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Dissociation doesn’t mean I’m rude or antisocial

Jennie - Time to Change

"My friends try to listen and understand but they still become frustrated with me."

I have used dissociation as a way to cope when I feel I can’t, due to previous trauma and abuse as a child. I first did this as a way of protecting my mind. To me, this feels like I’m in a bubble and I can’t quite touch and connect with the real world. Everything feels a little bit hazy; I can look into someone’s eyes and yet feel like I’m looking far into the distance.

When I am in a dissociative state I struggle to answer the simplest of questions. Had I been caught in the rain yesterday? What was my last meal? I can’t remember texts that had sent or received. I don’t have emotions, until I can’t cope and have an outburst of anger. Luckily my auto pilot has been very useful, and over the years has learnt to function on the day-to-day tasks for me, so I can still work when I feel dissociated.

However this is very difficult for my friends to cope with or to understand. Why did it look like I wasn’t paying attention to them was I just being rude? Why did I ignore them? Why wasn’t I able to hold a conversation with them? Why did I snap when I came back to the world and realised what I had done?

I was away with my friends for the weekend. We spent the Saturday at a spa and, although that was new to me, I enjoyed it. It was a quiet, controlled environment and I managed to stay “in the room”. That evening we went out and the environment was busier, louder and unpredictable. Although I tried really hard to stay focused, I dissociated which came across to my friends as me being disinterested and not wanting to be there. The dissociation continued to the next day where I wasn’t able to take part in the activities planned for the day. Again, it appeared to them as if I was being unsociable, uncooperative, dismissive of my friends and generally rude. Yet I felt awful, like there was a thick wall of fog between me and them and it took everything I had to answer a simple question such as “do you want a drink?”

I can’t actually remember much of that second day.

I appreciate it can be hard to try and understand someone who dissociates, and I am sorry to the people I have upset and hurt while I have been disassociated. It is not something I have tried to do. I have to work very hard to try and focus, in order to appear as I do. It must be very hard to be on the other side and to be with someone who appears not to be there. My friends try to listen and understand but they still become frustrated with me.

I have a great group of friends. If they were able to understand dissociation better, it would mean I could stop worrying about hurting them when I am struggling to stay in control. I could take part in more social events knowing that they would be there to support me not judge me. I haven’t found one person I’ve spoken to that has ever heard the word dissociation before and, while I live in a rural part of the country, I wonder how many people have heard of it? If people’s behaviours could be recognised as being dissociative, how many people could be spared the label of being rude, stuck up and antisocial? They could have the help and support they need to live with their condition.

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