A Hard Year: Dissociating of Myself and Others

I can really point to March 1, 2016 as a day that my relationships with some people very close to me took a turn for the worse. That was the day of the Minnesota caucus and the whole house was excited to walk to the polls and get Bernie the state of Minnesota.

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The people in my apartment had gathered in the kitchen and they were excited. For me the day had been exhausting. It was mired in a depressive episode despite medication--it took me three hours to start the laundry which was really my big achievement that day. Caucusing for Bernie was easy by comparison to doing some mundane task. Unfortunately, after laboring through my laundry, I probably couldn't contain some of the distaste I had for living in a place where that felt like a herculean task.

 "The depression the past few days has been crippling. It's been terrible. Not being able to move, knowing that my muscles can do the work. It's hard. I should celebrate the fact that I did laundry and caucused for Bernie yesterday. But it's not enough and it leaves me feeling behind." March 2, 2016

"The depression the past few days has been crippling. It's been terrible. Not being able to move, knowing that my muscles can do the work. It's hard. I should celebrate the fact that I did laundry and caucused for Bernie yesterday. But it's not enough and it leaves me feeling behind." March 2, 2016

What happened in the kitchen before the caucus again portended some future difficulties in the same spot later that month. To me my living arrangement and my mood was discomforting but not interminable, something I thought was tinnitus but was more like blindness. To a friend in the room, the kind of delirium I was experiencing was an affront, an affront which would be drawn out in due course. But I did get to know a my neighbors better; I walked with them rather than my roommates.

This week I'll examine the separating from myself and from others that defined the early days of March for me.  


There were several things in my life that were pushing me out of my skin (a typical description of how I look when I'm sick from, my mom to the social worker in the ER) last year. I knew what these things were but I didn't acknowledge them, I was in denial over much. Separation from a loved one, an aggressive roommate situation made worse by a house guest, not to mention the grind of the workweek, and being out of the academic system that had previously indulged my excesses of thought and effort.

This kind of knowledge characterized a lot of my anxiety--deep understanding of what the problems were, so much so that acting on them seized my actions away from me. Diminishing my feelings on these issues bordered enforced some dissociation on my part. The circumstances led to a degree of self erasure that I didn't want to confront. But the subconscious has a way of meeting you, say in a reflection in a double walled vacuum sealed window. Pressed on the fundamentals of dissociating and the image that confronted me with it, my therapist asked if I could draw the kind of image I saw. "Probably not, but I think I could photograph it."

 I used my camera and the window in my room to photograph a self portrait of dissociation and anxiety on February 8, 2016. 

I used my camera and the window in my room to photograph a self portrait of dissociation and anxiety on February 8, 2016. 

But this was borne out in my notebooks as well. In March last year my notes are very self reflective and even insightful--nothing if not honest. At the same time these reflections look at my existence a little too dispassionately. My journal was insightful and analytic to a fault:

 "Today has been a day. I went to the doctor and got medication. And I'd been feeling good, although I'm sort of not sure of anything anymore, and then the meeting with [my therapist] got a little real pretty fast. [He/she is] very concerned and my condition is very worrying to [him/her].  "Yesterday seemed like a good day, and yet there are many things about it, I feel, I wouldn't have chosen. I woke up late, I didn't eat till afternoon. And this was a good day? Recently I haven't been sleeping? This in abscence (sic) of medication? At the same time I feel like I'm ready and I can go back in. Madness.  *****  "There's this disconnect with the physical world for me. Objects of the mind are far more plastic and connected for me. Objects which don't necessarilly (sic) inhere in the world. Like films. Like artworks. Like the USS Enterprise. I'm a denizen of Meinong's Jungle.  "This is why things which draw attention to the actuality of the world are problems for me. There isn't anything I can't grasp till I actually hold it. Daniel Plainview doesn't have emotions the way H. holds him to have. That movie ( There Will Be Blood ) is a complete object for me and H. does not see it that way. There's something incomplete about it to [him/her] because it's not in the world.  "Art is the same way, and our ongoing debate about that is indicative. The art and artness of the art are completely seprable (sic)  yet extant  from the artwork. A movie isn't on the screen or on a reel for me and it's completeness isn't even in the run time for me, it's in the image. This is why the aspect ratio is so important to me. There isn't anything outside that and it's really complete for me." February 22, 2016

"Today has been a day. I went to the doctor and got medication. And I'd been feeling good, although I'm sort of not sure of anything anymore, and then the meeting with [my therapist] got a little real pretty fast. [He/she is] very concerned and my condition is very worrying to [him/her].

"Yesterday seemed like a good day, and yet there are many things about it, I feel, I wouldn't have chosen. I woke up late, I didn't eat till afternoon. And this was a good day? Recently I haven't been sleeping? This in abscence (sic) of medication? At the same time I feel like I'm ready and I can go back in. Madness.

*****

"There's this disconnect with the physical world for me. Objects of the mind are far more plastic and connected for me. Objects which don't necessarilly (sic) inhere in the world. Like films. Like artworks. Like the USS Enterprise. I'm a denizen of Meinong's Jungle.

"This is why things which draw attention to the actuality of the world are problems for me. There isn't anything I can't grasp till I actually hold it. Daniel Plainview doesn't have emotions the way H. holds him to have. That movie (There Will Be Blood) is a complete object for me and H. does not see it that way. There's something incomplete about it to [him/her] because it's not in the world.

"Art is the same way, and our ongoing debate about that is indicative. The art and artness of the art are completely seprable (sic) yet extant from the artwork. A movie isn't on the screen or on a reel for me and it's completeness isn't even in the run time for me, it's in the image. This is why the aspect ratio is so important to me. There isn't anything outside that and it's really complete for me." February 22, 2016

In retrospect dissociating is an important but dangerous coping mechanism. Dissociating is something my mind was preoccupied with at the time, frankly for my benefit but not for my wellbeing. Being separate from the world of my problems was certainly a comfort and, when it came to a calculus of a difficult state of affairs, allowed me to be objective at the expense of being in touch with my emotional affairs. I still take comfort in the decision making I was able to do at the time relating to my living situation, eventually distancing myself from others but for good reasons:

 "There are maybe more things I could do without B. and W. and (a project) in my life:  ◻︎Enjoy time with H.  ◻︎Watch more movies  ◻︎Write screenplays  ◻︎Apply for jobs and network  ◻︎Run more  ◻︎Write more on film  ◻︎Build a portfolio  ◻︎Get into cooking or travel  ◻︎Consider grad school  That's ten things. Frankly I think it's more and more rewarding than what I'm currently doing, even if it is something of the high road.  "The more I think about it the more I feel I convince myself (I hope correctly) that departing from the work I was committed to in January is a better idea. I have doubts about that of course.  "Maybe it's a unique feature of us 1990s kids to feel like right this instant is when we have to be successful." March 11, 2016

"There are maybe more things I could do without B. and W. and (a project) in my life:

◻︎Enjoy time with H.

◻︎Watch more movies

◻︎Write screenplays

◻︎Apply for jobs and network

◻︎Run more

◻︎Write more on film

◻︎Build a portfolio

◻︎Get into cooking or travel

◻︎Consider grad school

That's ten things. Frankly I think it's more and more rewarding than what I'm currently doing, even if it is something of the high road.

"The more I think about it the more I feel I convince myself (I hope correctly) that departing from the work I was committed to in January is a better idea. I have doubts about that of course.

"Maybe it's a unique feature of us 1990s kids to feel like right this instant is when we have to be successful." March 11, 2016

I take comfort in this page because it actually demonstrates the right decision. And I was able to follow through on everything which I considered to make for a better life. It was an improvement too. Nevertheless, it was hard to reach that point, and acting on it ended up being extremely disruptive as I will discuss later.


In the end though I was dissociating from the people and places around me as well as from myself in my sense of place in the world. It was these kinds of decisions that I'd already come to some kind of conclusion on when friction led to a spark between me and my roommate on March 1, 2016. Things were already at an end. I was distancing myself from some very upsetting states of affairs, not just the neurotic aspect of generalized anxiety--the crawling out of my skin feeling--but the stressors which precipitated panic attacks.

At this time I took to my room. My life was limited to my place of work and my place of sleep most hours of most days. That's dissociative, limiting but more manageable. And to some it seemed hostile or anti-social. It was more like an unconscious picking of battles. I held together very well at my job. Without encroachment I could hold together in my room, writing, eating, occasionally watching movies, planning for the next day.

It took time to articulate the issues at hand in any meaningful sense. It took longer, usually too long, to act on them. Hence conflicts arising and therefore greater distance between me and the people and places around me. Thus more dramatic encounters with my reflection in the window. Eventually more dramatic fractures between people. I was falling out with friends, but I was also starting to get help.