The first time I was diagnosed with this, I had no idea what in the world Dissociation even was, let alone realizing that there were different types, too. When I first heard the words, you’ve been Dissociating, I thought my world was coming to an end. Perhaps alittle over dramatic? Maybe, but I’m being honest here.
I’ve been really working on educating myself about this, and what it means. One of the ways I learn is by writing here on this blog and by doing my own research. It’s oddly theraputic for me to learn about what I’m dealing dealing with there.
So, you can Google, “Dissociation DDNOS” and come up with a million and one sites that give you a general definition:
DISSOCIATIVE DISORDER NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED (DDNOS): DDNOS includes dissociative presentations that do not meet the full criteria for any other dissociative disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; Steinberg et al., 1993). In clinical practice, this appears to be the most commonly presented dissociative disorder, and may often be better characterized by Major Dissociative Disorder with partially dissociated self states – Source – www.isst-d.org
Essentially what this means to me is that I have one or more symptoms of other types of Dissociation but I don’t fit into one particular category. I tend to think of myself as a “jack of all trades”, in that I’m lots of different things but don’t fit into any one definition. On a side note, I find it somewhat difficult to really find a lot of information about DDNOS, since many sites focus on other forms of Dissociative disorders.
As I learned, and continue to learn through therapy and my own research, DDNOS may seem like the least severe type of Dissociation, but it’s certainly not any less real. Trust me! Not any less stressful to live with, and definitely not something to take lightly. I say “least severe” because it’s always at the end of the list of other types of Dissociation. Basically a, if you aren’t any of these, then you you’re DDNOS.
Before I get into how it really affects me personally, I just have to say that the way that my brain protects me by Dissociating to ease the stress of reliving my past sexual abuse; it’s enlightening and scary at the same time.
So….Spacing out:. Sure, many people space out from time to time while they’re at home, or work, or even driving. You know that whole, “what in the world just happened in the last 5 minutes?” Or, “I don’t remember driving those last 10 miles”.
Yeah I do those things and have those moments like others do, but I do it every single day in multiple situations. I can be sitting at a restaurant talking to someone and totally lose track of what’s going on and then snap back and wonder, “what did I miss?”. That happens in virtually any situation I find myself in, at any time. I have to consciously focus on what I’m doing, and not multi-task at all if I want to try and avoid losing track of time. Not easy by any stretch and doesn’t always work either.
I have an a wild imagination. I can come up with some crazy, off the wall, images in my head. I can totally get lost in thinking about a cool new Star Wars character that Disney (don’t get me started on that fiasco with George Lucas), could look like. Or, imagining what it would be like for the 80’s to fully come back in style, which would be awesome by the way! Then I can switch gears and totally start creating a new Photoshop design of a tattoo that I want to get, and get lost for hours. Anything and everything, I can imagine it. That’s kind of the “fun” side of Dissociation, for me. Take that “fun” comment with a grain of salt, please.
The serious sides though, since I also have PTSD, my brain also has to try and protect me while having flashbacks of the sexual abuse when I was a kid, which is of course where the Dissociation comes in. So it only lets me experience so much of it at a time. It’s like having a flashback in small doses. It’s still stressful as hell dealing with them regardless.
I’m sure you’ve heard of “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” ? Well for me, I freeze, and go on auto-pilot in certain situations. I learned that the perpetrator that abused me, had groomed me over time, and used my vulnerabilities against me. He used my low self esteem, wanting to fit in, to be with the cool kids, the being bullied, all as a way to get me to keep coming back for more. He told me everything I wanted to hear, and then took advantage of it. My brain protected me from that situation as best it could by Dissociating every time the abuse happened. I didn’t mentally connect with it, I could see myself in the act but couldn’t focus on it or stop it. I Froze.
As an example of auto-pilot, as it relates to dating..which trust me, dating in your 40’s sucks. It’s not fun. If someone seeks me out, or comes on to me (not even in a negative way), I can pretty much see myself just saying yes, agreeing to go out, and try to further a potential relationship with someone who may not be healthy for me, but I can’t stop myself. In my head I’m saying, “thank you, but let’s just be friends” or “I’m not quite ready to take a relationship to this level yet” but my mouth is saying, “sure let’s go out, let’s do this and that, go here and there, it’ll be great”. Then I inevitably pull away and hurt myself and their feelings too. Yep, auto-pilot right there. I can see it coming every time, like clockwork.
Difficulty remembering things? Yes for sure. I’m trying to read more these days, especially self help books such as, Victims No Longer, by Mike Lew. It’s about sexual abuse surviving from a male point of view, which I’m finding enlightening since I can relate. Anyways though, when I read, I sometime have to read the same page more than once and really concentrate or I end up forgetting part of what I just read. That is unbelievably frustrating, even when I focus completely on every word.
Being bullied in school, we all know what that’s about. It’s all over the news these days, and while it’s nothing new, it definitely has taken on a new level with social media thrown in now too.
Kids would call me stupid, ugly, dumb, make fun of everything from my acne, to my clothes, to my hair, to my voice. Middle school years just epically sucked. Somehow I managed to survive because my mind protected me from remembering it during the worst times, or it would change the outcome in my head to something less traumatic for me.
Self esteem? Are you kidding me? What’s that? I honestly don’t know how much Dissociation has to do with self esteem in any sense, but I do know that the past trauma that happened to me definitely has a direct impact on it. I just mentioned recently in a session, that I’d like to actually look at myself in the mirror one day and say, “Hey I look good today”, or “I feel good today”. I can’t tell you when the last time that was. I envy people that can do that, although they also can annoy me too. I suppose because I can’t do what they do.
So, that’s some what living with Dissociation and PTSD is like for me. Then of course you toss in the Anxiety that comes from PTSD, and that makes for a legit triple threat of daily chaos in my head that I somehow manage to survive and deal with it. Some days are easier than others, sure, but life is never easy nor is it predictable in any sense. It’s a daily struggle to try and heal now.
I’m not honestly sure why I wrote this entry, but I felt the urge to get it out, so I did…