I got some more helpful advice on how to deal with dissociating that I wanted to pass along.
This DBT IMPROVE the MOMENT worksheet is great. This was suggested in one of my DBT Facebook groups for dissociating. It offers help for ruminating about the past or future, help with getting back to the present moment, and panic lists for feelings of melancholy, obsessing, and other difficult emotions.
From YouTuber, Ryan Liberty: Try to understand why the dissociating is happening in the first place and what your triggers are, such as times of celebration. This way you can prepare in advance if you know a triggering event is coming up. He suggests giving yourself positive messages such as “you can do this, it’s only a few days”, watch your breathing and plan self-care time. “It helped me to repeat to myself mentally ‘I am safe’ and to feel internally the bottom of my feet.”
Ryan also mentions advice from Kati Morton, who says sucking peppermint candies can help with dissociation.
She writes, “A common symptom of both NPD and BPD is dissociation: a splitting or fragmenting of the personality not very different from what occurs in the Dissociative disorders such as DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and Psychogenic Fugue. It usually happens in response to a severe loss of supply or major narcissistic injury, or a sudden awareness of oneself as not oneself (realizing your false self is not who you really are–which happens when a narcissist becomes self aware). These disorders themselves, especially NPD, are dissociative in nature because a split in the personality has occurred. In the narcissist, it’s a substitution of the original personality for a false one. ”
I’ve had a tough week. I dissociated for most of the week and am just now (thankfully, hopefully?) coming back to reality.
When I get like this, my weekends blend into my week days. My days into my nights. I have to look at the calendar several times a day to remember what day it is. Still I have trouble. Today I looked up and it was Thursday. I’ve done nothing with my week and it’s nearly over.
Each day, the hours go by and before I know it, the kids are home and I’m struggling to get through dinner and bedtime. Struggling to pull it together enough to be at least somewhat present for them. I smile and play with the baby. I try to make conversation with my oldest, showing interest in his day. But I’m on “autopilot” – how I describe my dissociations. It’s like I’m seeing the conversations happening, but I don’t feel like I’m part of them. I feel disconnected from reality, like I’m floating inside my own head watching the world take place around me, but not participating. The next day I remember it as if it was a dream.
All day yesterday I walked by several piles of laundry I meant to take care of and didn’t realize they were there until the evening. I simply didn’t see them. I’m completely checked out.
Next week I’ll get some stuff done, I tell myself every week. I’m going on two months of this now and starting to really get concerned. It’s affecting every aspect of my life, including my work. I’m falling behind and it’s only a matter of time before someone notices I’ve produced virtually nothing in weeks.
I’ve always had periods of “depression.” Cyclical ups and downs throughout the years. This is the first bought I’ve had since becoming aware of my NPD, so this time it looks different to me. I’m aware of aspects I wasn’t aware of before. In the past, this would be the time I’d be searching for new “supply.” A new hobby, interest, friend, something exciting, anything to take my mind off the boredom. But I’m trying to learn not to rely on that anymore, and instead rely on myself.
Really, more than a depression, it’s an emotional numbness. I don’t feel necessarily “sad”, just numb. And incredibly bored. Nothing interests me. TV, music, talking to friends, the usual stuff that can put me in a better mood or capture my interest, does nothing for me. I feel like I’m constantly just going through the motions.
I’ve been thinking about what I can do to pull out of this. Right now I’m focused on stopping the dissociating. Figure I can’t do anything else until I can get back into my own body. I’m just starting DBT and mindfulness. At this point I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Here’s some of what I’ve come up with so far:
Downloaded a mindfulness app to my phone. Trying to incorporate short meditations into my daily activities, so I’ll actually do them.
Bought a DBT workbook and started it. My therapist’s pace is a little too slow and I need these skills now. Of the skills I thought may be immediately helpful, today I’ve been trying Opposite Action. I feel numb, bored, unmotivated. So, this morning I tried forcing myself to get up and do something. I started a load of laundry, I did a task for work, I am writing this blog post.
Get some exercise, sunlight and fresh air — maybe go for a walk or work out.
Giving myself credit for what I do. Yesterday I made my bed. That’s an improvement over the day before. Look at that as an accomplishment, rather than focusing on all the stuff I didn’t get done.
Self-compassion. As my husband says, “be nice to yourself.”
I went for an aromatherapy massage and did my best to stay in the moment, feeling the touch, smelling the smells.
I think I need to do a better job of keeping occupied, especially since I work from home. I am going to make myself a list of things I want to get done each day, or maybe a schedule to try to stay focused on keeping busy.
I read you should focus on experiencing each of your senses to bring you back from a dissociation.
Whenever I picture a peaceful place, it’s always the woods. Something is so comforting to me about the sounds, the smell, the natural stillness. Yesterday I stumbled upon a small “fairy terrarium” in the grocery store. I bought it to keep at my desk. I thought maybe when I’m feeling disconnected that looking at it, opening it up and smelling the earthy smell, may help me be more mindful and present. Like a little forest in a jar.
In the movie “Inception”, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb, carries a “totem” with him to help him stay grounded and differentiate between reality and dreams. I thought about finding myself a totem for similar reasons. Something I can carry, preferably something very interesting to look at that I can hold in my hand and visually focus on, to help bring me back to the present moment.
I read that stating facts out loud, can be helpful for dissociation. “My name is Yara and I’m 36 years old.”
Trying to figure out what’s causing the numbness. My therapist gave me a handout last week with primary and secondary emotions. Anger, hatred, numbness are listed as “secondary emotions” that are protective and keep you from experiencing the primary emotion they are masking. What is my primary emotion? I found this feelings wheel (above).
My friend, LuckyOtter, suggested I try visualizing my feelings. Try to observe the empty feeling as if it’s an object. Figure out where it’s centered in the body, try to name the feelings it contains, see if a memory is being triggered, and examine it without judgement.
I’d love to hear any other ideas for getting over periods of dissociating and dysphoria. What works for you?