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 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.