Detachment is easy. Apparently it is something I have always done and something I do well. I don’t know how I do it, sometimes I don’t even mean to do it, I just do!
Dissociation is a rigid separation from repetitive and overwhelming trauma. Someone who dissociates detaches from feelings, thoughts, sensations, memories and perceptions. Sometimes we even disconnect from each other.
Dissociation is common in abuse victims, especially when the abuse is severe and repeated. Detachment from our emotions can, more often than not, be the only way we can survive the trauma.
My therapist says I dissociate a lot. I am different in therapy than anywhere else. At least in therapy I can kind of be myself. I have to be different everywhere else. I have to dissociate sometimes. It is the only way I know how to survive.
I feel like I am living behind glass sometimes. Like I am on the inside looking out, watching my life go by.
I kept the horror of my childhood a secret for so long. I had no adult for comfort so I had to become emotionally self-sufficient. The only way I could do that was to pretend the abuse wasn’t happening. I would dissociate from my emotions. I would never let myself feel anything.
After a while I began self-harming. At least then if a feeling or emotion snuck in, I could get rid of it by cutting. I used self-harm to withstand the emotional pain. I had to hide my pain and the abuse to keep myself alive.
Detaching from the abuse was how I learnt to survive; it was the only way I knew how to survive. I would play happy families and pretend that nothing was happening. To the outside world we were just a normal family.
How untrue that was!!
Now that I have spoken up I try not to dissociate so much, especially now I am more aware that I do it, but sometimes I just cannot help it. It is my defence mechanism for things that are too painful to cope with. Like, for example, the subject of my mother.
It hurts so much. Too much. Every time my therapist broaches the subject I go into defence mode, I begin to detach.
I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to face my emotions around my mother. I need to. I am just scared because those feelings and emotions already hurt so much that I pretend I feel nothing. Except my therapist sees straight through me. She knows me well enough to know when I begin to dissociate. I do it a lot!
To outsiders, people who dissociate can seem like they don’t care or just don’t want to face their trauma. However for most of us that isn’t true. We disconnect and detach for survival. Sometimes it is the only way we know how to survive.
If you were in our shoes, having to face years of repeated abuse and trauma, wouldn’t you want to detach too? Wouldn’t you want to not have to feel the pain and emotions that came with it all?
We disconnect from history to keep ourselves safe. Safe from the pain. Sometimes it is all we know how to do.
However as time goes on, as we begin to face things, dissociation becomes harder.
We are suddenly filled with all the memories from yesterday. We are taken over by the flashbacks and nightmares of today. But we are also searching for tomorrows healing.
Sometimes that journey to healing involves dissociating every once in a while. It does not make us weak but in fact means that we have a strong desire to survive.
If you know someone who has experienced trauma and who disconnects from their history try to remember that it is because the trauma is just too painful for them to bear at that moment.
Please be patient with them. After all, like me, they could be fighting for survival.
Like me, they could be fighting for their life!
Thanks for reading.
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