I write this in hopes that the next time an argument or conflict causes a person to dissociate, those around them will understand what is happening in their mind. As a disorder that causes the mind to flee the body as a defense mechanism, dissociating separates the victim from the situation, but to everyone else they are still “there.” During times of conflict when this occurs, it seems like the person dissociating stops listening, refuses to speak or respond, or is giving some type of stubborn cold shoulder. When questions are being asked but you are not mentally there to perceive and answer them, people tend to get upset.
Please, take a moment right now to engross yourself in the thought process of someone dissociating during a conversation, and maybe next time you can help them feel safe enough to “come back to reality” instead of getting even more upset and heightening their flight-response.
We are sitting in your car, talking about some issues we’ve been having lately, issues that bring up personal events in my life I am never fond of talking about. As the questions began digging deep into my past, my mind does all it knows to do to protect me: leave. I want to answer your questions, I want to look you in the eyes and I want to be responsive right now as you grow angrier at my lack of emotion. I want so badly to be able to control my mind, but unfortunately those of us suffering from mental illnesses cannot always do so. Hopefully most have a person beside them that makes “coming back” a little bit easier, the way that I have you.
Heart racing; I feel a pen cap my fidgeting fingers have found. Life is continuing around me, but all I can hear are the clicks as I open and close it,
open and close it,
open and close it.
My chest aches where my heart is, crying a desperate plea of desire for the pain to cease.
I hear you talking, I feel the tension, I see warm breathe crafting clouds of smoke each time your mouth opens and closes, opens and closes, opens and closes…but I can only stare straight ahead.
How can I look you in the eyes? Those eyes perceive life through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world.
You stop talking, waiting for my response.
I try to speak, but it feels as if something is caught in my throat. The dull pain in my chest makes me nauseous as I swallow and attempt to say something…anything — knowing it could be the difference between “see you later” or “goodbye.” I try to talk, but my body surrenders control as the throbbing extends to my stomach. Breathing becomes a task as the snow covered tree branches out the window of your car blend together, forming a blur of wonderful white and brown lines.
Next to me, you stare. Waiting. Expecting. Hoping.
But my mind has gone blank. I can’t remember any particular thing, I can’t remember anything. I close my eyes, trying to shield myself from the faintness, from the migraines. I am out of my body, on the outside looking in; away from the hurt, the pressures, the disillusionments of this distorted world. Finally — stillness, tranquility, peace.
I feel a hand on my shoulder, and am violently dragged back into reality.
Fear, panic, terror. I want to leave again, to never come back.
But that hand belongs to you, and you are worth staying for.
I turn towards you. How can I avert those eyes? Those eyes perceive me through a lens of grace and gentleness. Those eyes remind me of everything beautiful in this world.
The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.