When I first started vision therapy, I was overwhelmed by life. I had just initiated separation from my long term partner and was trying to figure out next steps in my life. I had no idea how to move on to the next step and I was still living in the turmoil I was desperate to get out of.
Too often, I showed up at vision therapy thoroughly exhausted, rattled by the traffic to get there, dehydrated because that’s a constant struggle for me, severely depressed, overwhelmed, and crying.
A has been wonderfully kind the whole time. She is a gem and a jewel. She is also a mom. She mothered me and cared for me. She believes her job is to make a safe environment for the ones getting therapy; people can only heal when they feel safe. She also knows her job is helping our brain create new pathways. In my case, my brain never figured out how to see in 3D with just my eyeballs and no gimmicks. That’s a MAJOR brain pathway I have never developed.
I dissociated regularly at that time in my life. Dissociating, for me, means leaving my body and hovering over it. I see what it’s going through. I see if it’s “safe” or not, and I go somewhere else while sort of keeping an eye on my physical body - what it is doing, where it is, if people are around and if they are safe or not, if they need something from me.
I go somewhere else and experience a completely different life. There are happy, safe, good people where I go to when I am dissociating. I am at a different location like a beach or a forest. Somewhere safe and “big nature.” That’s a phrase I have never articulated before. “Big nature.” As in: lots of nature around me - beach, dirt, land, rocks, trees, forest, cave, lake.... nature as far as the eye can see and body can feel and smell.
Well, A’s job is to help me heal. One of my multiple diagnoses was for dissociation. (Depersonalization and derealization are also valid things that happen to people. You can learn about all 3 of these on Wikipedia. They have an excellent page describing all of this.) so A worked hard on helping me stay in the present and not dissociate.
I know she often listened to me as I talked through the crying. Over time, we got comfortable with each other and she would hug me.
I think every time I was upset, she would first get me a heavy weighted blanket and drape it over my shoulders. Then she would put lightweight ankle weights on me. These grounded me and kept me present and in my emotions. Helping me deal with the current traumas.
About a year into therapy, one time she was having me do an exercise of batting at a ball on a string that was swinging like a pendulum from its anchor in the ceiling. At one point, she asked me “how are you doing?” And I said, “I think I am dissociating.” I was doing the activity but I wasn’t present. I wasn’t actually there.
She immediately responded that she needed to make it harder — forcing me to pay attention. I asked her, “can you make this harder?” I felt surprised and possibly bewildered. She chuckled nicely and said, “can I make it harder.” It was funny. And then she made the activity harder. 😂
I think that was a breakthrough for my dissociation. I learned that in order to stay present, I need things to pay attention to. I started paying attention when I was cooking. There are smells and colors and things associated with that! It was a pleasure to “tune in” to things like cooking. I turned on music more and tried to sing alone. (I seriously struggle to memorize anything and it takes me a long time to work out what lyrics are and to memorize them, even when it’s a song I love that I want to learn the lyrics to.)
It’s been a while since I dissociated. Tuning into my current life has had its ups and downs. Some things are wonderful about the life I am heading towards, and some things have been so stuck and immobile. I am dealing with it the best I can - through continued long-term exhaustion and overwhelming fatigue.
As I have learned more about my own dissociation, I have found so many others struggle with it too, and maybe my blog posts on this topic will help other people.