Dissociation: My brain leaves the building

Dissociation/disassociation is such a weird thing. For a long time I had no idea what I was experiencing.

I think my brain has somehow become very sensitive to trauma. When shock hits my brain it’s thrown into something quite weird.

The best example I can remember of this recently was about 10 months ago I arrived at the scene of an accident.

A few moments later I rang a friend to tell her that I was stuck in a road block because of an accident. I asked her if she would come and collect me and the children as I couldn’t get the car out.

“Where are you?” She said

“I have no idea” I answered

This was a route I had driven many times and a road I knew well. I stood there and I was just in total dissociation. I had no idea where I was. I went to my phone and googled my location and sent her a screenshot.

She arrived and picked us up. I returned home still feeling like I wasn’t really on the planet. I spent days reliving the worst memories of what happened that evening but unable to piece any of it together into a timeline. Your brain is so desperate to piece that you end up in this situation where you are trying to fill the gaps. There’s a lot of confusion.

That evening was a great to example of my sensitivity to trauma and inability to process trauma. It was a great example of disassociation. There’s still a lot about that evening that doesn’t make sense.

There’s also a lot about my description of events that makes little sense to anyone else. They don’t understand how I could just forget huge chunks or not remember bits.

The memories of my traumatic experiences are similar. I have distinct visual memories, sensations, smells, sounds but there is very little timeline. It’s extremely hard to piece it together in a logical order. Sometime I also find one flashback merged with another and I’m seeing or feeling things from different events. This majorly adds to the confusion. My brain constantly searches for a timeline.

This dissociation at this level is a new thing in the past 2-3 years for me. My brain frequently does this on a regular basis. If I’m faced with having contact with my abuser especially. It doesn’t need to be face to face. It could be just an email. It immediately sends me into this severe emotional flashback. I feel agony. It’s paralysing levels of fear. My brain is in pure fight or flight. My brain is telling me that I’m about to be attacked. I’m scanning for any sign of threat. My heart beats fast and I feel panic. I’m flooded with nausea and diarrhoea. Every sound makes me jump. It used to just last a moment but now the feeling lingers for hours or sometimes days. Alongside it is this horrific feeling about myself. I feel dirty. I feel ashamed. I feel to blame. I feel angry.

I could pop out shopping when I’m feeling like this or try to go to work and simple tasks seem impossible because I’m just not quite with it. I feel like I’m kind of floating above myself. I don’t have focus about what I am doing and I don’t remember what jobs I have to do. My brain spins through thousands of thoughts. Ruminations of trauma and anger towards my abuser.

The frustration of this is just intolerable. Every bit of me just wishes I could be free from him. I feel like I’m still his prisoner.

I haven’t figured out how to ground myself in times like this. I don’t have the discipline at the moment. This is where I’m hoping this stimulus discrimination might help. I’ve somehow got to stop the exposure to him causing me to spin out and for the impact to be so huge.

It doesn’t need to be something which is that traumatic. It can be the simplest thing. Someone shouting at me. The sight or smell of something which is a distinct trigger. The reaction is the same.

Disassociation terrifies me. It’s quite scary.

I’m hoping stimulus discrimination will help stop this happening.

A life free from the impact on my ability to function. To get to a point where I’m controlling the flashbacks and they aren’t controlling me.

“ Get over it!”The mental health taboo

My absolute frustration is when I’m told to “get over it” or “sort yourself out”

It’s hard enough battling with your brain on a daily basis without the constant reminder that your not good enough by family, lovers and friends that you respect.

My reactions to things are enormous. One small thing can happen and I’m triggered. I then spend all day in a state of constant feeling on edge. A feeling I’m going to be attacked, raped or murdered in the next few moments. My head buzzes around in a flare of constant panic planning escape routes. My heart beats fast, I’m dry heaving with the nausea, I run to the loo with a bout of diarrhoea. This torture goes on all day long. Eventually I pop.

My reactions might seem extreme and unwarranted and destructive to them. That’s cause they don’t see what’s been going on in my head all day.

I cannot “man up”

I will not be able to “take responsibility and change” until my mental health has been healed.

If I could stop this I would. It is ruining my life and I hate it but it will not change overnight and you can either support me in it and deal with the highs and lows or you can screw off.

I am brave. I am courageous. I have made huge steps to battle with a horrific mental illness to try and improve. I can’t make this happen any faster.

Please don’t lecture me.

There is no difference between a mental illness and a physical illness.

I can’t turn this off or ignore it or “get over it”

If you think that’s true then it’s you who needs educating.

(Sorry for the rant! X)

The down before the up

There is a terrifying thought that I face. It frequently is the one prevailing factor which has prevented me from dealing with things till now and it’s the one thing standing in the way of freedom.

The trauma I buried I did so for a reason. My brain buried it also. That’s why I’m stuck in this never ending loop of flashbacks and terror.

With PTSD in order to get better eventually you have to process the trauma. You can either use t-CBT or EMDR but either way you have to process it. With that comes the horror of it again- but this time it won’t be less real it will be more real.

My experience so far of EMDR. Things get a lot worse before they get better but that’s because your brain has to process what it never processed. You need to feel the things you never felt and the experience needs to be reprocessed correctly.

I want to keep buying my trauma in a deeper and deeper hole and hope it will go away and stop affecting my life.

It won’t.

It’s time to dig up the skeletons.

Take it slowly. Be brave and start digging them up. Stay grounded and be focused. This time you can just watch it like a horror movie you never ever wanted to see. Remind yourself this is just old stuff.

You need to let your brain do this so this can end.

Take courage. You are amazing and you are brave for doing this.

Trigger diary and stimulus discrimination

In an effort to stop the storms of flashbacks I am going to be trying a new technique.

I’m going to keep a trigger diary as a note on my phone. What triggers me? I can honestly tell you that I get triggered all day every day and I have no idea why half of them happen.

Here’s a few benign ones that I have

The sound of a door closing

The smell of body odour

Timberland boots

The sound of a car outside

The sound of a lock turning

My neck being touched

When I get triggered I’m going to be trying a technique called stimulus discrimination. It a technique taught to try and treat PTSD.

Here is how it’s been explained to me.

You get triggered.

First thing you do

Notice the similarities- identify what is is about the situation that is the same.

It could be that it is dark or that your in the same place or your remembering a sound, feeling or smell.

Now notice the differences. What is different between then and now? I am wearing clothes. He is not here. It is a different day. It is a different time.

The idea is if you keep doing it the eventually your brain will learn not to trigger.

First find the triggers and try figure out why they are triggering me.

Second identify the differences and remind myself that in this moment I am safe. There is no threat.

This will pass.

I think this one will take a lot of work and a lot of practice but I’m hopeful.

Below are 2 links I found helpful

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m0Je6z24wP4

https://www.nkvts.no/content/uploads/2016/09/Nick-Grey-Handouts.ppt

The first

I’m at this ridiculous point. I’ve been fighting for a diagnosis and treatment for complex PTSD for a while.

Complex PTSD is destroying my life and happiness and it’s time for me to take control of this and get the help I need.

I’ve got friends and lovers who have all given up trying to help because I can’t “learn from my mistakes”, “take responsibility”, “man up” or “get over it”. It’s impossible for them to understand why I keep reacting like I do and why I keep screwing my life up.

My story. In brief. Sexually abused as a teenager. That threw me into total chaos. I sought numerous unhealthy relationships and destroyed every friendship and relationship I ever had. Then I fell in love with a sex offender and married him and had children with him. He radically abused me sexually, physically and emotionally. Then he mentally derailed me and left.

I sought private EMDR which finally helped me get perspective. I then reported my husband for his behaviour and that sent me radically into what I can only describe as permanent flashbacks. I have not slept for 2 years. The triggers are everywhere. They send me into feeling constantly terrified. Every small noise makes me jump. My mind constantly battling with the idea that I’m about to be attacked.

Relationships have been impossible. I don’t have the stability. I struggle to actually bond at all and really feel very little. I just feel numb. My extreme reactions are very difficult to deal with and living in the constant rollercoaster of PTSD is dreadful. I have a tendency to throw grenades when hours of built up pain has hit me. These usually consist of text messages sent which are destructive and generally make my life worse.

My relationship with the children is strong. I don’t struggle to bond with them but I struggle at times to have the energy to be emotionally available. I’m more on the edge and tend to snap if I’ve asked them to do something for the fifth time. I hate the fact they have to see my startle responses. Yesterday my youngest child crawled into bed for a snuggle. She knows I cannot tolerate being touched on the neck- sometimes she does it on purpose to see me jump. She things it’s funny when mummy jumps. That’s what she did yesterday morning at 5:30. I was pretty cross because it really triggers me and asked her not to do it. She doesn’t understand and that’s difficult for me. I don’t want to snap at her but it’s hard for me to explain it to her.

Recently in the past year I’ve found myself struggling with dissociation. I think that’s what it is. I have total amnesia of many of the events and that is just so confusing. I find myself constantly trying to put the chain of events back together in some desperate attempt to make sense of it. I am unfortunately faced with having to see my ex as a result of a child contact order. That triggers immense re-experiencing symptoms and Flashbacks which send me into this weird kind of mode where I kind of feel I’m not really on the planet. I could be out doing shopping when it happens and I’m just kind of standing in a shop and I just feel lost.

I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to get a diagnosis and treatment. So far I have a diagnosis of PTSD but haven’t got a complex PTSD one yet. I’ve had private EMDR and done a bit of grounding. That’s it.

My goal.

1: Sleep

2: Emotional stability and not letting flashbacks rule my life

3: Healthy lifestyle eating, sleeping, exercise

4: Happiness in family life and being emotionally and physically available for my kids.

5: A life free from this prison sentence.

How I’m trying to reach that goal

this week.

1: I’ve started recording my sleep and asked for a referral to a sleep specialist. I think I might be suffering from trauma associated sleep disorder. I violently act out my dreams at night.

2: No more grenade texts. If your angry then read it, put it down and respond tomorrow. It’s not my fault the people in my life don’t get this. Responding won’t help.

3: Trying to eat some healthy food this week. This week so far has been good for eating.

4: Plan a treat for the kids. I have an idea for tomorrow to do something fun with them. Quality time with the kids always makes me happy.

5: Make appointment for National centre for trauma at Maudsley and see if I can get a diagnosis and treatment plan.