How I Recovered From Dissociation and Found Myself

Photo: cambiodefractal
Photo: cambiodefractal

Dissociation is a strange thing.

Strange, even when you know you're doing it, but stranger still if it started when you were a baby, because you have no idea that anyone else is having a different experience of life.

It's awkward. Slippery.

What does dissociation feel like?

Like being hollow.

So there's a shell there, on the outside, and people look at the shell, and they talk to it and they act like it's really you, but you know it isn't. It's just a mask. A cover. A defence mechanism carefully tweaked over years and decades, with razor-sharp antennae out, reading the signals, ready to react, ready to duck for cover, ready to be whatever it is that they want me to be today.

And inside, nothing.

A great, big empty, gaping, hollow space.

More than a space.

A chasm. A vortex. a bottomless pit, and if I look too closely at the vortex I will spin and spin until I separate out into a million lost little particles, mixed invisibly with the substance of the universe.

So I cling to the side and I don't look.

I know where my real self is. She's off there, to the right and a little in front of me.

I can use dissociation to deal with pain.

When I was giving birth, I pushed my pain out there. Out to the right and a little to the front. It got a lot more bearable, out there, away from me.

Except, of course, there's no me in here for it to be away from.

There's nothing in here.

Deep, deep, behind my heart but deep in the direction of a fourth spatial dimension, there is another world. The spiritual world. When life gets unbearable I can take even the awareness of the shell and retreat there, where nobody can see me and, by seeing and expecting, shape me to suit their desires.

Illustration: Nicole Linde
Illustration: Nicole Linde

What is Dissociation?

Dissociation is not limited to the extreme cases which present as full-blown multiple personality disorder, or dissociative disorder.

In the normal population mild dissociative experiences are highly prevalent, with 60% to 65% of the respondents indicating that they have had some dissociative experiences. (Waller, Putnam and Carson, 1996)

A common experience of dissociation is "daydreaming", or the experience of having driven home, but not remembering the journey.

Dissociation is used as a defence mechanism when traumatic events occur. It prevents the fear and panic response in the trauma situation from generalising to the rest of life.

People who have anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks, often have dissociative symptoms when the panic attacks come on.

These are described on the Panic Anxiety Disorder Association website.

Depersonalisation: Feeling like you are detached from your body, standing alongside, or having an out-of-body experience.

Derealisation: Feeling as if your or your surroundings are not real Looking at things through a 'fog'. Feeling as if the ground is moving under your feet. Stationary objects appear to move.

The above symptoms may be accompanied by a sensitivity to light and sound. People can feel as if they are losing touch with reality and are going insane.

Like many defence mechanisms, dissociation can cause problems if it kicks in under inappropriate circumstances. Daydreaming while operating heavy machinery is not so great ...

Chronic dissociation occurs when there is sustained trauma in infancy and/or early childhood. Severe abuse can produce the extreme cases made famous by books and movies such as Sybil, but other, more common traumas, such as a mother with post-natal depression, can cause a milder form of chronic dissociation.

If dissociation started before the age of nine months, then rather than having a sense that the world is not real, the affected person feels that they, themselves, are not real. It seems that life is taking place behind an invisible pane of glass - everyone else is participating, and they don't seem to notice the affected person is on the outside, looking in. Their body may be participating, but their "soul" is absent.

If the affected person identifies with the "real" self (which doesn't inhabit the body), they can display great disregard for what happens to the body, and in the extreme case they can believe that they can live without the body - according to Laing, this is a key component in psychosis.

If the affected person identifies with the body, they often feel empty, hollow inside. Where there should be feelings, there is either nothing, ot the feelings of the people around them. These are the people pleasers, the downtrodden mothers, and also some of the most driven successful business-people. If you don't feel the emotional impact of an unbalanced life, you can sustain it much harder and longer than ordinary mortals can!

Discovering You Are Dissociated

The challenge for sufferers of chronic dissociation is to identify their condition. After all, this is how it has always been. Why would they stop to wonder if something was wrong?

In my case, it took meeting someone who was so empathic she could tell that I was repressing emotions, even though she found it hard to pick up what they were. Once I started a serious quest to find them, it quickly became apparent that I was in some way "emotionally crippled" - and so the healing journey began.

The chronically dissociated are survivors. They "suck it up" and get on with it. They soldier on, because somewhere deep inside they feel that to stop, even for a brief rest, is to risk death.

Talking with others, I have compiled a checklist of symptoms which many of us had in common. We didn't know they were symptoms until we started healing and they suddenly shifted.

So, with no medical authority at all, here is a checklist for you to see whether you have any of the symptoms I have observed in people who are chronically dissociated.

1. Always cold - cold fingers and toes, wears jumpers even when the temperature is over 20 degrees (73 F), shivers and huddles while others are completely comfortable.

2. Other people use words like "very conceptual", "cold", "distant", "intellectual", and "lives in his/her head".

3. Locating one's home in one's body between one's eyes, rather than in one's chest, around the heart.

4. Requiring vivid mental fantasy to become aroused (at least for women) - rarely aroused by touch alone.

5. Feeling driven, that it's not safe to stop and rest.

6. Having other people around is difficult, because you can't relax while others are around.

7. Being alone is difficult, because it's intensely lonely.

8. Impatient with people who say they "can't" do something for emotional reasons - why don't they just "suck it up" and "get on with it" like we do?

9. Difficulty in reading non-verbal emotional signals, and/or hypervigilance and hyper-responsiveness to visual signals.

10. Thinking, analysing, and watching others "like a hawk", but not "feeling" others directly.

11. Taking several months to bond with newborn children, finding it difficult to empathise with and comfort small children.

12. Wanting everything put in words, and being precise about exactly what was said.

13. The ability to remember situations and conversations in great detail, or alternatively, blanking out during important conversations, and being unable to remember them at all.

14. The feeling that "people just do whatever they want to you, and you just have to survive".

15. Loving and repeatedly invoking the quote "what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger ..."

16. A feeling that they never belonged in their familiy of origin - or anywhere else, since, either.

17. Talking themselves out of being angry when people cross their boundaries, because they "couldn't help it", "didn't mean to" or "were doing their best".

18. A feeling that they have no right to exist. (And sometimes doubt whether they do, anyway!)

19. Heavy periods and lengthened mentrual cycle.

20. A sense that anything good is imminently about to disappear - "if it looks like everything is going well, you have obviously missed something".

Recovery From Dissociation

Even the most extreme cases of multiple personality disorder have been able to heal, reintegrate, and reach a level of normal functioning.

Sufferers of mild, chronic dissociation have an exaggerated mind/body split - they are only conscious of their intellect, and the occasional very strong emotion. The constant, multicolored, three-dimensional feeling world is almost completely suppressed to a subconscious level.

They usually don't know when they are angry, sad, or hurt. Not consciously.

The path to integration requires a deep re-connection with the non-rational, non-linear, physical, sensual, child-like subconscious mind.

For this to happen, the subconscious must be convinced that it is now safe to "come out".

For me, the triggering event was trying to work out "what I really wanted". My loving friend said "if your inner child could do anything at all right now, what would she do?"

I tried to think about it. Really, I did. Occasionally, I would get a stirring, that feeling you have when a thought is "on the tip of your tongue".

And then I would be hit by a wall of panic, and the thought would shatter before it even formed.

Having studied psychology, I was aware that I was watching classic Freudian repression in action. But I could not force myself to complete the thought. It was as if knowing what I wanted was life-threatening.

Being the hard-driving, determined person that I am, I hit it with everything I could find!

NLP, psychotherapy, lots of emotional conversations, inner child work, the Artist's Way program, meditation, sitting at the beach watching the ocean, journalling, and bodywork.

After a few months I had my first complete miracle - someone who was so in tune with me that they could "read" how I felt without me having to put it in words. After 45 minutes of having my every move anticipated and met, I had the breakthrough experience - I felt that it might be safe to be alive, after all.

At that moment, my "self" moved from somewhere off out to the right, and took up residence around my heart. My skin became intensely sensitive - running my fingers over a rough stone surface is almost orgasmically sensual, these days. My ability to empathise sprang into existence, and I was as receptive as an infant.

It took a bit of chaotic adjustment before I learned how to "dial down" my sensitivity and respond like and adult to things again.

Over the next few months, I went through a process of "growing up" my emotional self. Again, my knowledge of psychology stood me in good stead, because i could identify what emotional age I was and make allowances for myself.

There are some pluses - because I basically wasn't there when a lot of the crappy parts of life happened (remember high school?), my feeling self isn't covered in scars like most people's. When I choose to, I can pick up how others are feeling with a very high degree of detail and accuracy.

And, because I only had my intellect, I got very, very good at observing, analysing, and picking up what was happening in someone's subconscious from clues like their posture, their word choices, and their eye movements.

Most people don't put that much energy into observing, because they can feel other people directly.

But it was all I had, so I pushed it to the max. A bit like blind kids who learn to click their fingers and echo-locate.

And now I have both - observation AND direct feeling.

Putting those two capabilities together is pretty awesome, I can tell you! Not much gets by me these days.

What Was It Like?

I won't whitewash this.

It felt like walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

For about three months, it was like walking to the electric chair to go through the door of my therapist's office.

We dissociated because life was terrifying, and the only way to be free is to process the terror.

However, on the bright side, after my first miracle experience I did discover how to release fear in a way that feels good. That helped.

I believe the textbooks call it "self-soothing". Far too passive and peaceful-sounding for my experience, but there you go.

The experience of safety, of being seen and responded to appropriately, is a vital part of the healing process if you have been dissociated since infancy.

So it's more than just "don't try this at home", it's also "don't try this alone".

Get help.

By separating us from our feelings, dissociation cuts us from from our deepest selves, but it also cuts us off from all the people around us. We feel we can't trust anyone, not really.

A whole new life is available - a life you can't even begin to imagine yet.

It's a leap of faith, to step off that cliff and trust that it won't kill you. To depend on someone else, and let down your guard.

It's terrifying.

But it's worth it.

Comments 81 comments

Nicole Linde 8 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story, and choosing my artwork to illustrate it :)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks for the great artwork, Nicole!

teeray profile image

teeray 8 years ago from Canada

I'm sure that what you describe in this hub, Inspirepub, is more common than people admit. A certain level of 'dissociation' occurs with everyone - in the way that people might 'zone out' watching TV commercials while waiting for the show to resume again, 'zoning out' while waiting at a traffic light (this is scary, isn't it?). I think that if people experience a lot of these 'suspensions' they often do not report it, but it may be apparent in other ways...panick attacks, nervousness, etc. I hope that your hub will help people with 'conditions' to seek help. We all dissociate. Some people have more severe and specific dissociations and require a kind of learning in order to live with dissociative disorders. Aren't we mostly disordered in some way, anyway, these days?

I love this hub. You've given people a choice to exercise some control over dissociation problems, rather than be at the mercy of these forever.


Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 8 years ago

Wow. Great hub, seriously, I had no idea this condition even existed.

Although it is one of those pieces of writing that makes you wonder if something is wrong with you, a little like reading a medical textbook will sometimes convince you that you have brain cluster cancer.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

LOL Hope!

You're both right - there's a lot of this around, up to some point it's a normal part of human functioning.

In our society, though, we do have a lot of people walking around completely cut off from their own internal feeling sensations. I don't think that is the way we were meant to function - I think it's the result of having a high percentage of stressed, isolated mothers.

sandra rinck 8 years ago

Yeah, I was diagnosised with Biopolar disorder and a was discharged from the Navy because they said I had a personality disorder. My dad said, everyone has a personality disorder. I like what my dad says cause he is really smart, I use to call him wisdom man because he always seemed to know that I was different, not like the other kids when it came to thoughts or views on life, I think he loved it best that I didn't want to be like everyone else, and that always made me feel super duper when other people were trying to make me feel bad.

I feel ya on some of those things and I am really glad you are who you are now. Maybe it doesnt mean much because it's not like I know you, know you, but my expereinces have taught me that people are more truthful when they write down what they feel and think.

:) I wish there were more people like you around, I really do.

sandra rinck 8 years ago

ps, I don't buy all that medical mumbo jumbo about something being wrong with me, the best medicine I got was knowing that there was something completely right with me.

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

LOL Jenny,

You are so productive I can't keep up with all what you wrote :D I keep finding jems that I missed - like this one :)

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Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, guys. It's really good to have such validation from people who are pretty darm awesome themselves. And I really needed it today. Thanks.

Roberto 8 years ago

Inspirepub, WOW.

I couldnt have said it better myself. I suffer from depersonalization or derealization - after spending the last few months trying to figure out what exactly has been wrong with me for the past three years, I still find myself stuck between the above two disorders. My condition came about from my natural tendency to overthink and overanalyze, combined with a three year college heavy pothead phase. Endless ruminating and introspection. I eventually got stuck in it, and didnt realize until I entered law school last fall, and quit drugs. I went through hell.

I dropped out, packed up, and left the US, back for home - Lebanon. I spent a couple of months doing squat - other than trying to figure myself out, which frustrated me more, and drew me deeper into it.

Fed up, I left for Nigeria, on a three month stint with a company there. Shocking myself back into reality was the only way out, I thought, and living in Nigeria for three months was definitely going to do that. I am now at the end of my stint, and I think I'm recovering. Qauntifying improvement is so difficult, because its all so abstract.

But I agree with what u said, about how u observe people, because ur unable to 'feel' them. I always thought that once I do recover - or when I do (hopefully) I'll have the best of both worlds. And that I'll appreciate life so much more than your average joe, who has not seen life the way we have.

I'm trying to be postive :)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Roberto,If you are only six months in recovery from drug use, cut yourself some slack. That's a hard road.

And if you're still using alcohol, I hate to tell you but there won't be a real way out until you cut that as well.

Give yourself a year or two of being completely "natural" in your body, and you won't BELIEVE the difference.

And then you will have the stability to start doing some more challenging deep emotional work - I tell you, drugs have NOTHING to offer in comparison with that.

You have so much to look forward to - I can't tell you how much better life is when you can fully feel it!

ajcor profile image

ajcor 8 years ago from NSW. Australia

An Incredible hub! Thanks for all this information InspirePub - also Sandra R. I loved your ps - I can only benefit from that remark!

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks ajcor - glad it helps!

critical times 8 years ago

Did you recover from this? How did you manage?

I think I dissociated a bit for fear of confronting difficult choices in my relationship, and now I feel hollow, have a hard time interacting with people and doing my thing, plus I didn't resolve anything in my relationship. I could cry all day for the mess I put myself in...and all that stuff about choosing, being autonomous, it's so scary...

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, I did recover, with some wonderful help from some loving people at just the right times. I am still uncovering little bits of childhood fear and resolving them, but basically I am fully present in life all day, every day, these days.

And it's quite amazing ...

critical.times 8 years ago

Did you have physical symptoms? And what about responsiveness to other people? I feel that in these difficult times I don't manage to interact with people, I feel brutally self aware; I used to be giggly and sensitive, currently I am feeling numbed, like if my emotions don't arise from my stomach anymore, and this is terrifying. With a therapy I had been better if not fine, but with this relational crisis I realize I'm there again, and it seems even worse than last time. By the way: at the time I had no clue of what I had, I read the symptoms you described and realized just now that perhaps that is what I had, and what I fell back into. I am scared to confront my relationship, draw back, feel worse, and get more scared about confronting my relationship. Vicious cicle. I negated my feelings for so long because I couldn't accept (and I still can't) that I was feeling differently in my relationship. I would like to feel better in order to do something about this, because I am very scared to go on my own now. Any suggestions?

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, what you describe sounds like dissociation.

It is terrifying to face whatever it is, but the alternative is to go through life half dead.

It may not seem like it now, but a life worth living lies on other side of that fear. Go and find your feelings. It's worth it.

You already know what you need to do.

Don't wait until you feel better - you won't feel better until you have faced this situation squarely.

My thoughts are with you.

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

I am so excited to have found this....i am in therapy now...that is terrifying and my doctor tells me i will come out on the other side whole and better, but i am not there now. you are the fist person that described what i am going through.....thank you so very much for sharing. i would love to hear from you.


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Good luck, Bonnie - many others have walked the valley before you, and we can tell you that your doctor is speaking the truth. It's as scary as facing Death itself, but you WILL come through to a world more rewarding than you could ever have imagined.

Hang in there!


bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks Jenny....the most difficult thing is dealing with the co conciousness and their fears. I am having to work from home as driving is a fear right now. Before this I could drive anywhere am afraid so others drive me.Again, my doctor says this will all change.It is tough, but I have to trust.


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, Bonnie, all kinds of wierdnesses will occur - but you just keep moving forward, and sooner or later you will discover the light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there!

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

Umm, well, now you set me thinking. First time I just skimmed the list of symptoms without paying much attention, concentrated more on your journey. Now I carefully read through the list - and - umm - I see myself in more than a half of the items!

Ok, tell me, o mother of Gods, is it mine, too?

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Jenny,did you have to experience weird fears, and confusion? If you choose not to answer, i will understand...but it sure would be nice to hear it from you. You sound so positive and affirmative now. I am located in the USA, NC....and i will post a picture soon. I appreciate all of the work you have done...My doctor says you sound just like one of her patients.....and believe me that is a compliment!!!


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Misha, it is entirely possible - the trigger for mine was a mother who had post-natal psychosis, but I suspect that any primary care-giver who is emotionally unavailable and behaves unpredictably could have the same effect.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Bonnie, I experienced nothing BUT fear - total, I-am-about-to-die mortal terror - from the moment I started seriously trying to get in touch with my genuine feelings until I had the pivotal experience of being safe which was the turning point in my recovery.

And then I was outraged and furious at my family for pretending that my childhood was "normal" - leaving me with no idea what "normal" REALLY was. Utter confusion. I thought I was insane for a while, but eventually I worked out that I was a sane person born into an insane environment, and actually I could trust my own perceptions, after all. The day I finally realised that once and for all was the day the confusion ended.

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

I always look forward to your responses. You encourage me in ways that you will never know. It is abject fear that keeps me from driving. Just knowing that you have recovered and that I can too keeps me already know how i feel, the stories are just different. I carried anxiety all of my life, now i know why. My abuse was verbal, physical, and sexual, while a toddler. My mother, we feel, was dissociative as well.She was not there for me...Dissociation allowed me to survive. Thank you for what you do.....and i love hearing from you!


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Bonnie, I am glad to hear it.

I grew up believing that my childhood and start in life were perfect, and if I was unhappy it was because of my own screw-ups. When I discovered that my start in life was actually appalling, I realised that to have accomplished what I had - a happy marriage and three healthy kids, plus a productive working life - was actually a superhuman feat, given that I was essentially operating with one hand tied behind my back (the emotional awareness hand - I did everything with my intellect instead).

Just by surviving and entering therapy, you have already accomplished more than anyone could ever expect. Any progress you make from here is award-winning standard achievement.

We are our own harshest critics.

For you to take one step toward the driver's seat is a bigger accomplishment than Neil Armstrong's "one small step for a man".

Fear itself cannot kill you. Remember that.

If you have never seen it before, rent a copy of "Labyrinth", starring David Bowie. It's a children's story, but the way the girl beats the Goblin King is exactly the way you will beat your fear.

I can tell from the way you write that you have what it takes. Just keep moving forward - that's all you need to do. Stay in motion, and you WILL make it.

And let me know what you think of the movie! :)

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Jenny

Again always know the right thing to say. I had a session last night and again my Dr. thinks you sound great. I hate to say it but I dread the sessions every time I have one......The following days are pretty scarey!!! I sent you an email with my personal email address. Wondering if you received it. I told you a little more about me. I too was married and have a beautiful healthy daughter and a grandson, 1 year old. The hardest part right now is not being able to share a lot of time with them because of my journey. She works for me but I am working at home. I will get the movie and share ny opinion with you! You are truly my role model. My doctor says she is the mother figure and you are my model....I like that. Hope you are having a good day.


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

I know what you mean, Bonnie - I felt like I was walking into the execution chamber and sitting in the electric chair every session for the first few months.

It does get better.

And if you can get yourself to therapy in the face of that dread, you can get through the rest of it.

I didn't get that email - it is a bit hit and miss emailing through HubPages, I'm afraid, but please try again.

Just keep writing here as well, because there are probably a dozen other people who are too afraid to post a comment, but who are watching what you write and gaining hope and strength from your journey.

If you inspire just one person to overcome their fear enough to start therapy ... what a difference you will have made to that life!


bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

You are right Jenny....if it helps one soul that is going through this then it is a good thing. We are survivors....Today is a tough day...I am in the dark place, Very co concious...I know that it will change...these are feelings that i have to feel, even if i do not understand it. this in and of itself is healing...I sent my email again to you ...see if you got it! Some of the feelings that i feel make absolutely no sense at all and are frigtening....this is the process...or as you put it weirdness. Some part of me understands it but intellectual me does not. I really do enjoy your posts and your encouragement. I look forwared to it! So you are helping this soul! Take care....


critical.times 8 years ago

you wrote "and actually I could trust my own perceptions, after all": what do you mean? My problem in life has been precisely that I don't ever trust what I feel. I think that I don't feel much, and when I do feel something I don't trust it. I also noticed that sometimes I block out positive feelings as weel. It's like if I lament the fact that I don't feel, only to realize that I don't give myself the opportunity, that it's like a mechanism that I am becoming aware of only now, for which sometimes I literally freeze myself. I think I've been cutting myself away from emotional experiences all my life! I am trying to change that, by getting more out of myself, getting in touch with people and slowly doing what I really want to do.

It was interesting to read Bonnie's comments. The whole thing of getting in touch with one's feelings, or just "feeling what you feel" whatever it is, even if you don't understand it with your head. It's just difficult to make decisions if I don't understand what I feel and I don't trust myself...

I would like to ask you if you experience a weird perception of your body - I noticed that in more difficult times I "don't feel it" much.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, critical.times, you are describing exactly what I am talking about in this Hub. And yes, not knowing what you feel, or doubting and questioning it, is part of the problem.

I have fully recovered, and Bonnie is well on the path. You have at least taken the first step - recognising that it is happening, and trying to change it.

My experience is that it takes two to tango when it comes to recovery - the problem began when someone did the wrong thing by you at an early age, and it will resolve when you have enough experience of people doing the right thing by you.

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Critical times if i might add something that i have learned. A lot of our feelings are stuck in the body which is why we might experience pain and strange feelings in different areas. The body is releasing feelings and pain from our past as these feelings become concious. I have and am experiencing pain in different areas. All a necessary part of my recovery. Body work is good and warm soaks in the tub. Any thing that helps the body and mind cooperate with each other. I agree totally with Jenny on experiencing life as it should be.....those strange sensations do resolve.

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Jenny....I miss hearing from you directly.....I know you are busy. I always look forward to hearing your pearls of wisdom...They encourage me. I sincerelyhope that i have a lot to give after this journey! It will be worth it all to feel whole!


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Hi Bonnie,

Still no email - if you go to our website and put your email address in the contact form, I will definitely receive that message.

And yes, however awful it seems on the way through, it is definitely worth it.

Carla 8 years ago


You wrote that you discovered how to release fear in a way that feels is that?

Thank you!!!

Carla 8 years ago

I read about the body stuff...what about not feeling parts of your body? Or feeling a constant tension in the face?

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author


Releasing the fear was a process of having it transform at the base of my spine into a sort of golden energy, which shot up my spine and out the top of my head in an ecstatic sensation. I discovered it when I finally had the experience of someone seeing me and responding to me exactly appropriately - it just started happening, and I only realised after a while that's what was going on.

And yes, not feeling is part of the blocking out process. There is something in those feelings that you subconsciously consider to be dangerous, so you block out anything that might bring up those feelings, even bodily sensations.

I had no idea how sensitive my fingertips could be until I started to recover. And my sex life is just chalk and cheese different now ...

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Jenny....had a session today...they do not get easier at this point however we are making progress. I have discovered that regardless of how terrifying...i have to feel it! This all leads to integration even when i do not understand the fears or feel totally confused. It is comforting to know this but it does not make it easier. Hopefully this will help some of the other posters...hope you are well....Please feel free to comment and give me some of your pearls and affirmation!


Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Well Bonnie, you are right - there is nothing to do but feel things. Trying not to feel is what does the damage.

And then there's my favourite saying - what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.

You are already incredibly strong - you have survived where others couldn't, and every session just makes you stronger.

Hang in there!

Carla 8 years ago


I am very sad today; I have been in therapy for various years; I recovered, felt good, and then had a hard time, and here I am again...I am brutally disappointed from myself. Old feelings are back, with all my fears, so that I don't know if I feel people, if I don't, if I'm just anxious. And I feel terrible towards my doctor, because we worked hard, and then I blew it a bit...and that makes me feel very lonely..

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Carla..I am sorry for your sadness. Let me start by saying i was in therapy for about 14 years before this last episode a little over 2 years ago. My doctor and i worked on everything that we could as "intellectual" Bonnie, but we never got this far or "to the meat of the problem" My doctor is thrilled because this is what she had been waiting for and is thrilled to finally get to the bottom. It would not be honest for me to say that i am as thrilled because this is really hard work and very painful. At times i feel absolutely insane....but i know that i am not and that i was raised by people who did not do right by me as a child. But.....i have to feel all that the little child felt in order to be whole. I know this does not make you feel better but you are not alone. I am sure that Jenny has a lot to say about this as well...and she is amazing....she has recovered....I will too and you can also!

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Carla, feelings of loneliness and isolation are very common - because you felt this way as a small child. Talk to your therapist - and in particular explore the feelings you have toward your therapist. Don't worry about upsetting or offending your therapist - this is exactly how therapy is supposed to work.

When you understand these feelings, they will ease up, and you will be ready to face the next round. It will be just as difficult, but at least it won't be the same old same old - it will be something different, which means you are making progress.

Hang in there, keep feeling what you feel and talking about it, especially to your therapist, and you will get there in the end.

It is truly worth it. I know you are questioning whether it was worth it last time if you can "slip back" like this, but trust yourself that this is not a backward step - it is the beginning of a new phase in your recovery.

Just keep moving forward ... you can do this!

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Carla

I wanted you to know that I am having a bad day today. Full of fear and anxiety. My doctor would say good , we are getting somewhere. Says that as it changes i am actually progressing. Some days are unbearable but then i have a glimpse of light and Jenny encourages me and just hubbing you guys makes me feel less isolated. You are not alone in this. I do agree with Jenny that you should return to your therapist and express your feelings. This is a walk where you need a professional hand to hold to get where you want to be. You are moving forward just as i am even though it does not feel like it at this time. Please hang in there.


Carla 8 years ago


you are so sweet! Thank you for your words. I am going out now, hopefully this will help me feel better. I get a bit anxious because I am always thinking that I won't feel the people I am with, but hopefully this will change - again. It did once, so hopefully I will find it all again. I am just so sick of not feeling well!!!

bonniel profile image

bonniel 8 years ago from North Carolina


I become very frustrated and impatient, but you can not rush the might miss something and then you would have to continue again. My doctor says i have to stay in this dark space until we get it all...all of the feelings and all of my emotions again.It is painful and scarey...but others before us have gone there and they are well....cry, scream, stomp your feet, pray......but do not give up!

Alison 7 years ago

Hei, I have also been suffering from dissociation since being sexually abused by two members of my family, a female cousin for a few months when i was 8 years old, then my older brother from the age of 12 until i stopped him when i was 17 years old. I am only now becoming aware of how much this dissociation has affected my life and am trying to get over but seem to slip into the habit without realising it has happened (until half the day has passed.) Its good to read about other peoples experiences and it makes you feel less alone with the problem. Wish me luck!

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Alison, we are all pulling for you in your recovery. Catching oneself being disconnected is the first step, and the hardest, and if you are managing it at some point during the day most days, then you are doing really well. It took me more than 30 years to discover that everyone else had all these sensations in theiir bodies that I didn't have - and finding those feelings is a scary as walking through the valley of the shadow of death!

Hang in there, because life gets a whole lot better when you come out the other side.

bonniew 7 years ago

Hi, It has been a while since I posted. I have been going through that valley, but guess what, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train!!! I feel now, life is different and it is richer and better. I am living in the now and having to feel everything, but that means I feel all of the good stuff too. I trust me now. If something or someone does not feel right, I remove myself. I am still healing, but Jenny is right! There is a wonderful freedom and life on the other side. Don not give up or quit. Oh and it has posted me as bonniew, same person as bonniel. do not know how that happened, but i am sure it had something to do with me forgetting my passcode!

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Congratulations on hanging in there, Bonnie - well done.

Enjoy your new life - you deserve it!


searching  7 years ago

Can I ask how you managed to hold together a marriage in all of this. I have been diagnosed with dissociation disorder and been in therapy for over 3 years . I have a very supportive partner who wishes to become fiance but I have been warned by my therapist that we may grow apart through this process. This thought drives me insane!

waking up 7 years ago

Thank you for your words. They touched me deeply, I had to take a break and have a cry with my dog : ) I'm newly dealing with my dissociative disorder, and life is very different. I've dissociated as long as I can remember. My mom was mentally ill and I became the rock in my family. I'm so excited about the possibilities. I'm gonna go cry some more. Thank you.

danielHman 7 years ago

I think I may have a dissociative disorder. It all started when I developed low-self esteem & started smoking marijuana in a conscious attempt to numb myself - funny thing is that as soon as I realised what I had done and felt its effects I wanted back in, thus comes the hard part. I'd felt really anxious and tense for a while - until I started to open up to my friends about my anxieties but now I just feel low, numb and unsure as to who I am. I used to be so akin to my own heart and I have to get back to that.

Does anybody have any suggestions as to how to pull some of those feelings out from under the blanket and onto the radar ? It's such a lonely place to be when you can't connect with others let alone yourself.

Sage Williams profile image

Sage Williams 6 years ago

I absolutely love your hub. You are so right to the point and accurate on everything you have written. You are an inspiration to us all. I suffered with dissociation for the majority of my life and know first hand that recovery is an extremely difficult and enduring process.

I say to write what you know and the rest will flow. This is exactly what you did. Thanks so much for sharing. You are truly an inspiration!

I am new to hubpages and just starting to write about some of my past experiences. In fact, I just wrote a hub on dissociation. I wish I searched first to see other hubs out there. Live and learn.

If you get a chance, check out my new hub with artwork relating to dissociation

Many thanks,


gelatine 6 years ago

I hope I find someone who will be able to read through to me too, and so far I think that person is far from reach. That's what I've been hoping for even since this all started that someone who is wise and can see beyond people.

gelatine 6 years ago

Btw, I was actually googling about dissociation until I stumble on this site. Thanks for your posts, really great:)

atgny profile image

atgny 6 years ago

Thanks for the list of signs, it helped me a lot!!

Clayton 6 years ago

Having been up front and person in a childhood trauma at 5 and having only actually acknowledged and recognised it at almost 50, I'm still trying to come to grips with the child I seem to have lost that day so many years ago. I've survived but healing is not so easy, the stress of attachment / rejection running around my mind is enough for me to not cope. thanks to your post I can see some paths through this (my kids deserve a dad who is whole)

Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

Very good article...good to hear it from someone who lived it...I think I am/was dissociative to a degree. would not acknowledge my body sensations.

Rox 6 years ago

I have the same problem and I can relate to Roberto from 2 years ago. I am going through the same thing-even dropping out of law school. I wish Roberto would reply and tell us how he is coping now.

Eva 6 years ago

Dearest Jenny, and all others who are reading this -

it was so comforting to read this, knowing that the "illness" is indeed curable. I've had traumatic events happen in my life - in fact, my whole life is like a neverending sequence of traumatic events. Never in my life have I felt truly happy, but I always felt like I could handle everything - I just kept my mask on.

About a year ago, someone broke into my house and wanted to kill me while I was locked away in the bathroom, with a man outside trying to break open the bathroom door and destroy my entire house (and myself) - I spent about an hour in agonizing fear before the police came to arrest him.

After this incident, I haven't been the same. I know I have a dissassociative disorder and am in therapy... things start to get better, but it's such a slow process! I'm still very young, I just turned 18, but it feels like there's no way out. I don't have parents (but am very lucky to have incredible friends), but every day is such a struggle... this all-consuming fear that has taken over my life, to the point where buying my own food in the supermarket has become a day-long task.

I feel like there is no way out...

Please, someone, reassure me that this will end.. it feels impossible to live with this condition any longer.

Much love to you all.

ella 6 years ago

Your words were the confirmation I needed at this time that the daily battle to cope with and understand dissociation is worth the effort. Your words echo thoughts i have had even words I have written to try and understand the abuse i experienced as a very young child

Thank you

Mara 6 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you for posting this!

illeagle profile image

illeagle 6 years ago

Very insightful. I thought I had resisted media/social brainwashing better than others and that was the excuse I have been using for my antisocial behavior, but maybe there is a little more to my communication handicaps. Thanks for the words!

:) 6 years ago

Thank you. Had my first inner child therapy session today because I've been experiencing such anxiety and feel like I've been chasing holistics solutions for months now, and I'm going around in circles, and still feel like I'm disconnected. Finally hope to be getting a good grounding, and understanding that it is finally safe for me to trust myself. I'm not expecting a quick fix, but hope to finally begin to see the woods for the trees.. Namaste xx

Judy K 5 years ago

Wow. Great hub, seriously had no idea this condition even existed! I was looking for hubs on Anxiety and found yours!

Could not help to leave a comment! :)

Always blows my mind how many "diseases" and conditions have got names these days. 30 or so years ago you could probably name them all and know what they are!

Judy from

Jeannie 5 years ago

I've been telling people that I'm an emotional cripple for years. I thought I was the only person using this terminology. I came up with it trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I even told people I didn't feel things like they did. I believe they thought I was kidding. I've often said I wish I could fool myself into thinking I had feelings and that someone had feelings for me. But I never met that person. I lost all of my feelings especially for love when I thought I was rejected at the age of 21. I even had dreams in which the person I had feelings for would always start off being with me and then would leave me for no reason. I had no control over my dreams. I'd wake up in tears, afraid. feeling very lonely and hating myself for not being what he wanted. The only way I could survive was to stop feeling. And somehow I did. I heard the phrase "body dissociation" in a dumb movie and I looked it up on the internet and found this site. I have all of my body parts and recognize them. What I don't have is what is suppose to be inside. For this reason I think is why people especially men don't like me very much. I feel I'm just handy to be around to lend a hand contribute money buy stuff. Which is what I do so that I don't be completely alone. Lately I cry in my sleep again I cry because I'm alone I cry because I'm getting old and I'm not so pretty any more I'm starting to not like me as much again. I don't even want to use my resources for company any more. I feel cheap like I'm buying friendship and attention. I've been this way for the last 40 years. I may be beyond help at this point. I only have a normal life in my day dreams I've laid awake think up making up different situations that always have someone pursuing me for love. It gets so real and I can feel so happy that it makes me smile and laugh out loud and sometimes when I'm really tired help me to sleep. I never had a boyfriend. And that guy I fell for I looked that up to. What I experienced is called infatuation. But then I use to believe in Cinderella, Knights in Shining

Armor Prince Charming I know these are fairy tales but they seemed so nice and that they could be real. I never watched the movie Pretty Woman because now I know it can't be true. I look at all the divorces and unhappy people who are together and it makes me sad. but I know for a minute they thought they were a fairy tale. How nice. This made me think of a saying it goes "the biggest fool in the world is one who can look in a mirror lie to him/herself and believe it" Which made me come up with another saying and that is "As long as there is another living human being on earth its not all about you. I thought that one was clever. I want to share myself and I don't know how. I can count the number of dates I've had in my long life. None of them happened until I was well over 20. I read your comments and think boy am I messed up but I'm not alone. I was physically abused as a child by my mother who did not like me. She'd hit me for what she thought I was thinking. I was raped when I was a 13 year old teenager by one of her friends husband. And again by a stranger in a nasty hallway. You're the first to know. I was humiliated as a teenager in high school by a relative who made fun of me when she saw me in clothes her mother had given me that were hers. I have never been terrorized because my mother took fear away from me. I fight back. I fought even when I knew I'd lose. It became instinctive. I grew to have a look on my face that makes even strangers ask what are you mad at. I can't just smile. I became defensive and I still am today. Someone asked here "will I ever get over a certain incident". Nope. But you can learn to live with it or it can last a life time. I know. Get help NOW.

Laura 5 years ago

Have just had the confirmation (from my therapist) that this is what I have been experiencing for as long as I can remember. Blanking out became a way of life. I had a traumatic childhood, adolescence and trauma as an adult and was sent to a therapeutic community specialising in personality disorders to 'recover', felt more like being dumped! Anyway thank goodness I finally met the right therapist, learned to trust, felt safe and held emotionally. I have had periods of acting out and can deffinately empathise with the dread of going through the therapists door. But I can hand on heart say its worth it. If you are out there searching for help don't give up. I am 40 this year and finally feel like I am back in my body. I feel more alive than ever and can also relate to having to tone down the sensation side of things! Still work to do but reading this article has been wonderful for me. Thankyou.

Nolan 5 years ago

Thanks alot for posting this. I have felt like this for as long as I can remember. ALWAYS blanking out, like you described with the car rides home. I feel like I'm only half here most the time. I've always been independent and bottled up my emotions and shit but it has sure caught up with me.

I'm figuring it has alot to do with my parents having a hectic divorce at a young age, growing up in an alcoholic house, having an emotionally abusive stepdad, going through a drug addiction of my own and alot of other horrible things.

I can't really pinpoint what EXACT situations are causing me to dissociate. Whenever I try and force myself to be present and feel my feelings again I always fail. Like you said with a thought or feeling "on the tip of your tongue this" I can feel something beginning to come through and I uncontrollably instantly make it vanish. I really wish I can overcome this dissociation, I've had glimpses of being completely present and in the moment and its absolutely BEAUTIFUL.

We're you basically unaware of what was holding you back too? And have to do some digging with a doctor to figure it out? What kind of specialized doctor would you recommend to see? Or does it vary depending on the cause of the dissociation? If you could get back to me that'd be great. I've thought of all the things that you had mentioned, especially NLP. Kind of weird that you put that up there. Not many people are aware of NLP, at least in my generation. But I guess that's not going to work.

Whether you're able to give me a response or not, thank you. Thanks to everyone actually, it makes me feel better than I'm not the only one going through this.

anon 5 years ago

dont agree with some stuff.

....Locating one's home in one's body between one's eyes, rather than in one's chest, around the heart. ....

but i am badly dissociated /had issues so its not like i can blame you. am also seeking for answers and a return to present reality.

Lloyd 5 years ago

Wow! All of my life I have been alone. Even if all of my family is around me, I am still alone.

I have been given many labels but my favorite is "Odd". He's a great guy but, he's just a little 'odd'. I never was able to get an explanation from anybody on what it is to be "Odd" until reading this article. I have turned to many different types of spiritual practices thinking that I would find my answers there. Certainly I did gain great insight by taking different paths and learned many things that most people are too scared to delve into.

Today I had an epiphany on why I abuse drugs and hurt myself physically. You see, I have deeply hurt every single person that I have ever loved. And it wasn't by any one single act. Those hurts were tailor made for each person. My realization today was that I do these things to myself because I do not feel worthy of having a serious relationship with anyone because I will only bring them pain.

I even changed careers from a lucrative programming field to becoming a truck driver. At the time of my decision I had plenty of good reasons that really were just BS but I actually believed them. I now know that this field only served to further isolate me from those I care about.

I wish I had known this about myself many years ago. A lifetime of living with this disorder has resulted in many people being hurt and ultimately my being totally alone at 50 years old. Ironically, aloneness has been my greatest fear all my life and now I am living it, all by myself.

I can say that my spiritual walk has been a journey of enlightenment of many areas of who I am and has taught me how to be a friend and unconditional love. I like the last one though because I put no expectations on people and therefor they cannot hurt me; perpetuating the problem of never getting close to someone.

I cannot put my finger on a traumatic event in my childhood that may have caused this largely because much of my childhood is a blank page. I am told that my father beat me but I have very little memories of this. He was my hero and I always strived to please him even though it seemed I never could. Another thing about my childhood that has bothered me most of my adult life is that I new of sexual acts between two guys without ever having any memory of experiencing them.

Thank you to all that have contributed to this subject. I now know that my next serious path is going to be with a counselor. Maybe there is still hope for me to have some happiness in this life yet.

Fiona 5 years ago

Hi all,

I've just come across this site and like other's I am very grateful that it is here. I to suffer from this horrendous condition. I am only coming to understand myself better within the last few months than i have in an entire lifetime due to a new counsellor that I am seeing and informed my of my condition. Before that I saw countless counsellor's with none of them helping me any bit and even telling me to pull myself to geather. I just counld'nt understand why I was feeling so panicky and depressed. I am young, pretty, had a job, own car and house, yet I was still miserable. I just couldn't feel.

To day has been a horrendous day for me. The reality of my caregiver's has become very aware to me. Not there reality but mine the truth. I am very hurt because the one person, who I thought was there for me I now see just wasn't, my father. I've just realized that he choose himself over me and my sister's, and it was a counious choice.....that's the part that hurts so much. He played the victim to my mother's chronic schizophrenia yet we had to live with the horror. We looked after him,cared for him, while no one looked after us. pure emotional neglect and abuse. I just hurt so much right now....but at least I'm feeling, this journey is soooo soooo tough, but coming across this site, has given me some ray of hope,


Liu 5 years ago


Thank you for your article and sharing your story. It made me a bit sad and dreamy.

I never could overcome dissociation.

Typically everytime a therapist would try to work with me on this I would dissociate, making any intent useless.

After some months they either gave up or I ran out of money. Then I would try again and it was all the same.

I just cannot see what to do anymore.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago

interesting and well written hub, inspirepub. The comments are interesting too! Thanks.

Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 5 years ago from trailer in the country

Very well written, with excellent description. I can relate to some of this.

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auspicious12day 4 years ago

An Excellent, informative, helpful Hub.

anon 3 years ago

this is me well the first half not in recovery from it yet

mike 3 years ago

Helo all, I am the husband of 11 years. my wife has just been diognosed with d.i.d. finaly after so long I have answer to what she has been dealing with and what I have been so confused over. can any one give me some insight on how to be the best husband possable in this type of situation. as one may be in my shoes you will understand the sense of rejection and hopelessness at times. I am searchering for answers and want my wife to experiance the inner peace that she desires. thank u!

Gabor86 3 years ago

Inspirepub, I'm after a recovery from 2 years of depersonalization, and now processing my traumas. You're saving my life with this article. You're right on point.

I want to ask, what would be your advice if I still want to do it alone? I'm okay with every negative feeling, recovered from panic disorder and DP feelings, I'm okay with pain, not afraid of it.

Johnf175 2 years ago

My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different internet address and thought I might check items out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Appear forward to checking out your web page again. eabdgacaeadc

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Shaun Baxter 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Reading this was good for me. I feel most of what you listed as symptoms besides the female body related stuff. It's nice to know that people understand this and I can be more sure about this. I'm in a weird state right now. I'm sort of in between being dissociated and having a small amount of feelings. And that leap of faith you used as a metaphor for leaving behind this defense mechanism was something I already thought of!! Great minds think a like. I feel much more encouraged just by reading this article, but my friends and family don't understand and don't encourage me how I would like. :( It's scary giving in to feeling. I also have been very hyper aware of body language and stuff but I thought I was just delusional and doubted I actually knew what I was thinking but it turns out I'm actually really good at reading people's feelings and stuff just by reading a text they send. As a self hating and self doubting person this really helped me. Sorry for being all over the place, I'm lazy and I think I'm not saying all I want to but yea.

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