Wheel of Dissociation

Before you read this post…remember some computer glitch posted it before I was ready, and I was going to repost after editing, but guess what…the wheel of dissociation changed on me and I lost interest in the post entirely!  Man that is frustrating!

Also…I just want to add, I talked to my Therapist about this issue.  He says this is part of the trauma.  Trauma causes you to lose “fluidity of thought”.  He says this is one of the reasons for therapy, to regain fluidity…that sounds hopeful!

For some time, I have been thinking that I need to discuss Dissociation with you again. I still like the Haunted Mind analogy, but I am afraid that in that post, I might have slightly misdirected you. The misdirection is that reading that post, you might think that in different rooms are all about emotion i.e. an angry room, a happy room etc. Or perhaps you understood exactly what I meant, and I’m just being paranoid…it happens (me being paranoid I mean!) Anyway…something happened last night that is still causing my thoughts to churn, and has spawned another analogy for Dissociative Disorders.

First, let me clarify or remind you (meaning simply I can’t remember if I wrote about this before). Dissociation occurs on a spectrum. You have like heard how Autism is a spectrum disorder, and the same idea applies here. For Dissociation, on the less severe (or in this case: normal) side is daydreaming. Everyone daydreams and this is a form of dissociation. It is also perfectly normal. Where dissociation becomes a disorder is farther along the spectrum. If you follow the spectrum all the way to the most severe end you will find Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder.

SIDE BAR MOMENT: Maybe I should call this soap box moment, but I have to take a moment and say, there has been a lot of interest in the media lately about DID. From comedies to crime shows, they love to throw in a character with DID, and of course this person is always extreme…either a brunt of jokes in a comedy or a murder in the crime shows. Dear readers, don’t believe everything you see on TV. We all know, though we don’t think about it consciously, that writers and directors embellish things to make them more interesting. DID is real, but in real life it is a lot less “flamboant” than is portrayed in the movies. Now back to your regularly sceduled program post.

I have a Dissociative Disorder, in other words although you and I both dissociate (you daydream, right?) my dissociation is more developed, and can be a detriment in my daily life. Now where I fall on that spectrum…well, you read my blog, I’ll just leave it to your imagination. Back to the Haunted Mansion…changing “rooms” or dissociated states, is not just about changing moods. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I would like to tell you about last night and we’ll work our way back to how dissociation applies.

November was National Novel Writing Month, and my local library was hosting a class on writing. The teacher  was a New York Times Best Selling Author. I love writing, and though I usually stay in the nonfiction area, I thought this sounded like a great opportunity. I went and I was so inspired. The class was about developing characters that your readers will love and think about after they put down the book. I was on fire! I kept thinking, “I could do this! I have enought life experiences, and writing experience, and, and, and….” I was jazzed. I was mentally trying to figure out what my daily writing goal should be and what I might write about…

POP! Suddenly, like a balloon popping in my mind, a thought deflated me. Leslie, you know you won’t be able to stick with this long enough to make it work. I slumped down in my chair as I deflated emotionally and physically. Because I knew it was true. I listened to the last of the lecture with a weak version of tog of war going on in my head. One part of me saying, “but, but, but…maybe it will be different this time.” At the same time being pulled by, “you always say that…” Still as I went home, I couldn’t stop the brainstorming in my mind about characters. I got out a paper and started writing…I couldn’t help myself! I have an idea I think people would love. An idea people would read. A character people would cheer for, and cry with. All I need is to spend some serious time working it out. And THAT is the problem.

It is not the problem in the way you might think. When I say time, you likely think of your own very busy schedule and think, “yeah, I couldn’t fit it in either.” But that is not the kind of time I mean. I work overnight shift…I love the quiet! I work in a residential treatment facility so my main responsibility is to stay awake and check on the residents periodically to be sure the haven’t run away or harmed themselves…what I do the rest of the time: read, knit, watch movies, play video games…my boss doesn’t care. Or I could write. I have plenty of time to write. So what it the problem then? It’s the dissociation, the wheel of fortune.

Previously, I explained my dissociation like rooms in a Haunted Mansion. Today I would like you to think of a huge wheel, like the TV show “Wheel of Fortune” or in vaious children’s games, and sometimes at carnivals. It is mounted in the center so it will spin, there are pie shaped pieces with something written on them, and a little arrow that points to the “selection”. My mind is like that wheel. The pie like sections have not only different interests like reading, writing, knitting, chess, spanish, sociology, ect, but each pie like section can have a different world view. Spin the wheel and see what Leslie will be most interested in today.

Sometimes it will happen in the middle of the day. I have this sensation that feels like waking up, though I might be walking when it happens and I think, “Why haven’t I been practicing chess lately? I love chess. I’m going to go to the library as soon as I have a minute and check out a book”. Then for a time (the time always varies and I have NO control over it) I will be completely obsessed with chess. Perhaps you’ve read the phrase, “God, Family, Country”…well on those days, those “pie pieces” or room in the Haunted Mind, it’s “God, Family, Chess, and chess, and chess…”. Then without even realizing I’ve done it, I lose interest and focus on chess and start thinking about blogging. “Geez, it’s been a month since I last wrote on my blog? I’m going to lose readers,” and a flood of ideas for blog posts will start coming to my mind. If you are a blogger you may be thinking right now, “Leslie, we all do that. I go through spurts on my blog too.” My answer to you is, I know. That is because dissociation is something everyone does to some degree, but I am farther along that spectrum than you are. So last night I excited about writing, and I am focused on that this morning…I swear I have an idea that would work! But sadly I know that before too long, I will get distracted. The reason I use the wheel analogy is because these things my mind is one wheel, one house…and I move about within it. I am in a writing phase at the moment, but chess will be back, and then another day art. I find some comfort in that. The things I really love don’t disappear, they just move to the back burner for awhile.

You might be thinking, “Leslie, we all do that, really.” So let me take you one step further…as the wheel turns, or I go into different rooms in my mind (and remember I have no control over that), it is not only my moods or interests that change, it can be my whole world view. Please stop for a moment and think about that. Think about your own world view, what is important to you, the values that are close to your heart, your feelings about religion, about the other people…all those things that form your “world view”. It is normal for people’s world view to change over time, but with dissociation mine can change rapidly. For me one world view, or place on the wheel, can last a few months or a few minutes.  If that sounds disorienting, trust me it is.

There is one place on that wheel that rarely seems to come “up”, but I know it’s still there because I do feel it from time to time. And that is the point here, I have not simply “grown and changed my world view” in the way you can and do. I slip in and out of different world views. For example, in the place I rarely visit anymore, I am very spiritual, optomistic, loving, at peace even in times of stress like finanical difficulties or health problems. Another place on the wheel I am less sure about religion, less optomistic if not a bit cynical, I’m not depressed, but I wouldn’t say I am happy either. I feel frustration about many things and especially about relationships. Sometimes I find myself very logic, anlytical and detached. The world and the people in it may not be what I hope, but I don’t concern myself with that. I’m more interested in learning something new. I think I will check out a book on algebra so I can re-learn that and help my teenagers with their math.

At this point, you may be starting to feel a little dizzy on my behalf. Yes, it is frustrating for me, and can make day to day life difficult. Fortunately whatever “space” I find myself in, I love my husband and children…but everything else is subject to change. I think this is the reason that people with dissociative disorders are often misdiagnosed as having bi-polar disorder…those rapidly changing places on the wheel can make a person appear very moody. I assume that is how people that know me well rationalize my behaviour…moody.

This brings us full circle…I want to write. Suddenly I want to write a novel so bad I can taste it. I know I can do it, and yet I know I can’t. Someone stop this merry-go-round, I want to get off. I’ll start writing that novel anyway. I’ll write as much of it as I can until the wheel spins on me again, then? Well, then I guess it will wait for me…like an unwanted toy on the shelf, until I come back to it. If the spinning wheel of my mind doesn’t get me to discouraged, I’ll finish it. It might just take me about 10 years.

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