So I’m in the second week of my PTSD episode or what I call a bubble… more like a force field. One thing I learned very early on was how to dissociate to keep myself safe. There were two significant events in my childhood where I first learned to dissociate. The first started when I was sexually abused at the age of ten. I learned then that my bed and pillow were the passageway to another dimension. They became my magic carpet into the night sky. The second was a few years later when my parents had separated and my father would come over enraged, threatening my mother harm and trying to knock down the door. Both these instances I tried to float away from the scary and traumatic event that I couldn’t stop. I was scared and alone, so naturally I chose the only way possible and that was to hide. Float away from my body so that I didn’t have to endure the pain.
Once I learned the dissociative trick I started to use it as a coping mechanism, especially when trying to deal with any of the past trauma. It was my escape plan and I used it often in my adult life. Often times I had no control over it. Like a switch it would quickly get switched on and I would float away. My bedroom became this safety zone. It was like this teleportation device kind of like my own Tardis. Though I don’t need to be in my bed to dissociate. It’s just home base for me. No matter how scary and painful my life was I knew that I had my room to escape to. This was true when I came out in 1995. My parents didn’t understand being gay and they tried to change me. As a result it caused even more trauma and it confirmed to me that the only way to cope from traumatic events was to check out of my body by dissociating.
There are times when my dissociation is brief. If I can notice that I’m starting to float away then that helps lessen the time it takes to get back, though that’s not always the case. If it’s an environmental trigger then I usually can just leave the situation. Though a lot of times it will set off further triggers, making it a nasty cycle to overcome. If you are near me when I start to dissociate it’s pretty obvious. It’s like the air is being sucked out of me and I start to deflate. I go inward like I’m ready to ready to go into a cocoon. This was obvious a few weeks ago during a support group where we had a man come into our safe space and use it for his own motives. I could feel myself float away because I couldn’t handle the situation. Listening to him lecture us was just too much to take and it reminded me of too much of my past with my family. I couldn’t find a way to deflate the situation so the only choice I had was to dissociate. My two options were to confront the man or to leave. Either choices could have put me in harms way of being assaulted. I didn’t know how to handle the situation and worried about him invading my own personal space so away I went on my magic carpet.
The problem with that situation is that I had already started to dissociate prior to that night. So my magic carpet was ready to go to it’s final descent. Once I completely check out then it’s very difficult to get back to my body. It can take months and in the past it has lead to hospitalizations. To cope I take the magic carpet so far away that I get stuck in this void of nothingness. It’s a very scary place to be. It’s like you split in two. I can feel my body but everything else is far away. The whole out of body experience is like watching a movie. I can see and hear everything around me but I can’t really change what I see. I just have to wait until the movie is over. Being out in public like this is very startling. You have this sense of paranoia. It feels like the world is going to end. Everything is dark and scary. Physically I am drained and can feel every move I make. I really feel my weight like this. When I discoatiate my healthy parts go far away, leaving the unhealthy ones to roam free. They take full advantage of being alone and they use my mind as their own playground. Every insecurity and bad thought is pounded in my brain with a sledgehammer. I feel like I’m dying.
Today I had to leave the house for an errand and I didn’t want to leave. The world outside of my apartment is a very dangerous place right now. My friends and family have become strangers, and strangers are now predators. I can’t trust everyone. Everything is in fast forward, while I’m in slow motion. It’s tough to navigate like this but I do the best I can. When my errand was done I wanted to get back home. I couldn’t take the outside anymore. I started to panic as I knew it’d be at least an hour with public transportation. I would have done anything to been able to physically teleport out of there. Unfortunately my magic carpet doesn’t take my actual body. I could feel my anxiety rise as I got closer to home. The closer I got the more it felt like I would fail. Finally I did get home and I was safe again. I laid down and slept for three hours.
The process of returning my body is a slow task. Each day I get closer and there are setbacks. I will get triggered by something and start to float away again. I take two steps forward and one step back. The returning to my body aspect of it is when I feel my physicalness pretty dramatically. It’s why today on the bus it felt like I was going to die. It’s not a natural process to return. It’s a shock to my system. Once the two parts start to unite I can feel everything. The darkness starts to turn to grey but I can still see the darkness in a distance. It’s strange to be able to feel both sides, the good and bad. My mind feels better but my body and spirit don’t right away. I’m less weighted down and start to venture out more. I have to force myself to do things. Though there are things too far out of my comfort zone, like having cavities filled by my dentist. Having any sort of appointment during this period is problematic and often times I cancel like I did today. In my mind, I already have an exit strategy just in case. I go from wanting to go to therapy to not wanting to at all. In the past I would cancel therapy but this time it’s different. I have enough control of my healthy side that I know that I need it more than ever. I don’t want to talk about the pain and struggles but I do anyways. This last session I kept wanting to bolt out of the room. Talking about my problems will only bring me closer to my body and the unhealthy parts will do whatever necessary to stop that transition.
Deep inside of me is that scared little boy I use to be. I wasn’t allowed to heal or process things properly so I locked him far away, where no one could hurt him. I piled trash up on trash on top of him to disguise his location. Now as an adult I’m starting to finally heal. I’m having to pick up the trash, one piece of time. I’m closer to him than I have ever been. I’m in the house where he is at but there is still something blocking my way to his bedroom. It’s like in Harry Potter when Fluffy is blocking my bedroom door. If you’ve not seen the movie or read the books it’s a three headed gigantic dog that is foaming at the mouth and ready to eat anyone who tries to get through the door. That is what I’m up against and I’m still figuring the best way in.
I hope that this might be my last leap but history tells me that it might not be. I’m tired of enduring this process. I hope that as I start to properly heal that it will become easier to identify and control the dissociation. That means dealing with a lot of pain and trauma. I have to feel those horrible feelings that I couldn’t cope with so many years ago. I can’t run anymore. So I must deal with them as they come.