I have dealt with dissociation to varying degrees for a long time, but for much of my earlier years I didn’t know what it was. I ended up terming it “going away.” When something became scary I would say to myself, “I need to go away,” and I would … inside my mind.
I think dissociation developed for me because of having an unstable environment at times while growing up. I found that withdrawing into myself was comfortable and helped to keep me feeling as safe as I could. I didn’t really develop a fantasy land or anything like that, the experience leaned more so on the physical side for me.
However, dissociation didn’t serve me quite as well as I grew older when I would freeze up when people spoke loudly or become slower to respond when feeling put on the spot. I recall giving presentations in high school where I couldn’t tell you a single sentence that I said, or if I kept to the bullet points I had prepared for myself. Later, I got feedback that I did fine and my presentation went well.
What scared me was that I became so skilled at dissociating, that people didn’t know anything was wrong. My own therapist didn’t realize I was completely dissociated much of the time when I first started seeing her! And at that time, I didn’t have the language or education to understand or articulate what was going on. Gradually though, she started figuring it out when I told her that being around people scared me even though it didn’t used to. And that I was struggling to keep up with normal activities because I was activated so often. Dissociation is such a visceral response for me, that just screams: NOPE. DANGER. BYE.