“Sometimes I get so sad, so sad that I completely shut down, I stare blankly at the walls. It does’nt matter what you say to me, because in that moment I do not exist,” Onneile Rapula sobbed silently.
She said: “physically am here, mentally I am far, far away. I felt so much, that I started to feel nothing,” she added.
“The pain and misery that I feel with my day-to-day life, dealing with dissociation for the past year. Feeling like I am living in a fantasy world or that I am dead and this is the after life. Having little to no emotional connection with anyone. When will I ever catch a break? I want my life back, Source: Dissociation letters.”
It is said she suffers from Dissociation. Dissociation is a coping mechanism used by the brain to protect itself during trauma. However, it can be detrimental if the brain does this all the time and you never allow yourself to come back to reality.
The process of dissociation is a mechanism built into the human psychological system as a form of escape from (sometimes literally) going crazy. It has its pros and cons.
A counsellor at Tshidilong Counselling Centre, Meiki Letsholo, said dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. She said “If you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. For example, you may feel detached from your body or feel as though the world around you is unreal.”
Dissociation is said to be one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event.
“Survivors of sexual abuse often dissociate during the ordeal or later so that they don’t deal with the overwhelming experience at that point. Sometimes during seemingly fatal a car accident people often dissociate as well,” Letsholo noted.
She further added that the person just witnesses everything as if they are not there or as if they are not a victim. She said “Physical pain may register later on. However, shock and terror are often present, dissociation is a mental flight when a physical flight is not available.”
Moreover, Letsholo said signs of dissociation may include one feeling like they are a different person sometimes, feel like your heart is pounding or you are light-headed, feel emotionally numb or detached, feel nothing, have an out-of-body experience, get absorbed in a fantasy world that seems real, have an altered sense of time.
“It is possible for a new mum to lose her baby or have a miscarriage and lose touch with reality for some hours or even days. This can also go for weeks or more due to the presence of other severe conditions. They may not recall losing the baby and keep asking for their baby. They may not remember ever being pregnant (this is indicative of other conditions such as dissociative amnesia),” added Letsholo.
Moreover, Letsholo noted that it is when dissociation interferes with everyday life that it is necessary to get help for it. She said “Dissociation may persist because it is a way of not having negative feelings in the moment, but it is never a cure. Too much dissociating can slow or prevent recovery from the impact of trauma or PTSD.”
“Dissociation can become a problem in itself. It can lead to passively going along in risky situations. Facing up to trauma and learning the impact can be handled is the cure for dissociation, “Letsholo highlighted.
She said there is need for the use of grounding techniques. This
means connecting back into the here and now. She further added that what can help too is going to therapy sessions, engaging one’s senses, exercise, practicing self-care, building out a support system and knowing where to go to when you are not feeling okay.
“Keep a journal and start identifying your triggers,” Letsholo concluded.