Explaining Dissociation To a Non Borderline, Part 2: Personal Experiences

               In part one of my blog series on dissociation, we found out that there are several types of dissociative disorders, and that Borderline/Dyslimbia patients can experience dissociation when upset or under stress. We discussed dissociative amnesia, derealization and depersonalization, and identity disturbances similar to Dissociative Identity Disorder. Dyslimbia patients can also experience short episodes of psychosis (a state of insanity) or delusional thinking. I’d like to tell you some of my personal experiences with dissociation.

                    “Zoning out.” On the more mild end, dissociative amnesia affects me often. Just the other night I was sitting outside and talking to my friends, when suddenly I became aware that I had no idea what they were talking about, and they asking me to answer a question I had forgotten. I was not sure if I had zoned out for five seconds or five minutes. I had been sitting, nodding, and listening, and then suddenly, my mind had detached from the world, only to return a few seconds later, forgetting what went on. Once reminded of the topic, I was able to start up the conversation again.

                  “Who Am I?” Sometimes, I get confused about my identity. This is worse for me than for most borderlines, because I have a co-occuring Dissociative Disorder where I feel like I have multiple selves. For most borderlines, identity confusion can be an overwhelming sense of not knowing who you are. Sometimes people tell me I act very different, saying things like, “Your bearing has changed,” or “The old you would never do that,” or “It’s like you’re a different person.” On some days, you may walk, talk, and dress differently than you normally do. Sometimes, I even want to switch genders. There is nothing objectively wrong with having multiple personalities or identity confusion. However, it can be a scary thing to experience, and may result in many powerful negative emotions. Borderlines may panic or become reckless, and their friends and relatives may be extremely confused.

                 Temporary Psychosis. I often ride the bus in my city, but with both social anxiety, high stress levels, and Dyslimbia, a crowded bus is a scary place for me. One day, I was riding the bus and I got paranoid (paranoia means having non-rational fears). I was scared that other people might read my mind. Even though this made no sense, it was highly alarming to me. Sometimes, when under stress, I also get mild visual changes. I will stare at a wall, and it will look as if the wall is moving. I will stare at a chair, and the chair will look like it’s slightly moving backwards. Lights sometimes seem to have bright colors around them. These are all examples of weak, temporary psychosis.

                    “Demons.” On the more serious side of the spectrum, sometimes I have delusional thoughts that I will believe, if only for a few minutes. An example is when I texted my friend about the people around me; I texted, “the people here must all be possessed by demons. I swear. That’s why they’re all doing this to me.” This can be extremely alarming to both the borderline and his/her loved ones. Luckily, my delusional thoughts only surface in times of extremely intense stress, and only last a few minutes. The best thing to do when a Dyslimbia patient gets delusional is to just accept it and try to help them calm down until they are normal again.

                    “Dolls and Doll Houses.” One of my worst instances of dissociation happened when I was very stressed about school and money. First, I started to feel distant, like my mind was in a cloud. I forgot which bus I was supposed to take home. Then slowly, I started to feel like I was dreaming, and then I couldn’t remember if I was really awake or not. I also felt as if every building and person I saw was some kind of illusion. They were fake, like dolls and doll houses. I also had physical feelings of numbness and cold. I felt like I was “floating outside my body”. These are examples of depersonalization and derealization. For some people, these feelings pass quickly and are not too alarming. For me, they are the most alarming type of dissociation and can result in destructive panic attacks. The best thing to do when you feel dissociated like this is to find a peaceful activity such as art or listening to music, and just wait for it to pass. Panic medications may also be helpful for some people.

              These are some representations of dissociation. I hope the stories have given other Borderlines something with which to relate. By reading these stories, I also hope non-borderline people understand dissociation better.

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