Have you ever heard the term dissociation? If you have, hopefully I’m not having an epiphany here that’ll make you be like “um, yeah, no duh dude”. And if you have not, keep on readin’!
Most people know this word from the term Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is the new name for what used to be called multiple personality disorder. But did you know that anybody can experience dissociation? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a disorder!
The brain uses dissociation as a tool in response to stress and trauma. Basically, your conscious mind is like yeah, this is too much for me right now, so I’m gonna peace out for a bit! Byeeeee! This causes you to feel emotionally numb, you feel out of body, like your life is not your own, and you barely know or understand who you are as a human being anymore.
I’d argue that almost ALL OF US have dissociated to some extent during this mind boggling, stressful year.
So let me tell you how I got started on this whole thought process. I somehow woke up crazy early this morning, and at 5 am I was overcome with this thought in my head that I couldn’t recognize myself or my own life. I was numb. And then driving home from an errand at 8 am, I realized the sensation hadn’t abated. I couldn’t feel anything. I could barely recognize my hometown. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got home, and it didn’t even FEEL like home. Like… WHAT?
Despite the terribly hard month my family and I have had, I went from crying all day yesterday, barely getting out of bed, to NOTHING AT ALL this morning. Except for some slight dizziness. My head felt fuzzy. Which is also, apparently, a sign of active dissociation.
As soon as I walked in the door, I literally had to immediately go to my computer and start free writing, because it felt like my brain had just stalled and broken down- in the middle of an emotional interstate with a speed limit of 100 mph.
So much has been going on, and yet I suddenly detached and my mind was floating away.
I started to ground myself by listing out all the things that I love to do. I returned to a soothing habit I used to have in Nashville, I made a familiar favorite breakfast, did anything to feel like myself. And, also like typical me, I started researching.
As it turns out, psychologists believe that dissociation has a spectrum of intensity. For some people, in some instances, it’s crazy intense. They can black out months or years at a time if the traumatic experience is severe enough. A lot of times, people who experience childhood trauma don’t remember portions of their youth- because their little brains had no other way to cope but to block it all out. Damn, that’s sad.
But it can also be milder. We colloquially call this “numbing”. Have you ever known that you should probably be feeling worse based on your circumstances, but somehow it hasn’t “hit” yet?
This was the most intense numbing I have ever experienced- it went beyond numbing, it scared me.
But you know what? It makes so. much. sense.
And then I had the epiphany.
My life IS basically just one big dissociative state right now. It feels unrecognizable. I, myself, feel unrecognizable. I don’t understand. My life looks nothing like it did at the start of the year.
Here’s why: I lost the community and work and home and friends and habits that I had made for myself in Nashville. Out of nowhere, I have a couple gravely ill family members. My business as a vocal coach is practically gone because my artists are struggling, and non-essentials like voice lessons are, understandably, one of the first things to be cut from the budget. I have a new man in my life, and with that comes new habits and environments and feelings I have never even experienced before.
And ya know what? I’m aware that I am in no way the only one. You feel it too.
2020 has forced us all into a dissociative state.
We barely recognize our own lives- kind of like we don’t even recognize people we know at the store because we’re all in masks.
Our social circles, our exercise habits, our diets, our environments, our jobs, our recreation, our sources of stimulation and fun, our emotions, our sense of safety, our politics (ahem)- it all looks different.
It’s like 2020 IS one big dissociative state.
I highly suggest doing a quick google search. Know what we’re working with, here. Do you feel a little bit out of body? Is your heart pounding? Are you light headed? (Yes, I did indeed get this from WebMD lol.)
But really! I am here to tell you it’s okay to be feeling WEIRD AS FUCK RIGHT NOW CAUSE THE WORLD IS WEIRD AS FUCK RIGHT NOW!
Okay. Rant over. Honestly, I feel much better just knowing that my current state of CRAZY is pretty understandable. And it’s nice to know I’m not alone.