by Heather Loeb

Dissociation — I’m good at it. If you can be, I guess.


Dissociation is when someone becomes disconnected from themselves or surroundings. According to WebMD, dissociating can temporarily alleviate overwhelming emotional experiences, such as traumatic memories. It can help reduce feelings of shame, anxiety or fear. It’s part of avoidance coping, when a person changes their behavior to avoid thinking about difficult things and intense feelings.

I have major depression, an anxiety disorder, avoidant personality disorder, binge eating disorder and trauma in my past. You could say that dissociation is my jam. I’ll be the first to admit that I avoid hard feelings and difficult situations.

In 2019, before I went to The Menninger Clinic, I used my anxiety meds to escape. I’d take more than I should just to escape. Escape what, I don’t know. Even now, after a stent in a mental hospital and vast behavioral changes, I still get the urge to escape. It drives me crazy that I can’t answer why.

I live a good life — better than most. And I love it. I love my family, I love my husband, I have a beautiful new house and my blog is taking me places I didn’t think possible.

Yet, after the kids are asleep and my daily chores done, I start to escape. I can feel it happening — I go into a haze, I feel my body relaxing and I just float. Sometimes I binge eat to escape and achieve the haziness. But, obviously, that’s not healthy. It could be worse, I could be swallowing pill after pill to get to that place. But I don’t.

I’ve tried exploring why I have the need to escape with my therapist, but honestly, I don’t remember the outcome of that, thanks to amnesia. I guess I’ll have to consult my notes on that one.

I know dissociating isn’t a good long-term solution. I know that I need to face my problems, my demons. But it’s so much easier to just melt away from the world — go to a place where my problems aren’t so heavy. Because the truth is depression sucks. Especially mine. Because I have treatment-resistant major depression, most medicines don’t work. I’ve had to resort to doing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where electric currents are passed to my brain, triggering a seizure. Somehow, and they don’t really know why, it’s like a hard reset to the brain. Depression is kept at bay, temporarily at least for me. I go every eight weeks to get a treatment, but some people can go years or are cured after the initial treatments. I’ve had more than 20 treatments, which kind of makes me sad. Sad because I have to go through so much to feel somewhat normal. But at the same time, those treatments have allowed me to live happily at times and spend quality time with my husband and kids. I’ll always be grateful for that.

But the pain is always there. The anxiety lingers. The trauma from my past is still there. I guess we have our answer on why I yearn to escape. The pain is just so deep and unrelenting, no matter how hard I try to put on a happy face.

I think (almost) everyone dissociates from time to time to cope. Some things are too big, too overwhelming. And that’s OK. But it scares me just how much I want to escape. At this rate, I’ll never face my demons, but I know they’re there…waiting.

I know that at some point I’ll have to push through — force myself to discover why my pain runs so deep and discover how to heal myself. And I keep waiting to wake up one day and be different, to be the person who faces their problems head on, but that doesn’t just happen. You have to decide to make changes, take baby steps and harness your strength to do the hard things.

And while that sounds great, and I almost feel optimistic I could actually do that, it’s just overwhelming.

So, maybe tomorrow then.

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