Today I had a session with my new psychologist Dr F. As usual I sat across from her, she doesn’t sit behind a desk while she talks to me, rather she too sits in an armchair. The conversation then feels more relaxed and natural, it doesn’t feel like I am being interrogated or interviewed. Today was different though, I couldn’t sit still and I kept crossing and uncrossing my legs, leaning forward, leaning back. I was sitting on my hands to stop me from wringing them, I couldn’t make eye contact and I could not stop myself from looking around the room, my eyes were constantly darting from one object to the next. I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately but today was much worse.
Dr F noticed the difference and asked me how I was feeling today, after thinking about it for a few moments I answered “I don’t feel anything”. Dr F is very attentive and observant also very gentle and kind when she begins to ask the probing questions. She asked me if I felt empty or flat, I then explained that I don’t feel empty I just don’t feel anything. She asked me to describe what it was like when I was in this sort of state. I began to describe the feeling, I told her how I felt like I was there but not there, talking but not talking and listening but not hearing anything. I told her how I felt like everyone around me was living while I was just floating through. I don’t mean this in the sense of goals and aspirations but in the more literal sense. I feel like I’m not really part of my world, that I am detached and disconnected from everything, that I am floating in a bubble or am on a different frequency to everyone else. I very literally feel like I am not a part of this world.
Dissociated. That was the word she used to describe my state. She said that she could see that I wasn’t really present but she could also see that I was trying very hard to be connected to her and to the conversation. She asked me what it felt like when I had to try to be present in a conversation, it was tiring I told her. She said that I seemed to be in a dissociated state but she wasn’t sure. Dr F then tried an exercise we tried previously that aims to bring me back to the present when I am having a severe reaction, this time we were using it to try and bring me back to the real world rather than just drift along in my own wave length.
She began by asking me to look around the room and to name 5 things I saw in the room and then to think about 4 things that I could hear. This is a variation of an activity that works by grounding you and getting you to regain your focus while you are in an intense emotional state. So I proceeded with the activity and she asked me how I felt, again I told her I felt nothing. We tried another exercise, she put hand cream on the back of my hand and asked me to slowly spread the cream up and down the back of my hand and down my fingers and to focus on the feeling. I told her I only felt a sensation on my hand but I didn’t know what the feeling was but other than that I felt nothing.
She thought about it for a moment and asked me to think about the people that were there for me. I named some people in response to her question, she then asked me if I had any good memories associated with these people. I told her a memory I had of my friend who likes to dance around the office and imitate Freddie Mercury. I laughed, sincerely laughed, for the first time that day. Dr F pointed out that certain memories could work to make me feel a bit more connected to the world and people around me and encouraged me to try this activity when I noticed I was feeling disconnected from the world.
This dissociation affects my work and relationships a lot. I begin to lack empathy and cannot display a real interest in conversation. I never brought it up to any psychologist or psychiatrist because I thought I was able to go through life detached and disconnected but unnoticed. Well it did get noticed, the fact that it was pointed out makes me see that it is much worse than I thought.
I am going to keep these exercises in mind and practice them when I can. This blog is not just to raise awareness but I also hope to get those who suffer from any degree of mental illness to think of themselves less as the passenger and more of the driver in their own recovery. I will continue to share my experiences but also the treatment I am undertaking and the exercises I have to try.