I dissociate. For years, that’s actually been my normal state.
Consequently, sitting in a therapist’s office, trying to talk about–well, a lot of things actually–often ends with me staring at the carpet feeling dizzy and not able to think about anything at all.
Sometimes, they notice this.
Usually, what she will ask is how I feel in my body.
I hated this. I understood vaguely what it was designed to do. I also found it completely ineffective. What I didn’t like was that it shoved me back in my head. Because there I was, trying to formulate words, trying to be in a sense analytical and notice things that primarily seemed rather scientific.
“Let’s see here. My mouth is dry. My heart is beating faster. My respiration is shallow. My palms are moist and cold.”
It pushed me even further away from any kind of emotional experience I might be having.
I actually don’t know why it didn’t help, but I’m starting to understand what they might have been expecting me to feel instead: a gut feeling, a feeling in the very inside of me that I never had at all. Not even when I wasn’t busy tracing patterns in the carpet with my eyes.
We have this thing called the enteric nervous system (ENS), sometimes referred to as the “second brain” due to its tremendous complexity, and this may be the reason we get funny feelings sometimes. In fact, the ENS stretches all the way from our esophagus down to the large intestine, so we also ascribe feelings to our hearts that are occurring in our gullets.
We just don’t know yet. We know that the ENS regulates our digestion and that it can keep doing this even if the CNS goes off-line, but we don’t really know what else it does. Perhaps more than it would seem it does. Perhaps less than we imagine.
But I can tell you that since starting this whole process of integration, I’ve been having odd feelings in my abdomen–not gas. I’ve always had that. My favorite food is rice and lentils, after all, and barring that rice and beans.
No, this is different. These were clearly meant to be emotions. In fact, they typically intensify at moments when I seem to be putting two and two together and coming up with myself in the process. They seem to be about the process of integration itself.
And it’s started to occur to me that it isn’t one particular feeling that occurs in my abdomen. It is all of them. But they are still a bit flattened out, a bit disconnected from the rest of my internal, physiological experiences. So it’s hard to say. It’s hard to differentiate.
They are also hard to get used to. It’s like being able to feel your own heartbeat. Tedious to listen to all the time, isn’t it? Easier when it just fades into the background. Sometimes, I can’t sleep because of what I feel. It’s not upsetting. Just distracting. Just too much stimulation.
But as these feelings become more connected, I’m starting to be able to tell a few of them apart. Sleepiness is one of them. Sleepiness, I’m finding, is lovely. Sleepiness starts in my abdomen and spreads all the way up to my head in this delicious dizzy sensation. It goes all the way out to my arms in a way I can’t even explain. Sleepiness is wonderful.
And it’s probably the reason I’ve been so unproductive the last few days. I’ve been enjoying sitting here, doing nothing much, feeling drowsy.
Sadness. I’ve begun to tell that one apart as well, although it’s a little more difficult. That one goes all the way up to my throat.