{55} Depersonalization/Dissociation

Yes, more thoughts about mental health. It’ll pass. Maybe.


Many of my posts of late have been dealing with understanding and accepting that I might not be quite as mentally healthy as I had previously thought. This has been…weird. And exhausting. And apparently every day is peeling back infinitesimally thin layers on this self that I had, up until quite recently, thought I’d pretty well understood.

Today I had a long talk with the gf about my tendency to dissociate. (When it first came up in high school, it was dissociation. I think they’ve refined it now to include things like derealization and depersonalization, depending on how the experience plays itself out. I’ll probably refer to it here as dissociation just because that’s how I know it, but this is in no way a medically verified opinion or diagnosis. High school was a long time ago so that probably doesn’t count anymore anyway.) I don’t often talk about it, and in fact the gf was somewhat surprised to find that I was a) doing it at that very moment and b) do it quite often. Which is weird, because you’d think that after, what, 14 years, there wouldn’t be many surprises.


The thing is (here’s the thing) it’s damned difficult to describe dissociation without looking like you’ve actually lost your mind. In describing it today I said something to the effect of: “You know when you’re, like, driving, and you can see your hands and everything’s just kind of part of reality? Well for me, my hands look weird and it’s like I’m sitting in my head watching myself watch myself…just a step behind where I should be.” And even as the words were coming out of my mouth I was ever grateful that the gf is the least judgmental person I know, because even I started to worry about me.

It doesn’t disrupt my life, this tendency to “go away”, as I called it in high school. Not in any way anyone could readily observe. I can drive and chat and make decisions and be a completely ‘normal’ functioning member of society. It is definitely affected by my level of fatigue or hunger or stress. It is definitely why I can’t smoke weed or do most drugs. But there are times when I find it difficult to know how to be, because…what is this, anyway? And that feeling can range from mildly frustrating to kind of spooky.

So of course, after puttering around for a topic tonight, I decided to do some research into dissociation and its close friends, mentioned above. And of course there are all sorts of reasons why someone might dissociate, up to and including trauma and…borderline personality disorder? Seriously? Even when I was in college studying psychology, borderline was casually mentioned as the “crazy girl” (a term I’ve always hated and fought against) disorder, and yet…suddenly, as they’ve (again) refined the diagnostic criteria…I kind of fit into some of those boxes. I’m not prone to reckless behaviors (hello, anxiety!) but…I do fit quite nicely into some of Millon’s subtypes (I won’t tell you which ones because, I mean, I don’t need to be that honest). Which just like…damn.

Now, I have problems with the current methodologies of psychological diagnosis, and since high school I have actually fought against being diagnosed as anything. (I once ran into a group that was formally proposing a field-wide rejection of the DSM and a switch to a chart which would map out, in a rather complex manner similar to the current axis system, personalities. It was brilliant, but clearly never took off.) But…the inter webs, for better or for worse, have brought me into the world of those who really struggle, whose daily lives are impaired by mental illness. And I recognize myself there more than I thought I would. And…there is a strange comfort in realizing that perhaps the frustrations I feel are not inherent failings, but instead obstacles that may be overcome or at least circumvented by naming and understanding underlying mechanisms that I’ve spent half a lifetime ignoring.

It seems as though this next phase of my life might be very focused getting to know them better.