Dissociation

I’m still dreaming. I must be. I watch myself as I step out of the bed and towards the bathroom, floating along behind the ‘dream me’ as if I’m tethered to her.


I have no connection to the body I’m watching, but I see her face and it looks…dead. Like someone cut the strings that animate her. She sets the bath running and climbs in, still wearing the clothes she slept in, and lays down in the cold water as it fills the tub around her. She doesn’t move. She just closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Like she’s trying to go back to sleep.


There are no sounds, everything seems so insubstantial, as though if I reached out to touch anything, it would turn to smoke. I look back at her, she doesn’t seem so empty now. She looks peaceful.


The water covers her face, though she still doesn’t move. She doesn’t breathe. She just waits. I watch.


I know I should be concerned for her, I should try and grab her, pull her out, but it just seems right to let this happen. This is how it should be.


My lungs feel like they are burning and the image in front of me starts to dim as I watch, like a movie fading out. This isn’t a dream. That’s me in the tub. I sit on the edge and look at my face. The water steals the tears but I know that I’m crying. I can feel the relief.


I slip in to the water and reach out to touch her, me.


I open my eyes and I’m under water. I can feel pressure everywhere and then suddenly, I’m breathing again. It’s disorienting. I’m cold and I can feel myself gasping for air. It takes me a moment to work out where I am. I’m in my bathroom, still wearing the clothes I fell asleep in. My heart is pounding and I can’t remember why I’m here.


I just know that all I can feel is an overwhelming sense of fear, and disappointment.


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Confused? I was.


This is something that happened to me a couple of years ago. I got home from work and I fell asleep on the bed still fully clothed, I was exhausted. I remember having what felt like a lucid dream where I watched myself get up, walk in to the bathroom and climb in to that tub, except it wasn't a dream. I really was sitting in my tub, shivering and fully clothed choking in big gulps of air.


I didn't know at that point that what I was experiencing was dissociation. Nothing felt real, it felt like I was watching a movie play out, my brain didn't recognise any danger until I was suffocating and my survival instincts kicked in. When I realised what was happening, I was terrified. My subconscious had tried to kill me. I had been slowly coming apart at the seams for a while, this was the point at which I knew I needed to seek help. It wasn't long before I received a diagnosis.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Depersonalisation and Derealisation Disorders (DPDR). I denied these diagnoses to myself at first, but the more work I did with the psychologist, the more they fit and made sense. These are conditions that I have, and I had to come to terms with that.


Explaining the PTSD to people is easy, most people have at least some knowledge of what that is. Explaining the DPDR is almost impossible sometimes, especially when I don't always fully understand it myself. How do I explain to someone that I'm looking at myself in the mirror, and I know it's me, but I also don't recognise myself and I'm terrified because I can see a stranger in my house?


Quite a few of my posts are going to be focusing on explaining and exploring my experiences of DPDR and how I'm learning to live with it. If you've ever had similar experiences, I would love to hear from you.

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