a very clean cut and innocent vibe to her brand, so when I heard about Kate Spade and her suicide, it was just as much of a surprised.

The news of the two suicides came less than 24 hours of each other and, somehow, it felt like a pop culture loss.

It had me thinking a lot about happiness and what that means for us as humans. It begs the question, how do you find true happiness?   I mean Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were the epitome of success and yet now they’re the face of the suicide epidemic. There are very few people who can top their success in their industry. They had strangers that looked up to them and they inspired so much in others. Yet…in a moment they could not find the will to live nor find any happiness to be found. What hope is there for the rest of us?

One thing we can be sure of is that happiness is not found at the bottom of a well funded bank account. Money is not the formula for happiness and yet so many of us chase it as way to get us to the next place. “If only I got a better job…,” “if only we could get ahead of these bills,” and “if only we could get our debt down,” but what happens after you meet those kind of goals? What happens after we reach for the next step and the next step, only to realize there no prize for reaching the top? The suicide epidemic spares no one.

I read an article about people’s different responses, it surprised everyone. Neither family could suspect this as a possibility for their loved ones. Val Kilmer, gave his perspective that he thought it was a selfish decision to leave family behind. I can respect that point of view since he had battled throat cancer and literally had to fight off death. My parents always told me that suicide was a selfish and cowardly choice to make. It only caused pain and stigma to their loved ones.

But still, it’s hard for me to say that people who commit suicide are terrible people who are throwing their lives away. We can never truly know someone’s pain and suffering.

The CDC says it’s an epidemic now for mental health since, overall, suicide deaths are up 30% in the country. And that depression and anxiety are not necessarily an underlying cause for the increase. Many people who attempted or committed suicide have not been diagnosed for any mental illnesses nor were they suspected of any issues from their family. This statistic might be caused by the stigma surrounding mental illness and the fact that many people still don’t get the help they need from therapists and psychologists. This point is something to consider. However, CDC says that majority suicide attempts are correlated to a sudden negative change in life, like a family death, end of a relationship, or a financial hardship. They also say that guns are the most frequent and most successful means to commit suicide and suggest that some gun control would make it harder for people to make life ending decisions in a moment of desperation or sadness.

I wish I knew all the answers to what is a complicated and complex issue. My only advice to those battling suicidal thoughts is to focus on being happy with the life you have now and tell somebody about your struggles and get help.  Talk to a therapist about your symptoms for anxiety and depression before it gets out of control. Seek help.

My husband had a cousin that came out of the closet. He told his friend and then his friend told everyone else at school and said to his cousin that he wouldn’t have been his friend if he knew he was gay. This kid battled depression and suicidal thoughts because of that but he told someone about them. And that someone got him help.

One thing we do need to do is end mental illness stigma and discrimination.  This will make communication about problems and illness easier. Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are just the start of the conversation. The suicide epidemic is unfortunately not going anywhere.

[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.]

Check Out My Other Posts On Mental Health
What It’s Like To Disassociate

How To Deal With Crushing Disappointment & Other Negative Emotions

Signs Of Social Anxiety And How To Get Over It

5 Easy Ways To Overcome Your Anxiety & How To Manage Anxiety

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I have anxiety. Over time I’ve learned how to overcome your anxiety and how to manage anxiety

My job has gotten incredibly stressful between my Director firing everyone under the sun and us getting into the busiest season for my industry as an understaffed and under-trained team.  It’s just been too much pressure. I need to learn how to overcome anxiety and how to manage anxiety.

I’m sure everyone feels like this at work sometimes and we all have our triggers. So I spent last Thursday and Friday off trying to unwind and not let my work take over my life. Then on Thursday, I felt so negative and restless. I was thinking about all these work problems. Like OMG I’m going to have to train all these new people, I’m not getting recognition, and this sucks. I started kinda feeling sweaty, upset with a pit in my stomach that just wouldn’t go away. It was physically uncomfortable and I didn’t know why I was feeling like this. I wanted to feel like my normal calm self. I thought, I shouldn’t feel this way on my day off. But the discomfort and negative feeling wasn’t going away.

I was having an anxiety attack.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety is basically when you worry, feel negative or feel stress to the point where you are inducing your fight or flight instincts. This causes a negative physical reactions like increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, restlessness, sense of impending doom, stomach or chest pains etc.  These anxiety symptoms are no joke.

I tend to also get moody during these intense attacks. I was texting my husband just trying to get over it. And thankfully I did, years of anxiety have helped me manage it much better so at least so I’m not taking it out on someone else.

Here’s what’s helped me:

1. Recognize Your Anxiety

It seems so obvious but a lot times I didn’t realize I was going through an anxiety attack until it was over. My negative thoughts seemed so real to me. They aren’t even logical or rational half the time, but in the moment they are very real. So recognizing what is happening during an attack can be hard and confusing. What helps me to realize I am having anxiety is just to say what I am feeling out loud. “I feel upset” or “I feel anxious.” Just saying that helps me feel in control of what is happening. Ill usually follow with “Why?”

2. Figuring out your triggers:

Not understanding what causes anxiety is like being on a boat without a paddle. You’ll never understand why it’s happening and you’ll just feel helpless and anxious for the next attack. If you get anxiety attacks frequently, keep a diary of what you were doing and what you were thinking prior to the attack. Keep a log of the thoughts you had during the attack and how long the attack lasted. (Do this after the attack is over). I used to watch a lot of reality TV in college and was glued to my social media. I started having attacks and lashing out towards my (now) husband. Over time I realized that I was lashing out because the reality TV shows were making me feel bad about myself and I was always comparing my life to this and that on TV and thinking how boring and uneventful my life was; these thoughts were causing my anxiety. Right now I’m having anxiety from work so I can’t change my situation…

3. Confront VS Avoid

Is it better to confront or avoid you triggers? It depends. In the situation where I was getting anxiety from social media and reality TV, it made sense to avoid. I don’t NEED to have that in my life. On the other I NEED to work so I can’t just avoid going to work. In the situation with work I’m going to have to learn how to deal and confront that anxiety head on. My advice for confronting your anxiety you can’t avoid is just to immerse yourself in it.

I used to also get a lot of social anxiety where I would feel nervous if I had to socialize in a large group. I would nitpick conversations in my head and beat myself up if a conversation didn’t go my way. To overcome this, I became a real estate agent so I can meet many different people without feeling too much pressure to be perfect. And it worked! I’ve met hundreds of new people and now striking up conversation is not unusual or difficult.  Over time I became a smooth socializer and learned how to overcome my anxiety. I don’t care anymore about what other people are thinking about me or if I said something wrong. In certain situations, confronting what is making you feel anxious, especially like an every day occurrence like socializing, can absolutely help you cope and overcome that worry.

4. Take A Different Perspective:

I was still feeling really anxious that day and just wasn’t feeling good in my own skin. Dealing with my anxiety isn’t always easy. I spent a lot of time learning how to overcome anxiety. I knew I was being anxious and irrational so I just sat down and began writing my own thoughts out. I made a list of what I was thankful for, what I wanted to change in my life and brainstormed how I could make those changes. As soon as I was done I felt better. Like I had control over my life. Switching your frame of thought can absolutely help you overcome anxiety attacks. It takes practice because your problems in the moment feel so real and insurmountable. But all problems come with solutions, even if it takes a long time to see results. Thinking about all the great things in my life helped me minimize my worries and realize my problems weren’t as large as I thought.

5. See A Therapist:

If you have persistent negative thoughts, worries and anxiety I would recommend seeing a therapist. I haven’t been to a therapist but I think we should all evaluate where our self depreciating thoughts and anxious worries are coming from and a therapist can do just that. They can help with a lot of difficult mental issues like major depression, bipolar disorder, and severe anxiety. There no shame in it and you can always test out different therapists if you feel like one isn’t the right fit for you.

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Check out my other posts 
The Power Of Positivity and On Gratitude… and When Good Enough Is Okay

Reduce Anxiety Naturally With These Amazing Organizers!

Signs Of Social Anxiety And How To Get Over It

How To Deal With Crushing Disappointment & Other Negative Emotions