Dissociation means different things for different people, but I’m going to explain briefly what my dissociation episodes usually entail so that you have a better idea of how the things in the list help me and why they help me.
There’s two types of my dissociation:
- Briefly blanking out for under a minute or so, being able to hear people and see things but staying completely still and forgetting the last conversation I had before I dissociated. This happens anywhere between 0 – 15 times a day. They’re not severe, just annoying.
- A larger scale dissociation where my eyes fog over, I can’t see or hear anything apart from what my brain is showing me. This is usually a nightmare type dream, something with horrible looking monsters or scary people. I kick and scream when people in the real world come near me, I can’t stop sobbing, and when I come around from these episodes I usually can’t remember anything from between the last day, to the last week. Over the next few days after the episode, the memories gradually come back to me, but sometimes I never remember them.
So keeping that in mind – here are 5 of my top ways that I deal with both types of these dissociation and how they can help to aid you during an episode.
- Sensory overloading.
I use this during the larger episodes of dissociation and currently, to date, it’s the only thing that has managed to get me out of dissociation episodes in under 10 minutes. I use a fan on my face (or lightly blowing breeze from outside), a cold flannel on my forehead and neck, gloves or mittens on my hands so that I don’t scratch myself or hurt anyone if I hit them, nicely scented things like tissues or a tiny scent cushion, and loud, calming music right in my ears so it’s difficult for me to hear anything else. The idea of this, for me, is to physically force myself to stop thinking about what’s going on in my head. With that many senses being triggered at once, it’s difficult for my brain to think about the large green monster crawling towards me. It may not work for everyone, but for me it’s worked amazingly.
You’ll probably also hear about this one in regards to things like anxiety attacks. This is where you either physically or mentally ground yourself using techniques which bring you back into your front brain rather than your subconscious. I mainly use this one if I’m just spaced out, or if I check out for a minute or two. It varies in the ways I do it, the ones that work the best for me are feet and hands. I’ll take off any shoes or socks that I have on and stand on a soft carpet, cold tiled floor, the grass outside, etc. Wiggle my toes and feel it underneath my feet. With my hands, it can be anything. Touching or feeling a soft teddy, suddenly dunking my hands into freezing cold water, clapping them together, etc.
- Cold water.
Cold water, freezing cold water, any kind of water, is a saviour in about 400 ways. Whether I’m in a deep episode or I’m just checked out, splashing water all over my face, dripping it down my back, dunking my head into a bowl of water, any of those things will immediately bring me back.
- Reciting things back to yourself.
I believe this one is also used sometimes in PTSD treatment, but I use it for this. When I first started getting dissociation episodes, I learnt all of the lyrics to the song – “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves. I would force my brain into reciting the lyrics from the song back to myself, whether it was singing them or speaking them out loud. By the time I got to the end of the song, the dissociative feelings had pretty much been absorbed. Nowadays, I still use that song, but I also use songs from the Grease soundtrack as it’s my favourite movie and I love all of the songs on there. I also like being played this when I’m sad, or when I’m having a massive episode where I can’t put it on myself. I know all the words because I like the movie, but I also know all the words because of this.
Whilst I realise that not everyone will have someone to help them remember after the amnesia caused by dissociation, I’m thankful that I do usually have someone to help me. My family and friends know that they’re supposed to help me remember at least the last 24 hours of my life if I forget by walking through it step by step with me. If I’ve forgotten more than that, it’s about slowly bringing those memories back into my brain without freaking me out. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve forgotten that my boyfriend is my boyfriend, or who my best friend is, or why we have a random crazy spaniel in the house running around. These are integral and large parts of my life which I can and do forget, so shoving them all back into my brain at once could well be detrimental. Taking it slowly and letting me remember on my own, but with support, is the best thing.
Hopefully these tips help someone whether you’re new or experienced to having dissociative fugue or have a dissociative disorder. Dissociation is hard to deal with on a daily basis, but as long as you have the right tools to handle it, you can make it less unbearable.