Dissociation and Depersonalization

I have had occasional occurrences of disassociation in my life, but it was not until the most recent and scary one that I felt prompted to ask my therapist about what was happening to my consciousness.

Disassociation describes an interrupted state of consciousness usually accompanied with a feeling of being detached from one’s emotions, body and/or immediate surroundings.  This is often a coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming experiences and is often seen in people responding to trauma, but sometimes it just happens.  A dissociative experience could be as common and casual as driving on auto-pilot.  You know, when you drive from point A to B and you really don’t remember the drive at all.  A more severe form of disassociation might involve fragmented emotions, multiple identities and a loss of the sense of self.

I remember day dreaming a whole lot as a kid.  I remember looking in the mirror on occasion and not recognizing myself or walking down the street feeling as though I was walking on the set of a movie in a haze.   I used to say I responded poorly in emergencies like when I started a small kitchen fire; I just stared blankly, completely frozen.  Really, I wasn’t dumb or responding poorly, I was checking out because it was too overwhelming for me.

Most recently I went to a yoga class.  I do not meditate as I would like to because it actually really stresses me out so yoga sounded nice, but I was nervous.  I breathed deeply during the class as instructed and felt incredibly irritated.  I do not know why, but when trying to relax in this capacity was making me upset.  Toward the end of class, I was exhausted and we laid on the floor in “corpse” pose.  I began to feel “out of it” and then my thoughts turned very dark, including suicide ideation.  I cried quietly and felt as though some other voice was talking in my head. I knew it was my brain, but I felt no sense of control.  I just listened to my cruel thoughts.

Class ended and I walked out in a daze, seeing the world in a fog.  I walked around passing people, staring them down because I thought I was invisible.  I got home and slowly came out back to my normal conciousness.

My therapist told me I had experienced depersonalization which is a type of dissociation with symptoms like what I had described.

As you might guess, I have been instructed by my therapist to avoid yoga and similar mindfulness based activities for now.  We are working on me becoming more comfortable with my mind so I can handle feeling emotions without “checking out”.  And that’s kinda how treatment works for this.  Treatment is dependent on the underlying condition so the therapist will decide the best course of action.

Disassociation can be a one-time occurrence or once in a while thing or its own disorder.  It can also be a prominent symptom in other non-dissacociative disorders like OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and Depression.