I had counselling today. I have counselling every two weeks.
For those of you not in the know, I was diagnosed with the dissociative disorder known as depersonalization in November 2014. So coming up on 7 years ago now, although I may have had it earlier.
Depersonalization does not let me live a well-rounded life. I’m detached from everyone. And I’m detached from me and my emotions, which is a really crappy place to be. Not always, but a lot of the time. I doubt myself and my instincts about 85% of the time. My lips move and my voice speaks, but I’m not in control. Sometimes, I’m to the right of my body. Other times, I feel like I’m watching my life through a film projector.
And I’m scared a lot of the time something worse is wrong with me.
Even many times when I am dreaming, which has provided me solace in times of trouble pre-depersonalization, I feel nothing. Many times in my waking or dreaming life, right when I am luckily feeling a fully formed emotion or two, the edges of it melt away until the very center of it disappears and the numbness kicks in quite strongly.
The last few weeks have been all over the place for me. About 2:30 AM on Monday morning, the beginnings of a panic attack came on — I haven’t had a panic attack for a while — and I knew I was taking way too much on, both at work and at school. The dream I woke up from was people from both work and life and school yelling, trying to get my attention, a bunch of stock brokers on a trading floor vying to get me to buy into all the things I needed to do both at work and in life and at school: an ever-growing list of tasks impossible for me to complete because I don’t have enough hours in the day and I’m very far behind on everything, I feel.
Today, my counselor said I don’t seem to be making progress in my treatment. A pretty heartbreaking thing to hear; “Hey, throw another log onto the anxious fire of my life!” I latched on to this and thought he was going to say we couldn’t see each other any more, which would be typical since I feel like that’s been a theme since I’ve had this disorder. I’ve lost a lot since I’ve been diagnosed.
He’s right though. I actually thought between last session and this, “I’m treading water. I’m not swimming a 500 meter race, or even a 25 meter one; I’m treading water.”
So I said that to him.
I have felt, for a very long time, that I’m muddling through every day. No goals. Nothing to look forward to. Merely surviving. Because that’s what this disorder does. It claws away everything you aspire to, everything you like, everything you are, until there’s only crumbs left of the tin full of cookies that you used to be.
I guess I can’t get disappointed if I don’t have any goals or anything to look forward to, right? Because when I have had goals or something to look forward to in the last 7 years, I get disappointed or I go through the event feeling distant, numb, and unable to enjoy it although I should be enjoying it, and then it’s gone, and I feel like crap for not enjoying it.
I brought up: “Maybe it’s the stress from my job. Maybe it’s the million jobs I do in my role that other companies would have a dozen people and hundreds of thousands of dollars thrown at, and how far behind I feel I am all the time. Maybe it’s not confronting this thing, or that event in my life, or the other thing, the people I’ve lost in my life. Maybe I’m an anxious person who doesn’t do well in social situations.” And a few other random ideas, because, well, I don’t think so clearly any more. Everything’s a jumble. Even taking a shower is a jumble.
I used to have a thousand thoughts branching out in my head. Now? Now I have gnats swarming and nipping in my mind. Not thoughts, really. Snippets of thoughts. Lots of buzzing, not a lot of grabbing one thing and going with it.
But the counselor said: “You can remove some, or all of these things, and it still won’t get to the root cause, whatever that is.”
In sessions, in life, my emotions are a trombone slide. Distant, close, somewhere in the middle, close, distant, distant. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s very disconcerting, especially when there is no apparent pattern and very many causes.
I can’t concentrate well any more. If I’m trying to write something and someone talks to me, I get chunks of my thoughts and the conversation making something resembling a film in Swahili, but nothing coherent. If I’ve got music on, trying to write something, and someone talks to me, I’m pretty much scrambled thoughts-wise for an hour or two. And if that someone gets upset with me being distant, well, that adds more social anxiety to the mix, and nothing constructive gets done.
I got tired of feeling distant the other day. Noel started talking to me about it, and I merely said: “I don’t think anyone knows how ill I really am.” It’s true. No one really knows how ill I am, except my counselor who actually agreed very strongly with that statement today when I repeated it. I am pretty ill. I hide it very well. But the truth is: I’m ill.
That piggy-backs on what I said to my teacher the other day, the week after I had a really bad depersonalization episode in class: “The illness shows no scars. I’m not missing a limb; I look normal and behave calm. Sometimes people who are really in-tune with other people’s vibes and body language can see something’s wrong. Most times, though, no. But something’s off inside.”
I’m usually treated like the old Scott who could handle 17 things at once.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago on my blog: in April, I was so stressed one morning I couldn’t figure out how to put my socks on. This disorder, when in full swing, stops my brain from processing cognitive thought many of us take for granted.
I couldn’t figure out how to put my socks on.
I couldn’t figure out how to put my socks on.
And if that didn’t strike the fear of God into you the first three times: I’m 47 years old, and I couldn’t figure out how to put my socks on.
Also: there have been times I’ve been so distracted by another thought, that I drop the groceries I am trying to put into the fridge onto the floor. If it’s glass, it smashes. That’s happened at least 3 times so far.
I’ve given up saying I can’t deal with 2+ things at once. Everyone expects me to be the old multi-tasking me. It just shames me more to say, “I can’t handle things any more.” Or I get the whole guilt-trip thing, or I’m treated like I’m being a drama queen. Basically, though, I’m admitting I’m useless. Or that’s how I feel, anyway. And it usually leads to either some story about how something like this impacted their life (it hasn’t) or that they don’t know how to do it and apparently Googling it or learning it is this humongous boulder in their way (it’s not), and I’m the only one who can help. So I don’t argue sometimes. I don’t have the strength or focus to argue. And when I do? I get shut down usually, or treated like I’m being a drama queen, which only reinforces, I guess, I shouldn’t stand up for myself.
I often think it would be easier if one day I dropped dead. But if that happened, I’d probably be treated like I was being too dramatic.
I came home today from counselling, and Noel asked me how it went, and I grunted. Later, he asked me if I was okay, and I didn’t have the energy to tell him what my counselor said, or even say: “I don’t think I’ll ever be okay again.”
I’m not telling you this for sympathy. I’m not wanting platitudes as a response.
I want people to be aware when someone was able-bodied before and has a disability suddenly, to understand things have changed and to adapt with them. Support is possibly the only way through something like this disorder I have. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I mean, I have a letter from my counselor (a psychotherapist, if we want to be exact) that I supply to everyone hither and yon, citing the disorder I have is a dissociative disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 to be precise), and a good chunk of the time, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. He even says in the letter that I am very clear what my limits are and can articulate them when I am not cognitively impaired due to extreme stress. But:
Limb not missing. Nothing to see here, nothing wrong, move along.
I can’t take medication to make it better. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, a few glasses of wine finally breaks through the damned thing and I can feel partially, or maybe whole, for a few hours. And, it seems, counselling isn’t helping 100% either. I don’t know what else to do to try to heal without killing my liver (probably too late) or radically altering my life.
There have been a few moments of divinity after I have struggled with something. A calm and steady hand to guide me through the fog. I am thankful for that, and I have given thanks to those people when they have helped me. I still feel embarrassed about it, but also thankful they saw I was struggling and stepped up in those moments. Things like that are what keep me going.
Connection is important. Be in love with life. Be kind to one another. Be honest with others about how you feel about them (although, maybe limit that to positive feelings). Life is short.