In this post, I will walk you through my worst dissociation episode. It led me into a psychosis-like state that I have thankfully, not had to endure since. What triggered it, how did it feel, and how did I eventually come down from it? Read on to find out.
My Biggest Fear
First, I want to help you understand why this could happen. I will do this by telling you a little bit about my worst trigger, the fear of being left alone. I’ve been carrying it for a long while, ever since I was a child. You see, back when I was about 11 years old, my parents separated. After that, it took me some time, almost 20 years, to feel like I belong anywhere. It became the most difficult hurdle for me to overcome.
The instability and chaos of the separation together with leaving my friend group left me in a state of drifting. A state of not belonging. I developed a strong will to fit in, to the point of becoming a chameleon in human form. I started people-pleasing. As some inevitably didn’t accept me, and some were indifferent, my fear morphed. I began to fear being abandoned. I would do anything not to be left behind, to walk alone in hell.
At some point, I thought I had found my clan, and felt somewhat secure in my life. Despite it being an illusion, I could make myself believe in the safety of the mirage in front of me. And then tragedies hit, one after the other. A friend died by another person’s hand. Another one took his life. A third one died of a heart attack at a young age. And my then-current benefactor went through a horrific accident.
The one thing in common with all of these events was that I couldn’t reach the person in question. I had developed a fear of phone calls way before the darkness truly hit me. People, I warn you, don’t become phone salespersons unless you have the mental fortitude of a monk! Either way, with this in mind, while it was hard for me to do it, I still tried to make the calls. Add the fear of being left, of another’s death, and you have the ingredients to fall into a psychosis-like state.
When the crooks took my friend’s life, I had been talking with him for a while via texts. I sent him my last message on the weekend, blessing him and wishing him well. On the next Monday, I read the news, with his image on the front page. When my other friend took his life, he tried to reach me via Facebook. He was in anguish over our mutual friend’s death. When I saw the messages it was already too late. Sometime later, the third friend little brother informed me that he had passed away. Phones became an instrument of terror.
When my worst dissociative episode set in, I was attempting to reach someone with the phone. The weight of each dialing tone beep hit made me fall deeper into the trance. Soon there was nothing but terror and the sound of the dialing in my world.
The Dissociation Sets In
As my dissociative state worsened with each beep, the whole reality of the world shifted for me. I don’t even recall if I went through the usual first phases of feeling mildly surreal. To me, in that instant, the world turned into pure anguish and the everpresent ringing. I went deeper and deeper, eventually stepping into a territory where all hope and sense of self is lost.
I was separated from reality in the most fundamental sense of the word. Nothing got in, and nothing got out. I don’t know how many of you have ever felt this, but let me tell you, it is terrifying. The surrealism of everything twisting into something hardly recognizable is enough to make even the strongest among us go insane. Except for my husband, I think. He is truly an odd being, his mental fortitude is simply unyielding.
Either way, as time went by in my sorry state, I found myself huddled up next to the front door. I have no idea how I got there. Yet, there I was, in a seated fetal position, grasping the blanket around me as if it was my last lifeline. Everything else in the real world became a blur.
At that moment, every fiber of my being told me a different truth from the objective. Something had happened to the person I tried to reach. It was surely the most terrible thing in my mind. Something undescribable enough to make me lose sight of everything. The person had already died in my world, and that is where I was residing. In the darkness and hopelessness of the shadow of Death. The ultimate loneliness, the tragedy.
I once read an amazing description of dissociation, and it goes something like this:
Imagine you are driving a car, this is you, fully in control of the situation, in your normal state. Now imagine you are the passenger. You are still quite close, and can even potentially grab the wheel should something happen. And now you are in the back seat. All you can do is watch what happens, but the chances of you intervening are minimal. Then, you have a sack on your head. Suddenly, you do not see what is happening, yet you still hear the sounds around you. Ultimately, even your sense of hearing is blocked. You are no longer present. And the car keeps on driving, with something else on the driver’s seat.
The absolute suffocation of actual reality. That is what happened to me during the time I was under the worst dissociative episode of my life. And the trigger? Not being able to contact the person I needed to contact.
Eventually, the person returned and found me on the floor, sobbing. What a mess I must’ve been to them. I can only hope finding me in that state didn’t traumatize them. I have a sneaking suspicion I kept calling them, even when they were right next to me. You see, I didn’t see the person. All I recall is hearing a faint voice, and replying to it: “You are not real, you are dead!”
Other than the space of terror and death, I have no real memories of the situation. The things in my mind, as I try to remember, are scarce. There is the blanket, my hands around myself, and the dialing tone of the phone. And everything else beyond the faint voices, that I perceived as delusion, was pure Abyss. An impenetrable fog of my own creation.
Evidently, I snapped out of it eventually. I’ve lost even the days and weeks after the incident to the sands of oblivion. The person told me that they had tried to connect, to speak to me. I had been unresponsive, truly believing them to be an apparition rather than a real person. The power of dissociation can be terrifying, especially to those who don’t know it or haven’t seen it.
What to do?
Well, my friend, I am truly sorry. There is not much you can do at that point. If the person is unresponsive, or unreachable, call for help. There is no shame in getting professionals involved in a situation that you can’t deal with. After all, this is a matter of the person’s health and your own. Don’t play games with it, thinking you can solve the clear mental issues your loved one is facing.
Make sure to let the person know that you are there for them if that is what you truly plan to do. If it is not something you feel you can handle, that is alright as well. Tell this to them, as soon as possible. They may retaliate, or feel devastated. But in the end, it is not fair for either one of you to live a lie. Their mental health is not your burden to bear unless you have taken it voluntarily. Or the person happens to be your child.
It can be scary to face a dissociating person. As someone prone to this condition, all I wish is that those around me do their best to understand its reality. You don’t need to go over and beyond, nor do I want you to do so. If you must remove yourself to protect yourself, then do that. But also do the minimum, and call for help. I would do the same for you.