DIFFERENT KINDS OF DISSOCIATION

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How people dissociate is probably as different as anything else. What I describe in the poem below is my experience of one way I dissociate. These days – I can stay around and experience the experience of dissociating – kind of a contradiction in terms (since dissociating for me fills the function of not having to be around). But I stay – and experience it. When I started doing that – it was absolutely terrifying. So, I fled it – into my mind and other versions of me. But I have practiced. A lot, and now I can stay in it. It still makes me feel inadequate. I cannot control it. Only be in it – work with it – anchor myself to the best of my ability. Most people would not pick up on any of what goes on for me.

It feels like failing. Like I let fear govern and control me. When technically I know I am safe. What really helps me out of it – is being with someone I feel very safe with, and whom I can anchor “in”. But I have learned that is not okay. That I need to be able to anchor myself – so I keep on practicing.

I used to be very ashamed of my dissociation. Of how I leave my mind and enter this pure state of sensing – and how when I try to come back – I sometimes can not find where I left off, and don’t know what we were talking about or doing. I have learned to stay in my blank space – not panic – and orientate myself. Leave people waiting. Even letting them see my distraction. Hear the stammers. Hear the pauses when I search for words. Returning to mind is not easy. But it is how we “human” right? We exchange things through our minds. We talk with each other. Reaching to each other’s senses seems not to be okay.

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WORD!

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My autistic perspective.

Word! This is what people sometimes write in a comment – or exclaims when they feel someone said something they deeply resonate or agree with.

I thought a lot about the difference between words and meaning.

How I often used the metaphor of me coming into a room where they speak Korean (because I don’t understand a word of Korean – which is why I picked this language for my metaphor) – and I am assumed to understand and speak it. I used this metaphor to try to catch the essence of how I often feel in conversations with people.

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THE GIRL WHO DID NOT EAT – “ANOREXIA” AS EMANCIPATION

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She is 13, and there is nothing in her life that makes sense. She is both terrified and doesn’t care anymore. People come and go, places shift. She has already invented herself hundreds of times, nothing helps. No one helps. No one sees. No one cares.

She already hates herself intensely. She is growing, growing into a woman. A woman, like her mother. A mother she hates as intensely as she hates herself. But she is also the mother she wants to be, to have the power she has. Power to make it all stop. But also, the mother she never wants to become like. Angry, cruel, selfish, arrogant, judgmental, cold, with a body that demands.

She can’t do it anymore. She has nothing left in her. There is nobody in her anymore and she just waits. For the final blow. Then it all will be over. She does not long for it, but she does not care much either. A part of her is scared. How long will it take? Which day will it be?

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DISSOCIATION, EYE-TRACKING, VISUAL IMAGERY, PROCESSING, EMDR…

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The holiday winter season is one of my least favorite times of the year. But I have for each season become better at dealing with them, since I decided to reclaim them, and build my own traditions around them. So, I got a bit surprised when this year, I did not do so well. But in a new and unexpected way. I do think it is a step forward, as I am again learning new things about myself (and possibly about how severe childhood trauma “works”, or what people with severe childhood trauma can experience).

I am neurodivergent as well (forever will the professionals debate whether I am “just” traumatized”, or was born neurodivergent (I have an autism and ADHD diagnose, but also a C-PTSD and DID) – I do think this combination of being neurodivergent and having dissociative “difficulties”, or "tendencies" is pretty common – maybe because being neurodivergent makes you prone to dissociate, or maybe it is developmental (including lack of attachment) + abuse trauma – and that gives the same result? It is very hard to as in my case, 55 years later, figure out what is what. I am not sure that is what is important either. I have decided to go with the autism diagnose, as it is helping me understand myself.

But that is not what this text is about. Disputing what is nature or (lack of) nurture – or both. I am mentioning it because this is an intersection of potential mechanisms.

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WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY?

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I don't even believe in the concept of mental health anymore. How am I to separate out my mental life from the rest of my life?

I only have one life...

How am I to separate out my mental health from the rest of my health?

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A DIFFERENT WAY OF PERCEIVING THE WORLD AND “SELF”

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 A fair warning – I am going to get theoretical… but also add my own lived experience to this exploration.

What I am exploring here is if the fact that I highly resonate with a way of being and functioning that seems to be aligning with some of the leading theories behind what autism is, and how I see these theories through my own knowledge and experiences of how I have been reacting to early childhood trauma and how that has formed me, and my perception of myself. But I also explore my reactions to the theories behind severe dissociation, which I have never felt explain my own experiences (like the theory of structural dissociation).

I think I ended up using the defenses I did because they came natural to me. And I have defended myself against trauma with them, but also against everything else in the world that I could not cope with, in the same ways, that is using fragmentation and dissociation. What I say is – maybe they are not only psychological defenses that I came to use through being traumatized, but part of my individual, genetic make-up?

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CAUGHT BETWEEN OVERSTIMULATION AND SENSORY “BLINDNESS”- AND THE "INTENSE WORLD THEORY"

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I am out on a self-discovery journey. And I end up not really knowing where what I experience belong. Is all that I experience due to severe and recurring childhood trauma complicated by attachment issues? Or is there a genetic component of neurodivergence?

I have gone to therapy. And I have tried to “explain myself”. But I understand that it is not easy to understand me, I have not understood me.

I want to try to explain what I experience with sensory input. And how that relates to other things with me and how I function.

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WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

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Or is there something wrong with me? Or am I just being this particular and unique version of being a human? I don’t know. I simply don’t know.

I have been thinking a lot lately on how neurodivergence describes or do not describe my struggles in life. I have been told all my problems are due to trauma. And maybe that is so. But what I see is me having the same kind of problems that many neurodivergent people describe they have. With e.g. ADHD, ADD and being on the autism spectrum.

I don’t have any kind of neurodivergent diagnose, and I am not asking for it either. I am just trying to understand how I can be I the world. Help myself. Help others understand where and with what I struggle.

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THE STUFF WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT…

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When am I the most happy? The most grounded? The most me? – Those questions are related…

I don’t know about you. But I am a contradictory… almost always have many perspectives on one thing. Many feelings about one thing. Almost nothing is crystal clear to me. Sometimes it makes me indecisive. There are so many things one can take into consideration – and yes – often they are – contradictory – or lead to contradictory solutions.

Sometimes I am contradictory just because of the above… I shift. I take different viewpoints – all seem valid, more or less perhaps, but still. Sometimes I appear contradictory because I simply have changed my mind. I am an ever-changing human.

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An Overactive Social Engagement System

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If a person is stressed, overwhelmed, out of their window of tolerance, is the answer always to help them engage their social engagement system, on the outside, with another person or being? Is it always external co-regulation that is the best answer?

No. Not in my opinion. Especially not if a person is having an overactive Social Engagement System – as part of their defense strategy. Too much of the good is, is, as always, too much.

Or maybe – what looks like a way too overactive social engagement system is not in fact that? Or maybe it is – it depends on how you define a social engagement system. At least if you talk the language of Vagus, where the social engagement system lives in the ventral vagal complex and dissociation in the dorsal vagal complex.

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De-colonization... where are YOU from?

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I saw a Facebook post the other day about how in the US it is common that you need to fill in forms that ask about your ethnicity. And it made me think. Coming from a Nordic country – that seems very strange. Why do you need to provide that information? What is the purpose behind asking for it? Why is it important to authorities, businesses and organizations to know what ethnic group you belong to? Isn’t that more important to you?

And in today’s global world – aren’t many of us a mix of ethnic groups? Isn’t ethnicity more about where your ancestors came from? What environment they adapted to live in originally? And the cultures that were built around the adaptations, hardships, victories, communities that were mourned and celebrated in every particular spot people gathered together to live and share their lives in?

I think it is VERY important to know where we come from. Where our ancestors come from. How they, how I, ended up where I am (living) today. And how that impacted those who already where there, are there, before me.

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Self-Care - Step no 1 - Be YOU

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I am reflecting over what self-care means, to me. 

I define it as a will and practice to give yourself what you need. To fill your own needs, but also be able to ask for those things you cannot do (for) yourself, or on your own, that is – to let yourself ask for – and receive help.

That definition rests on the assumption that you know yourself. If you do not know yourself, you cannot know what your needs are.

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WHAT CAN I DO? - Mindfulness – Trauma & Dissociation

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I am a mindfulness instructor – and am currently taking an advanced training in Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness (TSM) with David Treleaven (https://davidtreleaven.com/). I took his basic course during the fall. They are great courses!

I am also a person with severe trauma and I can be highly dissociative (although I am getting to be more and more in charge of my dissociation than the other way around – If you are interested in my thoughts on dissociation and trauma, there is plenty to read in my blog at http://livethechange.se/).

Taking this course simultaneously as the Coronavirus is affecting us all on a global scale – is interesting. It becomes even more interesting for me since I have managed to time huge life transitions to this time period too… Very little is certain in my life, this did not start now – but has been a process. But the resolution of the process is happening right now.

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Dissociation – Association Part 2

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Is dissociation both a defense system and a lack of learned skills of association?

Most things I read about dissociation is about how it is/can become a maladaptive coping strategy and later a defense system to handle trauma (or possibly everyday stressors, e.g. boredom or feelings of powerlessness).

But dissociation is so much more – as is its counterpart association. So how do we understand “normal dissociation”? How do we understand how maladaptive dissociation emerges and becomes a pattern of coping (outside the range of “normality”)?

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DISSOCIATION – ASSOCIATION

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Dissociation and Association – are two sides of the same coin. Or you can say – they are in each end of a spectrum. A spectrum we all move along on a daily, hourly, momentarily basis. But try to imagine the spectrum as circular – or spiral shaped – not linear. There aren’t really any ends. Dissociation and association move in and out of each other – and at times part of you are more associated – or is free to associate – and other parts of you are more dissociated – or free to dissociate.

We all associate and dissociate – and we all have parts. Some parts of us other parts of us are more prone to ignore – dissociate away – or more strongly associate with. Some parts of us more easily dissociate or associate in themselves.

Does this sound complicated? It is actually rather simple, but it is of course nuanced. The confusion I think stems from when people talk about dissociation (very few talks about association) – most people talk about different aspects of dissociation, undefined and un-nuanced – and try to fit it into a pre-existing model. Not to on purpose confuse, of course, the study – and the “treatment” – of dissociation – is fairly new. Hence all the misunderstandings, misconceptions, mix-ups, simplifications – and a strong wish to fit it into a paradigm or system. Which in my opion potentially shuts out other ways of seeing it.

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Collective – or swarm intelligence – the Coronavirus crisis in media…

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Maybe being a bit provocative? But we have it is us (all of us) to behave like scared horses - who sometimes defend themselves by hiding in a group (swarm/herd)...


I have been looking at cohesion, swarm intelligence, collective intelligence versus individual decision making in smaller versus bigger groups in horses.

So, what has that to do with the Coronavirus? Today many of us are globally connected on different media platforms, like Facebook e.g. I have followed what different people are writing about the virus and looked into clusters of people and their writings. And I find it fascinating…

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TIME IS NOT LINEAR…

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Why bother about your past? Can you just not leave it in the past and “move on”? Who wants to focus on the past anyhow – it is over, done with, can’t be changed?

Or can it?

TIME IS CIRCULAR

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CONTROLLING YOUR EATING TO CONTROL PEOPLE AROUND YOU…

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...and to control the situations you find (found) yourself in…

Restricting, controlling, manipulating your eating works splendidly as a coping strategy to keep your anxiety about people and their doings in check. It very fast makes you not care about what they do or do not do. And you are in a place, a world – a mental space, where you are feeling like you are in control of something. Something is in your power to decide over, and there is finally some predictability in your life, and something to hold on to. Food – and what you use to control your food intake with become both your best friend and your worst enemy. You do not need anyone else. Or at least, that is what you tell yourself. If you only can stay with and keep yourself to your own restrictive eating rules, then, it will all be fine. Then nobody, or what they do, can really touch you, not psychically, not mentally, especially not mentally. All of a sudden – you have super-powers, secret super-powers. They ask you if you want something to eat – and you smile (outwardly a small one – inwardly a big smile) – and they do not know that you are in control, secretly. Even if they demand you to eat – they can’t make you. They can’t make you chew and swallow. Unless they put a gun to your head. Most of the time, they don’t do that.

But… as in all fairytales and dream scenarios, there is an evil stepmother… king, dragon…. After the initial “highs” from your ability to control things, it turns out – you are not in control at all. Now, instead of being controlled by other people, you are controlled by food, your own thoughts about food, your own behaviors. Suddenly you fear food as much as you fear people, and you fear the consequences of eating – too much, too little… everything around food becomes complicated and anxiety provoking. You add more and more rules and restrictions – and probably exercise. The need to move all the time – is entering your life (and has no longer only to do with emotional outlet or emotional regulation).

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I will know my Name...

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”In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and se it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be […] Attention is the beginning of devotion. […]" Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these tings but without any of the ability that adults have to change them. Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.

"I quickly found for myself two such blessings – the natural world, and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place”. (Mary Oliver in “Upstream”)

I too disappeared through these gates. Nature and Books – where also my “sanity saviors” – and my imagination, my fantasy, that I put into both those worlds, to make them come alive. They still are my friends, Nature and Books – and my imagination – my ability to fantasize.

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Eating disorders… as language

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And the meaning of food and food-sharing as a bonding mechanism in humans – or food as attachment…

We humans bond over/by/with food. From infancy to the grave – food and food-sharing is in the center in our lives and in between people. All our holidays center around food and food-sharing, as well as birthdays, funerals, weddings – every ritual ceremony that mark a transition in life. Also new jobs, a baby on its way, an engagement, a published book – everything celebrates with food and food-sharing. We have food-places we go to; we watch programs on how to cook, we buy books with instructions, magazines with glossy pictures of food. In many cultures, the first thing that happens when you step into a home is that you will be served something edible and, in many cultures, it is seen as a great insult when you don’t accept (more) food.

So, what happens when a human starts to restrict his/her food intake? Refuses to take part in the bonding rituals of going to cafés, restaurants, dinner parties, business lunches? What happens in the individual? In the others that this individual has relationships with? Meets in different circumstances?

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