Reconnecting and Dealing With One Negative Emotion at a Time

Yesterday, my counselor and I were speaking about my recovery from the dissociative disorder known as depersonalisation.  I’ve written about it a few times if you want to check out the backstory — you can in my posts “Recovering from Depersonalisation” and “Reducing Anxiety through ‘Staying Present’“, or any entry on depersonalisation through looking up the tag #depersonalisation on my blog.

I am not sharing this because I want any pity or my friends and family to feel they need to wrap me in cotton wool. I am writing this so people who are diagnosed with depersonalisation or any similar dissociative disorder or similar disorder can understand they are not alone, that this does happen, and they may be able to recover. This is my personal experience with dissociation and depersonalisation, so mileage and outcomes may vary from case to case. Now on to my post…

Learning how to deal with emotions again is difficult.  I’ve touched on it before in previous posts, but yesterday’s discussion touched on this again.

My mind seems to try to distract me from dealing with negative emotions.  I internalise anger, grief, sadness: all these emotions churning inside me.  Anger has been easier to confront; instead of letting a simmering rage build within me, I’ve found a way to express my frustration verbally, which, in turn, helps empower me to push through my anger and emerge a strong person.  It sounds easy to do, but it’s not that easy, sometimes.

Grief and sadness have been harder.  I clam up.  It feels like these emotions run around as I try to catch them, sit with them, and let them run their course.  My previous counselor — the one I accessed post-quakes — felt I may have complicated grief, where grief builds up over a period of time and expands exponentially until it is difficult to manage.

The way I’ve seemingly dealt with grief is to internalise it to the point that my mind tries to analyse it, ride rough-shod over it, and push it aside by any means possible.

With my mind overthinking things, which also causes a depersonalised reaction as I’m so busy thinking ahead and sideways that I don’t have an opportunity to stop and process the emotions associated with the here and now, I’ve taught myself that my thoughts are more important than what is going on around me, and that causes me to feel very isolated sometimes.

Coming to terms with these feelings, and being reintroduced to them after my depersonalisation, has been difficult.  When asked about how I could describe it, I said there is an undercurrent of fatigue there with a small bit of strength.  This perplexed my counselor.  “Strength?”  He wanted to know more.

I searched for an answer.  What did I mean?  There was this small part there, this part of me that always says (sometimes stronger than others), “You got this.  Fight.  Fight.  Fight.”  And it propels me to rage against all the negativity and all the darkness to emerge positively into the light on the other side.

But the analogy I thought of was this:  The strength is like a lone superhero against an army of bad guys.  He’s taking on that enemy, then that enemy, then that enemy.  No break, no exhaustion, no time to think; it’s just go, go, go.  Deal with this enemy, deal with that enemy, deal with that enemy, wash, rinse, repeat, until there’s a pile of unconscious enemies and the superhero standing over them triumphant.

It’s sometimes hard to tap into that tiny bit of strength when the fatigue feels so overwhelming, especially when stress and anxiety themselves are so prevalent in many aspects of my life currently.

To say that dealing with emotions again is sometimes difficult is an understatement.  I can be an impatient person.  I want things done now.  I want this all to be done and over with so I can move on to the next part of my life, one where I am more myself again.  But a previous physical illness (which doctors never discovered the causes of) taught me that I need to be patient with myself, forgive myself, allow myself to have a few steps back until I can move forward again.

So this strength will grow again.  I’ll be able to eventually confront my grief and my sadness, which are both proving to be somewhat elusive, like a young child running around a tired grandparent trying to catch them.  I need to be patient.  I need to access the emotions when they grace me with that privilege.  And I need to understand that someday I will be well enough to be whole again.