Anyone who has survived a traumatic experience may be familiar with the feeling of separating from one’s body. This naturally occurring physiological process in the body helps a person withstand something terrifying or harmful. It also works to minimize potential psychological damage or outright losing one’s mind. I characterize it as the traveling of one’s mind, or what some might call the consciousness, into another space until it’s safe to return to the body. For someone who has never experienced this, it might sound hokey, but if you have lived through something traumatic, you know exactly what I’m describing.
It’s the moment when a person can see everything around them, but her/his body freezes making it impossible to interact with any of what’s happening. Whether it’s another car slamming into yours as it drives the wrong way down a one-way street, the moment a dog twice your weight pounces on you sinking its teeth into your body; or feeling another person physically overpower and violently assault you; you know the feeling to which I’m referring.
The medical name for this physiological process is dissociation. “In psychology, dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.”
The medical definition further states that dissociation is usually measured on a continuum from mild to severe. In a mild, non-pathological case, it’s seen as a coping or defense mechanism in cases of extreme stress or conflict; and in its mildest state it’s more commonly called daydreaming. While in severe or pathological cases of dissociation, the experience(s) can include: “a sense that self or the world is unreal; a loss of memory (amnesia); forgetting identity or assuming a new self (fugue); and fragmentation of identity or self into separate streams of consciousness (dissociative identity disorder, formerly termed multiple personality disorder) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
As I’ve already mentioned, dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma. Yet, in many cases, stress, whether unexpected or prolonged, is the trigger. The situation in which I found myself wasn’t unexpected, but it was stressful, and when I realized what I had experienced it scared me.
One of the recent treatments I’ve undergone – in yet another attempt to reduce and ultimately eliminate my chronic pain – deliberately puts the patient in a dissociative state. The idea is to use specific medication(s) to trick the nervous system into feeling (believing?) the pain no longer exists. I haven’t posted details about the treatment or my experience with it yet because I’m still in the midst of sorting through my feelings, researching and writing about all of it. The medication(s) used are meant to make the patient feel a definite separation between body and consciousness, which I strongly felt for about 20 minutes and had no way of stopping without ending the treatment and possibly losing all its potential benefits.
Mindf_ck-During – March 2018 – 1
Mindf_ck-During – March 2018 – 2
Since this treatment, the problem I’m having is whether I should undergo it for a second time considering the minimal relief it delivered vs. the major psychological effect(s) it’s still having on me. Effects I hadn’t connected with, or begun to understand, until I had a panic attack while thinking about the next scheduled treatment. I don’t know if I can withstand feeling separated from my body while watching – witnessing really – everything around me but feeling as though I’ve given up all conscious control.
Because the first treatment only delivered about five days of low pain levels, I’ve had to weigh whether the mindf@ck I have to withstand during the treatment and process after is worth a week of relief. Although, I’ve been told that an increased dose of the medication(s) could, possibly, last longer: anywhere from a few extra days to weeks or in the ultimate best-case scenario months. Is that enough to justify forcing my mind into a prolonged dissociative state?
All the contemplation I’ve been doing tells me it’s not enough. The likelihood that more treatments with this method, even with higher doses of the medication(s), will be more successful than the first is slim. However, it’s a known fact that the dissociative side-effects will happen with each treatment and may even intensify. Therefore, my Pain Specialists’ search for a long-lasting treatment must continue; and until they find one, I have to keep finding ways to cope with this unceasing pain every minute of every day.
Mindf_ck-After – March 2018 – 1
Mindf_ck-After – March 2018 – 2
Mindf_ck-After – March 2018 -4