I’ve attended about 6 weeks of DBT group therapy sessions now, and about 8 hours of individual work by staying after group with a counselor.
Progress?? Yeah that’s a joke. I am learning a lot though. Learning how F-ed up I am and how much more work I need to do to get my brain functioning properly.
Apparently, I am, and have likely been for my entire life, disassociating for large portions of my day every day. I am completely freeeaked out by this knowledge. How could this be true and I never knew? and no one around me knew? I’ve always been ‘quiet’, kept to myself, a dreamer, spacey, people would have to call my name a few times to snap my attention back to them. I know I drift off frequently whenever people talk – I attributed that to boredom or fatigue. Always playing catch-up. Just a bad listener. I know I had memory gaps – I thought that was the migraines or normal – everyone forgets what people said or where they put something and has to have precise routine and lists. I am slower than everyone else at everything – always last to finish eating a meal, fold the laundry, do the dishes, turn the test, write that report, etc.
Turns out my brain is practically turning off parts of itself and I am frozen quite often, much more often than I ever knew. Sometimes a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. I used to think I was sleeping lightly or dozed off because I have altered senses and memories for what people were doing around me in those times. I can still hear people talking but I can’t move or respond, its not real.
My DBT counselor is teaching me grounding skills to become more aware and eventually stop this disassociating. What’s freaky is I’ve been using many of these skills my entire life to force myself to stay present without knowing it during school, like chewing gum, tapping and counting my fingers, stretching legs, pinching fingers in binder, pushing fingernails into palm, playing with rubberband or bracelet on wrist. I’ve always used ice on my head to stop migraines, turns out that is good for grounding too. Any quick temp change to shock the body back to the present is good. So I’ve been using coping skills and just didn’t know what they were or what I was coping with.
See my abuse started earlier than I can recall, before age 3, and was chronic, daily, it was my life. So it makes sense my brain learned how to adapt and I never knew anything, it was just me, and part of why I always felt different from others on top of my dirty secrets.
So lately, my pattern has been to ground myself back and back and back through what I have to do, and then I let go once I am back home and safe. I am discovering I can lose hours here at home, not sleeping, but zoned out in disassociative land especially after ‘surviving’ a social encounter. I’m now supposed to try to prevent this by taking a cool shower, getting many ice packs, dancing to loud music, keep my body up and moving and grounded after something stressful to break this habit of 30 plus years. It is a skill my brain learned to protect itself from the unbearable pain of child abuse that it could not understand. It served a purpose then, but it doesn’t now. I am safe now (I am supposed to believe this, and I’m trying, but I don’t yet) and I guess I can’t live my life and experience it if I keep tuning it out most of the time.
DBT counselor says this is why I feel empty and detached and it is the first step to building a life I want to live. I want to believe her, and so I am trying. Because there is no alternative at this point.
Also figuring out this may be core to why Hubby and I have so many miscommunications. He likes to say things on the move as he goes from one room to the next and assumes whoever is in the room has heard him. Like he’ll say “I’m going to the store” and I don’t hear him, and then after a bit I start looking for him all over the house and then he returns home with groceries and I’m irritated because there was something I needed and would have asked him to get if I knew he was going out. He gets all confused because he says he told me and I say he didn’t tell me. At least this is what he says he’s been doing, from my point of view he hasn’t been saying anything to me at all lately and from where I’m at not trusting him or anyone, its hard for me to believe the convenience of he must be communicating well and thoughtfully and it must be me disassociating and not answering and not remembering.
I don’t want to be that unwell. Easier to be angry and not believe them, because, holy hell batman, how do I recover, how do I accept a mental illness that great, that all encompassing, that I’ve been battling my entire life and no one noticed? or they noticed and just let it go? That’s hard to swallow.
DBT counselor says it is possible to rewire my brain – slowly, and painfully. But I have to want to do it and stop hurting myself, and stop fighting the process. Yeah, let me just nail this jello to the wall and pull some monkeys out of my butt. She doesn’t promise rainbows and unicorns, but I don’t even have a concept for what she is promising because it is all so foreign to me. Feel something before thinking and analyzing, stop controlling it, connect mind-body-emotions, talk to real live people without panic, build relationships and connections, live a meaningful life.
I don’t know what I believe. So I am still going day by day with my guard up, seeing who is out to get me, who is trying to trick me, which reality is real.
I’m too smart to feel this confused, right? nope. not at all. My emotions never developed properly, I never learned to regulate them in toddlerhood and preschool – I wasn’t allowed. And then I learned to also disconnect my mind from emotions and body so the abuse didn’t feel real. It’s how I escaped while it was still happening. So if I am to believe this, I have in stead, been disassociating every time the emotions get too intense because I never learned to self soothe healthily. This became a habit and I became a quiet kid who kept to herself, never caused trouble, and grew up with this bad habit, reinforced over the years because it worked so well, and now I can’t stop doing it because I don’t know any other way.