Experiencing Dissociation

When I first started therapy, we were concerned about what appeared to be signs of athVEZ3GNCO memory loss with unexplained lapses of time. I can remember dates and other important information, if I plaster notes in all the right places, but find it incredibly hard to recall certain parts of my life on spot.

I once wrote that this reminds me of a psychic medium tuning into the spirit world. If I cannot concentrate fully, I will fail to make certain connections, it drives me nuts.

A perfect example happened at Friday’s group therapy. A couple of the other members asked why I exclude people from my life and appear happier in my “blissful isolation.” Enter the chaotic confusion like a rabid dog.

It might be easier if I were aware of Dissociation at the time or at least ready with a couple of cohesive answers. Instead, the crazy paranoia sends my mind into overdrive as I frantically search for words that sound valid and convincing, rather than look like some kind of dotty fraud. After all, who forgets crucial information about themselves?

th7CQM5GNRI told Friday’s group that the isolation is due to symptoms associated with Borderline Personality Disorder, which are particularly difficult in relationships – the intensity of emotions, idolising and devaluing, difficulties holding good and bad together and, of course, the notorious fear of abandonment.

Something didn’t quite add up and the group looked just as confused, but I couldn’t place what exactly was missing. Yes, BPD symptoms are partly steeped in isolation, but it’s only a small version of the story. If I had been able to remember the rest, perhaps it might have made a little more sense.

I am a surviving victim of a serial murderer… yup, it was a movie style event in my life that usually only happens to other people. I liked this man. I trusted him. I was in awe of his intelligence and just loved that huge beaming smile. There were no signs of his sadistic plan because he is a psychotic master of deceit. Do you believe in miracles? I do, I survived.

I’ve never been able to trust anyone since and consequently suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Agoraphobia, a fear of being outdoors in open spaces. Like everything, there are various ‘degrees’ of this condition and I consider myself to be on the lower end of the scale. It is my ‘selective agoraphobia’ because I can go some places with minimum stress, but there are clear boundaries, unchartered for over fifteen years.

If I had remembered any of this during Friday’s group, it would have helped all of us tothM9UP8E20 make more sense of this so-called ‘blissful isolation’.

It is difficult to explain dissociation and it always feels as though people are looking on in disbelief. I seem to lock certain traumatic memories away in safety box compartments and unless I am consciously trying to tune in, I will often fail to connect.

All of this is relatively new awareness so I would love to hear if anyone has similar experiences of dissociation.

Muchas gracias

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77 thoughts on “Experiencing Dissociation

  1. bbbr

    Thinking of you Cat…

    Dissociative symptoms are incredibly difficult to describe and recognise but think you`re doing very well with it.

    xxx

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, I thought about you and one other blogger while writing this. You were one of the first people I came across to introduce me to the concept. Good to hear from you, thanks 🙂

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  2. littlevoicetalks

    I guess there is a protection mechanism going on here so you don’t have to engage with all those horrendous and traumatic memories … I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have to live through that but yes you are a living miracle and I am so very glad you made it. Your story is your jewel. It’s who you are and why you move as you do and for people like me, (who get to read your thoughts and feelings), it often brings a sense of being understood and that even though we are so profoundly unique, there are similarities to take inspiration from; no bigger inspiration than being a true survivor. xxx

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    1. Cat Post author

      I’m so happy I posted about this because it gave me the courage to go back to group and explain what was happening last week. We are true survivors and find some of our strength from one another, thank you for sharing yours 🙂

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  3. Priceless Joy

    I’m really not that familiar with BPD so I can’t say if I have had similar experiences or not. I have had a lot of crazy (excuse the term) things happen to me but I cannot explain them. If I went through what you went through with that serial killer I am sure my mind would be shutting down information on me too. It’s amazing that you survived and there is a reason for it. You’re here for a purpose Cat!

    My psychiatrist kept telling me that I must have been sexually molested as a child but I don’t remember anything of the sort. So I don’t know if I have repressed the memories or if he is all wet. lol (I’ve been thinking he’s all wet).

    You’ve been pretty quiet this weekend, is everything okay??

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    1. Cat Post author

      Sometimes acute depression can cause all sorts of weird things to happen inside our mind. That psychiatrist sounds a bundle of laughs…not! How can he tell, does he have a psych crystal ball?

      I am ok, thanks Joy, just been a little distracted 😉

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      1. Priceless Joy

        You made me laugh as I pictured him with a crystal ball. Haha! You’re right, weird things can happen in our minds with acute depression. Thanks for not making me feel crazy because I don’t remember any sexual abuse. Hope you are having a great Sunday.

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            1. Priceless Joy

              goofy grin :P:
              blank 😐
              angry 😡
              winky smile 😉
              moving grin 😆
              embarrasssed 😳
              twisted 😈
              eye roll 🙄
              hmmm 😕
              shock 😯
              😀 😀
              🙂 🙂
              evil 👿

              Like

  4. mandy smith

    Your desire for isolation makes perfect sense, Cat, with what you’ve been through. You stated very well the kind of difficulty I feel in going out. When I think of agoraphobia I think of never leaving the house, keeping the blinds shut. But reading this I think mine is more like yours. I have my safe boundaries. I am quite comfortable on my Joey-walks, even if it means running into the same fellow-dog walkers. Of course for me, animals act as a conduit for safety between people. But i have few other places where I go comfortably. Your near death horrific experience would strip anyone of their trust. Maybe you can still go back to this conversation with your group?

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    1. Cat Post author

      When they diagnosed agoraphobia, I laughed, how ridiculous, I can go out. Once I looked at it, I realised there are just as many agoraphobics like us, as there is the ones who cannot leave their front door.

      I enjoy meeting my fellow dog walkers and usually go to the park at the same time because you’re more likely to meet the same people and I do feel safer with my enormous jack Russell at my heels!

      Thanks, Mandy 🙂

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        1. Cat Post author

          ye, lick em to death. He’s very sociable and adores children… all quite the opposite to me, they do say jack russells have a mind all of their own and training is just a bad word 😀

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          1. mandy smith

            That’s what I’ve heard, Cat. I’ve know many people with JR’s. They get away with murder because they’re so dang cute! 😀

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            1. Cat Post author

              Do you know of the dog whisperer Cesar Millan? When I first got Jack at 3mth old, I read two of his books. When he was talking about training difficult dogs, he said, “all bets are off for Jack Russells” 🙄 How right he was!!

              Liked by 1 person

            2. mandy smith

              So funny. Cesar is my dog god. I had a neighbor who got this itty bitty Jack Russell and it was hilarious watching them chase down the dog all over the neighborhood, build fences trying to contain him, fill in holes he dug. He could jump from a standing position about 10 feet in the air ( it seemed!) but they loved him to death! That is so funny even Cesar isn’t sure … 😃

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            3. Cat Post author

              Oh yes, holes, a jack Russell’s dream. One day Jack was very quiet and when I went to investigate, he was on top of the bed and had cleverly put his toy under the duvet… but then he dug it up… the hole went straight through my new duck feather duvet. Talk about spitting feathers! 👿

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            4. Cat Post author

              Ps Cesar is amazing. He actually introduced me to the concept of living in the here and now. He talks a lot about it in his books and he is also a fan of Depak Chopra. I try to practice it with Jack otherwise he gets neurotic if I am too stressed. 🙄

              Liked by 1 person

            5. mandy smith

              I love Cesar. When he came out about his suicide attempt, first I was devastated, then the reality of the “humanness” in all of us set in. Now I admire him even more. I love Depak, too! I have his 21-Day Meditation audio that I listen to while I begin my writing. They are so calming.
              Have you tried massage with Jack? Dogs love it. The hyper ones take a bit to learn to lay still, but one minute at a time…I knew a lady that did only that for a living and she was amazing. at teaching dogs to lay there and enjoy the healing effects. Just like us!

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            6. Cat Post author

              I didn’t know about any suicide attempt. He’s not so well known over here

              I wouldn’t know where to begin doing massage properly but he does get head rubs and belly tickles 🙄

              Liked by 1 person

  5. cardamone5

    Dearest Cat:

    I am so glad that and horrified at what you shared. I cannot imagine surviving, and being so kind, as you are. Of course, we don’t really know each other, but I like to think that that sense of anonymity enables us to be more open than if we were talking in person. You have been incredibly supportive to me in your comments, and I appreciate and value your friendship. I encourage you to share more, when you are ready, if it helps you, about your experience, BPD, disassociate thoughts, etc. Or just post about anything. I’ll read. Sending you hugs.

    Love,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth… if I learned one thing it is the human spirit and the will to survive can see us through things like this.

      Thank you for your very kind words

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  6. Life in a Bind - BPD and me

    I relate very much to your difficulty with memory, which is one of the reasons I get so anxious about the fact I don’t have time to takes notes after sessions. I feel like so much is just trickling through my fingers and I’m hoping desperately that somehow it’s just being absorbed as ‘experience’ even if there’s no conscious recollection, and that it’s shaping me, and my thoughts and feelings. I also find that I often don’t make connections I should do, simply because I forget, and it may or may not come to me later. I always go blank when someone actually asks me how BPD manifests itself in my life. I’ve written so much about it, but somehow just almost ‘can’t recall’ examples when someone asks. ‘It comes out in my relationships and my attachments’. Ummm……where next? I haven’t had the horrific experiences you’ve had, and part of the memory loss may be pure survival and functioning. But I _am_ starting to realise that I may have found certain events in my life much more distressing and unsettling than I thought I had, and the reason I think that now, is the fact that I can remember very little about those events, even though I think that they’re the sorts of events most people would have fairly clear memories about. My therapist has often offered interpretations that involve those events (basically, moving around, changing schools, etc) and at the time, I wondered why, and couldn’t really connect with why those events might be significant. The interpretations didn’t ring true, which is only to say, I wasn’t immediately conscious of their implications. But the more I think about it, the more odd I find it that I don’t remember some of those events more clearly.
    Thank you for another excellent and thought-provoking post 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      I am lucky to have the luxury of time to write about therapy, but I’m not sure we necessarily learn or heal any more than when we just attend sessions. If healing takes place by exploring and sitting with the feelings, then surely the right amount of work is still happening in all the right places. Plus, you do reflect very well in your own blog posts, which seem a little more regular. Do you write a weekly post?

      It’s weird how we go completely blank, I can never remember the BPD symptoms, even though I’ve read them a trillion times (slight exaggeration there, but all or nothing :-))

      I was about 4mth in therapy when I realised I couldn’t recall one single event from the age of 9 to 11. We recall things visually, but when I try to visualise this period, I see black, just black, nothing else… talk about weird! This never occurred to me before and, TBH, I forgot all about it until now. It’s important but I bet you anything that by Weds therapy with Paul, I will forget all about it again…tut

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  7. therabbitholez

    I’m only just starting to get to know you, and another piece of who you are has hit home. Your a survivor, how! I can’t even begin to imagine, but have some inkling about keeping people at arms length, which can be a self imposed isolation, and wanting to block out memories.

    Through blogs I’m learning about BDP so I don’t really have a full understanding yet, I used to experience loss of time, where hours would go by , thinking it was only minutes but finding myself in the same place, very scary, your therapy and group is helping and this will gently bring some of those memories to the fore, to give you peace of mind.

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    1. Cat Post author

      The human spirit has a strong will to survive. I often wonder if it sounds worse than the reality of living with it. It became a part of me, just like sexuality. I suppose, I have lived with the unspeakable and there is a lot of desensitising in that process. I have locked away the devastating effects and this is what I need to deal with in therapy. My blog is an amazing ground for preparing me for those individual “expeditions” I now have the courage to talk openly about dissociation and why it happens, to the rest f the group… all amazing work!

      As for BPD, I think most of us who experience MH have certain symptoms associated with all the personality disorders. I relate t a little avoidant personality disorder, narcissistic PD. If you looked through the symptoms of BPD, you would probably identify with some, but that doesn’t necessarily make you BPD. I don’t talk much about it because I was newly diagnosed about 2-3yrs ago and I just prefer to think of myself as living with a set of symptoms rather than a text book. What I do know is that we can recovery from it with hard work in therapy and basically retraining our brain and emotional responses.

      Thank you so much for your supportive feedback

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  8. kat

    this probably isnt the same kind of disociation you mean. but i had 2-3 times where i got in my care leaving my bf’s house, to where my kids and i were living with my mom, and all i remember is getting in my car, then seeing a small town gas station, pulling in and realizing that i had no idea where i was, had never been there before, had no gas, no money and no phone. had to have gas station call police, who got a donation from a church to buy me enough gas to get home, and of course, a map. the drive home was only 35 minutes, but i had lost 4 hours. my T said it was a disociative fugue state, because some part of my mind (probably an alter) was refusing to allow us to go back home, because my mother was so abusive.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That is exactly the kind of dissociation I mean, Kat, that is classic text book example and your reasons for dissociating – returning home to mother – sounds precisely the reason why you were protecting yourself (or a part of you was) from the abusiveness of that situation. It’s just the same with my trauma memories. They are locked away in a state of dissociation as a means of protection and the more I feel safe in therapy, I will unravel and remember. Thank you, Kat, always great feedback 🙂

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  9. Rich Devlin

    I have some experience with this and I wanted to provide you with some affirmative support. My wife was an incest survivor and through the course of many years of therapy was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (MPD), PTSD, depression and a host of physical ailments associated with all of the above. Additionally, she was sexually abused by one of her therapists along the way. I rode this roller coaster ride with her so I can attest to some of what you are experiencing as far as dissociative behavior and mistrust. These are all very real experiences/reactions and justified given your tramatizing background. You have survived because of these coping skills that you have developed. It may be difficult to look at them as gifts but they did get you through some pretty difficult times. I would also encourage you to hold your present therapist to the highest of standards in every way and if they do not meet your expectations find someone who will. You deserve nothing less. I hope you find this helpful. I would like to follow you on this journey and provide support whenever I can.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Rich… how awful for your wife to face that in therapy, that’s one of the worst “sins” of a Therapist. I can’t begin to imagine what influence that had on future Therapist… another mountain to climb.

      Yes, dissociation is a gift, but this is something I’m just becoming aware of, so it’s all too weird right now.

      I am very grateful of your kind supportive words and hope you will join the journey, I need all the supporters I can get and I will take your advice on board about the Therapist, thanks 🙂

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  10. Andi

    I actually think that’s a perfect description of dissociation. It is a coping skill like any other – meant to shield you from or take away really difficult emotions. Sounds like you use dissociation to “check out” when the emotional discomfort gets too overwhelming. I do this fairly often (though I’m working on staying more present). And in those moments, I may be physically there and aware that I’m there, but it’s as if I lose access to parts of myself and my memories. It’s like they never existed. Very strange. It’s so great that you’re trying to talk through this though.

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    1. Cat Post author

      You describe that dissociation very well. I’ve struggled with this for months, but it’s a relief to finally understand what’s happening. Thanks for your support, always appreciated 🙂

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  11. Ellen

    For me, I’m usually not aware I’m dissociating until after the fact either. There are a few different ways dissociation strikes for me (or I strike it, he he), and this kind of spacing out is one of them. I’ll forget some really relevant details, as you did. Anything that touches on trauma is extra likely to set this off, but it can be other topics that are anxiety provoking for me. It makes perfect sense to me that if referring to your trauma was relevant in the group, that you’d suddenly blank out on it. Sometimes I send Ron emails during the week, just because I know I’m likely to ‘forget’ things I actually want to discuss when I see him.

    I think once you lower your anxiety, your dissociation will also be less.

    The other thing is, I think it’s important to respect our symptoms, because they have a protective function. Perhaps you actually weren’t emotionally ready to go to the trauma in your group, so your mind ‘helpfully’ stepped in to stop you from going there.

    Hope this helps. Cheers

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    1. Cat Post author

      It has been so helpful to hear other people’s experiences, Ellen. Everyone is describing exactly what I’ve been struggling with for a very long time. Whenever I tried talking to NHS Psychiatrists, each would return the blank stare because they tend to shy away from dissociative type disorders, especially DID. It’s only through therapy when I’ve realise this ‘forgetting certain key things’ is also dissociation and it feels such a relief to finally understand what’s happening. I noticed yesterday an article suggesting dissociation is a large part of BPD

      You make a marvellous point at the end. Today I’ve been thinking bout returning to group to add into last week’s talk and basically describe what I’ve talked about in this post. But the idea fills me with a huge anxiety rush. I have told my story countless times to police, courts and the press, but the thought of doing it in therapy, where I might just connect to the emotion, is scary. Don’t get me wrong, it might still be right to overcome that and just share it, but the anxiety could have been a reason why I dissociated on Friday… and if we knew we were dissociating at the time, would it really be dissociation? It’s a bit like this post, I hesitated, but I’m so glad I took the leap and published, it was one of those posts when the weight lifts from the shoulders. Thanks, Ellen 🙂

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  12. Glynis Jolly

    You poor man. Serial killing are what nightmares are made of. I wouldn’t want to remember either.

    Although I’ve gone through some traumatic times in my life, I’ve seemed to escape PTSD. I can remember the events, cry over them, and even put them aside on one of the shelves in my mind. Does this mean I’m shallow? Maybe. :/

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    1. Cat Post author

      Oh I doubt that makes you shallow, Glynis, maybe you are just able to process them in the right way from the beginning. I didn’t have PTSD to begin with, it took a few years until another traumatic event to trigger it all off… but we’re nearing the end and that’s the main thing. Thanks Glynis 🙂

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  13. Tessa

    What you say explains a lot of what I feel and don’t understand. I have BP, BPD, PTSD and other issues. What you said help explain a lot. Thank you for your thoughts!

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  14. Bynda

    Sending hugs to you Cat. I have been going through “something” lately and since I love my solitude, it usually passes before it become too big of a problem. It is getting harder and harder to ignore or put into words. I felt this morning that I should come and read your blog. I knew you would have some insight and some wise words. I realize that you have had some bad things happen to you but I think you would make an awesome theripist, Hoping you have a great day!

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    1. Cat Post author

      I love my solitude too much, I’m afraid. Do you try to write out how you’re feeling?

      You are so kind to make this comment, it makes me more certain that I should continue posting about my experiences. I try only to write from a personal perspective rather than text book info, but I often wonder if it gets a little tedious to read after a while

      I was a counsellor a few years ago (drug and alcohol, HIV AIDS) and I will let you into a secret, I am considering a degree after my own therapy is finished. It’s still very much in the early stages of planning.

      Thank you for helping to boost my confidence 🙂

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  15. Pingback: Dreams Interrupted | The Rabbit Hole

  16. Heathers Helpers

    Wow Cat.
    Your experience had to be so terrifying. I relate to it as well.
    Thank you for writing this and being so open. It really does help to know that others struggle as I do. I wish none of us did but failing that as a possibility right now? I’m glad that we are not alone. Hugs.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s good to write it out, but all the more worth while when people relate and maybe take something from it.

      Thank you, Heather

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  17. sensuousamberville

    Dissociation with childhood trauma is almost a given. The memories from such events are, because of this, difficult to retrieve. They may not even exist, as your mind may not have recorded them in its attempt to protect. Recalling the trauma can recall the protective dissociation once again, entering the fugue, the almost trance that allows time to pass without being in contact with it.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Do you mean recalling the trauma can sort of call up similar dissociative protection, in that someone starts to dissociate from what they are trying to recall?

      Thanks Amber, nice to hear from you 🙂

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      1. sensuousamberville

        Furthering on this, Cat the memory you are trying to recall, may not exist, it could be wisps, fragments, your mind may not have recorded it if you were in a dissociative state, which is very likely. The memory may just be dissociation.

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        1. Cat Post author

          What memory? I was trying to recall this attempted murder experience while in group. It’s a very solid memory because of police, court and there has been so much written about it in the press and a book by a real crime writer, so the memory is solid, but calling it up in the group that day was impossible, it’s as though the whole thing didn’t exist. That’s what is so bizarre.

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          1. sensuousamberville

            Your mind may still be trying to protect you. Perhaps you can enter a dissociative state much easier now having likely done so often in the past. Is this a memory you have visited before Cat?

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            1. Cat Post author

              This is the first time I have visited the memory for years and thee very first time in a therapy setting, the emotions are what scared me the most, so it was probably all connected

              Thanks Amber, hope you’re well

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            2. Cat Post author

              They were amazing, Amber, as were my lovely fellow-group members. It’s a well known case in the UK, so it helped that they already knew parts of the experience. It’s odd how our emotions can change, depending on the setting we are telling our tale. I love therapy and feel blown away by the amazing sense of healing. That’s made easier by people like you who impart their knowledge and experience, thanks 🙂

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  18. Pingback: PTSD – In Search of the Feelings | My Travels with Depression

  19. strangelings

    Actually, it’s possible to learn to work with one’s dissociation and be aware of some times of it as it’s happening- takes quite a bit of practice, tho. (I go back and forth in it, as long as I’m not actually losing time I do decent in awareness, but I’ve been at this well over a decade).

    I- there is a very direct way I can relate to the serial killer thing, unfortunately. Don’t feel comfortable explaining in an open comment but I can more privately if you like- lets just say I have literally had experience with someone who was and it’s- yeah.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s only recently I became aware of the dissociation, previously, I had little idea and thought it was a memory issue. Recently in therapy, I have been recognising it sometimes, but sometimes is much better than never. Being able to realise that, when I don’t feel anything, I can often detect the dissociation. It might not necessary drag me out of the dissociative state, but at least I know when it is there

      I am very interested in you story. I don’t say too much on my blog about it, either. If you would like to email at my blog email to begin with and then I will be happy to send you my private email addy. The addy is…

      mytravelswithdepression@gmail.com

      Thank you for commenting, I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

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