Later this week, I will be giving a presentation about Dissociative identity Disorder to a grade 12 psychology class. I am very excited about this and looking forward to it.
This all came together on Thursday, so I have not had a lot of time to think about what I am going to say, which is probably a good thing as I do not want to be to clinical about it. I want to be able to give the students a different perspective, a perspective form “the front lines” as they say. I want to give them an idea of how it has affected my life and what this condition is really about. It is about a very effective defensive mechanism the brain uses to allow the individual to survive extreme situations. If there was any danger or perceived danger I would dissociate.
This afternoon I had a meeting with my mentor, to get some ideas and have a general talk with him about what I want to present and how best to do it. I was discussing about how to start the presentation. I told him I was thinking of asking the students three questions and that if they feel comfortable enough, put your hand up if any of the following has happened to you…
- · How many of us in this room have gone to a movie or read a book and have been so immersed in the movie that we had lost track of time? – I imagine everyone’s hands will go up, as well as my own
- · Who in this room have driven home from somewhere, having something on our mind only to find ourselves safely parked in our driveway with no recollection of the drive home?- once again some hands, as well as my own will be up
- · Have any of you experienced an accident or seen a fire or been involved in some other event and found that you have either felt as if the incident was happening in slow motion or to someone else?- I imagine maybe a couple hands will be up- as well as my own
- · Has anyone in this room been involved in an accident or seen an accident or some traumatic experience and found you have lost some memory or time, or have little recall of the incident?- Maybe only one hand will be up as well as my own
- · Has anyone in this room sat down and started to play the drums with a group at a party, and the group starts to end the jam and you have only been playing for a few minutes the slowly realize you have been playing for 3 ½ hours but have no recollection of that time. This is not due to any drinking or taking of drug? - (As I posted in a previous blog) -- The chances are that I will be the only one with their hand up.
It was when I was talking of this that it came to me that I didn’t only dissociate when I was afraid or felt fear, I dissociated when I felt any emotion, Fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, joy, shame, guilt, etc. I could not believe the clarity of this realization. I knew that I dissociated, that I have huge gaps of memory in my life. I had assumed I dissociated at those times because of danger or a threat of danger.
But as I was talking about dissociating when I was playing the drums I wondered why would I do that. Why would I dissociate when I was having fun and was doing something that I enjoyed?
It then occurred to me that as a young child there were times I felt sadness and I was vulnerable and some took advantage of that. When this happened I would once again dissociate and I created an altar or persona. This alter would deal with emotions. From this time forward, anytime I felt any form of emotion this persona would deal with them while at the same time the “core” me would be able to stay on hyper alert and keep an eye out for any form of danger.
While this was a very effective defense mechanism for a moment of danger or to deal with growing up in a very chaotic, abusive and neglectful household, it has interfered immensely in my life. As a child I always felt that I didn’t fit in, like there was this glass partition between me and the rest of the world. I just could not seem to connect with others or fit in.
Sure I had friendships and emotions but it was the alters, other parts of me that had formed the friendships with others. The core me could not have friendships, because for friendships one need to have emotions and be able to make connections.
Here is an example..
This afternoon I went to a friend’s house and had tea. My friend asked me if I had my Christmas tree up yet and I told her no, that I had seen some at the local grocery store but have not put one up yet as it’s a bit early. I then talked about maybe going to cut one down and where to get one and wondering where to do that. . My friend then mentioned to me of a time the two of us went and cut down some trees. I asked her where and when as I have no recollection of this. She told me where we went and when. She then mentioned to me of a year that I got a permit from the forestry permit and my son and I went and cut one down. Once again, I have no recollection of this.
I then jokingly told her that I don’t come up for a visit and tea; I just come visit her so that she can remind me what I have done.
It was not until I got into therapy and had the supports in place that I could learn how to deal with emotions. I learned how to stay with and feel the emotions and process them, instead of dissociating. This has helped me to stay more in the present and have a linear memory. For example, I do remember the visit to my friends this afternoon and the conversation we had. I am now able to form connections and emotional relationships that enrich one’s life.
Life is full of surprises. I am so looking forward to presenting to the students and hoping that I can teach them something. Little did I know that preparing for the presentation – the students would inadvertently teach me about myself. For this I am grateful.
Until next time
Feel those emotions, they help one grow.
Cheers and be well