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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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

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.

—?—?—?—?—?—?—?—?—?—?—

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.

How To Make A Change in Your Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. There’s a lot of change I want to bring into my life.

I know so many other people who want to make changes in their life but can’t. I know people who are afraid of change and avoid it at all costs.

But why not just embrace change? I’ve realized that change is inevitable and something we can’t always control. Sometimes I’m sitting in my room thinking about the day my parents get too old to visit me or if me and K ever get sickly and one of us have to stay home full-time. I think about our retirement and whether we’ll have enough. I think about my daughter and that in 13 years she’ll be off to college.

Some of these are good changes and some of them are bad, but the reality is that some or ALL of these changes will happen at some point.

Right now I’m not so happy with how things are going. I have enough money now but not enough TIME. I’m always clawing for more time, with my husband, my daughter, our family, and for myself. I’m working or doing chores at home. Working a 40hr week plus commuting 12-15 hours a week plus a child plus a husband is a LOT. I’m trying to move away from that and maybe use this blog as an outlet to make that happen.

I’m ready to make a CHANGE.

I could be unhappy and take it out on the people around me. Kind of play the blame game. So many people do that when they feel helpless in their situation but that’s not the type of change you really want to make in your life. See, blaming others for changes that are or aren’t happening in your life makes you lose your sense of responsibility over yourself. It puts you in the hands of someone else to fix your problems. Almost all problems can be fixed by taking ownership of your problems, making a long-term plan to fix the problem, and then following through with action.

“If you always do what you did, you’ll always get what you’ve got.”

I heard this quote somewhere and it struck a cord with me.

Sometimes you have to do something different to get the result you want.

I have a handful of friend that are still doing to same things they used to do in their early 20s but are bemoaning that they can’t find a good guy. I’m sorry, if you sleep with a guy on the 1st or 2nd date and that hasn’t really worked for you in 5 years, shouldn’t it be time to, I don’t know, change things up? Maybe you can go with a different persona than fun, carefree and sexy girl, since that’s not getting the strong, serious and responsible guy you’re looking for.

Or the friend that complains that they don’t have the career they deserve yet, and no opportunities. Meanwhile, they spent their younger years high as hell, partying and having fun.

We all reap what we sow. We shouldn’t rely on chance or luck to get us what we want in life. The life we want can only come through conscious change.

My sister S loves to live in the past. She’s all about growth and finding herself so she looks to the past to understand herself and see what could be in her future. She said her biggest issues stem from her childhood, she doesn’t feel she got the right support from our parents.

I was like, “how does that help you change your life, by knowing that?”

She replied, it helps her to make good choices now and when she acts out, she can understand where it’s coming from.

I don’t know…it didn’t seem like she could really make a change in her life with that way of thinking. Yes, she understood what was holding her back but she wasn’t able to move past it.

Looking at the past is only half the story. You also have to look to the future too to make real change in your life.

People hate thinking about the future, it gives them so many bad thoughts about failure, shortcomings, mortality. But the future is HOPE, a part of your life that has not been written. It’s a part of your life that you can still alter and make right. So to make a real change in your life you need to look at the future too.

You need to envision the future you want and then stitch together how that’s going to happen.

Example: P wants to be able to move out of her parents house, they don’t have money to assist her, and she doesn’t have enough savings yet to make the move. P does have a job, summer is around the corner and she’s about to get more hours at the restaurant she waits at. P wants to move closer to the city so she can start a new career in fashion and meet the love of her life.

Scenario 1) P spends her whole summer hanging out with friends, going to the beach and enjoying herself. She could have picked up a few more shifts but decided she’d rather just take it easy this summer and have fun. She’s been talking to her parents about helping her move but together they still don’t have enough to make it happen.

Scenario 2) P sits down and thinks it over. She thinks about what she needs to do to make what she wants to happen.  First she’ll need money.  She’ll need to go out less and maybe take on a few extra shifts at work.  She also needs to find a roommate.  Sharing housing costs will make it easier to financially afford the move..  She thinks about all her friends who would need a roommate.  So she puts up a post on FB and finds an old friend that lives in the area that she wants to live in.  There’s going to be a spare room opening up in 2 months.  The deadline is tight but this gives P a goal.  After 2 months of grinding and saving, she’s able to put 95% of what she needs away.  Her parents, seeing her work so hard to meet her goal, decide to help her make the 5% difference so she can move.

Planning ahead and putting together steps to make positive change takes discipline.  And there will always be that voice in your head that says, “What if I can’t do this?”  A small seed of doubt.  My advice is to trust your gut on what steps you’ll need in your future.  You’ll never be able to predict the outcome of your choices or the changes you’ll make, but an educated guess is better than no change or action at all.

There are people who wait in life for luck to happen to them and there are those who take a stab in the dark, make things happen, and make their own luck.  It’s through change we’re able to do that.  Which person are you?

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