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Dear Josh: You are not alone

by / 0 Comments / 123 View / October 19, 2015

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and dissociation for the past few months but I’m hesitant to see my primary doctor or even talk to anyone about it at all. I often feel like I’m not in my body or like my body isn’t mine. I sometimes stare off or focus on one thing and don’t think anything at all. It’s like I don’t have a good relationship with anyone and I don’t interact with anyone properly, if that makes sense. Do you have any personal tips of “rituals” that will help me engage more and not feel so detached?
-Anonymous

Before I begin I’d like to define dissociation for some of our readers who might be unfamiliar with it. People’s sense of self, and their entire perception of reality, depends on their memories, thoughts and senses as a guide. If a person were to feel disconnected from all of that, they would suddenly feel like a fictional character’s memories are inhabiting their body, to put it one way. Sometimes this manifests as the body feeling unreal, the world feeling unreal, or a having a personality shift and feeling obliged to act very different in one situation versus another. Now, keep in mind that all of this is actually normal to a small degree as everyone dissociates from time to time to keep stressful experiences at bay. Everyone adjusts their personality a bit when in the presence of other people, and sometimes we find ourselves questioning who we are after we respond in an unexpected manner to a sudden problem. However, dissociative disorder occurs when these episodes of disconnect are chronic and interfere with a person’s daily life.

I decided to get the Belton Journal’s resident psychologist Nikki Velarde to field this one. She has a BS in psychology, studied at the master’s level at UMHB for counseling, and is a sore loser at card games.

“Talk to family and friends because you will need a good support system who understands what’s going on. If you have an actual diagnosis, then definitely seek treatment through counseling. This includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, medication, or eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing (EMDR). Finding the right treatment plan can be difficult but once that’s accomplished, people can live fairly normal lives. Since dissociative disorder is on the trauma spectrum it could be related to things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abused, or borderline personality disorder.

“Keeping a journal or making artwork can help improve awareness. Mindfulness exercises are techniques that utilize your senses to help guide you to the present. Someone who has practiced yoga has done this. It’s very meditative. There’s one in particular from yoga that I love doing and still do when my mind is all scrambled. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Try to settle your mind and only focus on your chest, either choose your heart or your breath. I normally go with the heart. Feel every beat. I can’t really explain how, but sometimes when I focus on it hard enough I can actually feel the pattern the blood flows through in my body. Then I wake myself back up to the present and everything has settled.”

Finally, I’d just like to add that you are not, and will never be alone. I have a feeling you’re hesitant to approach your doctor or anyone else about this because you might feel ashamed or feel people will ostracize you, right? I want you to know that this, and other conditions and situations outside of your control are nothing to be ashamed of. I’d like to reiterate that I and other friends of yours will never, ever be bothered if you ever want to talk to us about your day, your problems, or anything else. For what it’s worth, I’ve been treating my depression for a few months already and have even begun counseling sessions. It hasn’t always been easy for me to talk about, but I decided that being open about my condition with the people I care about is better than trying to mask it in vain forever. I do not regret taking this action and I do feel happier as a result, and I know you will too.