I had EMDR therapy yesterday. We are still doing a lot of preparing for the really difficult work. As a part of that K gave me a dissociative experiences scale to fill out. When I did it the first time I answered with the mentality of… none of this is me at all. That was a big ole lie. So, I did it a second time. That time I thought I was being honest. But, when K and I talked through it together the next session, I found that I was still underestimating a lot of the factors. We adjusted as we talked through and she scored the assessment after I left. The results were as follows:
Basically, neither she nor I were surprised by these results. I tested like someone with PTSD and DDNOS which reflects diagnoses I’ve already been labeled as having.
To break this down further though, in case anyone wonders what these sections look like for me, I figured I would talk a little bit about that. My highest rated section was the absorption factor. For me this looks like missing chunks of conversation, looking at the clock and it being one time, getting so absorbed in some imaginative reality, then looking at the clock to realize a huge chunk of time has passed. This happens a ton when I’m doing art. When I’m in that creative place it is like invasion of the bodysnatchers. I don’t eat, or drink, or go to the bathroom, or sleep. Everything shuts down and the artist takes over. Next thing I know, a finished piece of art is in front of me. That out of body experience only happens with elaborate pieces of art though, like this one:
And this one:
On the other hand, doing simple pieces like these two:
I can be completely present for and multitask during the creation process. So, there is some variability to the level of absorption.
Another fun thing about this, when I read books or watch certain kinds of movies, it is almost like I become a part of the story. Everything else around me disappears. And same thing, bodily functions just cease. A lot of the time this absorption factor causes me to question what is and isn’t real.
The next highest factor for me was depersonalization and derealization. Depersonalization was the biggest for me, as I often will look in the mirror and feel as if a stranger is looking back (which I have written about here: Who is that Stranger in the Mirror? ). And I have many memories in which I am almost floating outside my body. I don’t have much derealization; however, Tuesday I had an experience of both depersonalization and derealization. Let me tell you, it was frightening. I had just taught a yoga class. I generally feel as if I dissociate to accomplish that task anyway, so I was feeling sort of disembodied. But, once I got to my car I realized it wasn’t my usual autopilot, adult self at the wheel. Everything was foggy, like nothing was real. I had to drive an hour and a half home, in the rain with my body feeling like someone had injected me with dye. Everything was warm and tingly. My brain wanted to go completely offline, so I had to leave the GPS on to keep some since of me online to get me home safely. The light and the voice were like a lighthouse in a terrifyingly dark fog. I don’t know where I was but I wasn’t in my body. I’ve been horrified at the prospect that this might happen again. Any time I start getting the warm buzzy feeling I have to practice my mindfulness, try and bring myself back.
The lowest factor for me was the amnesia factor. I’m usually still really aware even when dissociated, so I have memories even if they’re fragmented. But I did still score relatively high here because I have chunks of memory missing. And because I do have drawings and writings that I have no recollection of having done. I think those things, however, are directly correlated to that absorption factor and the depersonalization factor. The gaps in memory are undoubtedly tied to trauma, which I have to say, I’m terrified of coming back.
I asked K what all of this meant in terms of my EMDR and she said it will most likely come down to how I do with creating the timeline. That will give her some idea of how much I am able to be present with the yuck without dissociative defenses going up. I’m thinking, if the safe space exercise we did yesterday was any indication, I won’t be able to tolerate much at all at first. Even my safe space was tainted. I thought the beach in Australia was a great safe space because I was so happy there. But when she gave me the buzzies (that is what she calls them haha) and talked me through the visualization my grandpa appeared. He was there for that trip and the memories of him are happy but the visualization became mixed with grief. As soon as we quit, I started crying. K let me stay an extra 10 minutes, to do some mindfulness work and come back to the present. Then she checked in with me a few hours later to make sure I was all right. She offered a phone check in but I declined. So she reminded me of my safety plan and told me it was brave to choose my plan. She reassured me that I wasn’t a bother, as that is why I told her I didn’t want the phone check-in.
I realize I veered a little off topic here. But, it all seems relevant as it all relates to my last EMDR session.