I wake up from a nap—it’s a pleasant nap, deeply restful—and I wake up happy. But when I get out of bed, I’m very quickly in a different state. It is like a shocked state. It seems to me I could get out of that state if I chose to. I could just sort of internally make an adjustment and I would be “normal” again. I choose not to. I choose to follow up this state.

I make tea and get a hot water bottle going and I lie down on the couch under a blanket—it is really, really cold today. And I think about this state.

I start to think I have never experienced life in a continuous way before. It has always been a fragmented experience. This is the closest I have ever come to having an existence that is ongoing, and it is still not all that continuous.

What I mean is there have always been radical changes in my sense of myself, or in my degree of awareness of my emotions. There have always been radical changes in my perception of reality, either because things that seemed true at one point later began to seem impossible, or because I shifted into a different feeling state and adopted a radically different perspective.

I think these shifts in experience are not like those of someone who isn’t been dissociated. There is an underlying sense of continuity that underlies most people’s experiences even when they have radical shifts in perspective or mood.

Or maybe it just happens less often, infrequently enough that breaks in what seems to be reality are not a part of what life seems to be, but a kind of exception to life.

But it seems to create an enormous pain for me, and this struggle to put the pieces together of life. What really happened? Not just 30 years ago, but what really happened yesterday? How did I feel?

I am not just dissociated some of the time, I have realized. I am dissociated almost all of the time to one degree or another. There is very often trigger followed by trigger until I can’t process anything anymore and can’t get back to a calm state in any other way except to block out some stimuli or some emotion. It’s not like it used to be, and I can stay present much longer than has ever been even remotely possible and through more, but it is really only the hours when I am at home, cuddled up with a hot water bottle and a hot drink when I can finally get back to myself. So fragmentation and disconnection is a basic part of my experience of life.

There is a deliberate denial that is an aspect of having parts or severe trauma at least: you say to yourself, this is not real or this cannot be real. But being shut down inside makes things seem unreal. Our connection to our bodies that involves our enteric nervous system, our gut feelings, is what gives things a sense of reality. Because this seems to be out of control and because we then suppress our awareness of it, things really do seem unreal.

It’s painful.


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