Dissociate

There is a reason my dentist likes how I am as a patient. I dissociate when I’m there. It is as if I pull away from my body.

It is a skill I learned when I was a child. I was abused and neglected. It is a normal coping mechanism for me. I know it isn’t normal. I know it isn’t healthy. When you can’t escape a bad situation, sometimes it is the only way you can survive.

Some people escape by drinking or doing drugs. When you are a child you don’t have these resources. When you are raised in a house where emotions are not expressed, dissociation is a way to escape.

My parents never showed any healthy emotions. They never hugged in front of me. One time I came into the kitchen and they were hugging and they stopped, embarrassed. I never heard them say “I love you” to each other.

It is a wonder I’m as sane as I am.

I remember intentionally forgetting something really bad in my childhood. I remember saying to myself that I could forget it. Apparently I did a great job because I don’t know what it was that I forgot.

It is like showing up to the scene of the crime and seeing all the evidence. I know something bad happened but I don’t know what.

So when bad things happen to me, especially physically, I tend to separate from my body. It is a coping mechanism that I have learned. I suspect I could unlearn it, but first I have to catch myself doing it. I do it so well that I don’t even notice it until after it is over.

I remember doing it after my parents died. I had to take care of things but I didn’t want to. It felt as if I was looking at the world from far back in my skull. It is as if everything was far away and I was seeing it through a telescope , or down a well. Sounds were distant. Nothing was good or fun or interesting. Everything was just a chore. Perhaps this is a normal part of grief.

When my priest started attacking me for my opinions about church, I started doing it too. I backed up in my mind. I was sitting there but my mind wasn’t there. Fortunately I had been going to a spiritual director and I remembered to pray and ask Jesus into it.

I do it at the chiropractors office too. I like going there, but I realized that I was blanking out part of how he adjusts me. There is a point where he has me cross my arms in front of my chest and he leans me back on the table. He throws his upper body on mine to pop my back. It is very fast, but I realized later that I was blanking that out. I realized that I was unable to describe to my husband how the doctor adjusted me at that point. Later, I was waiting to go into a room and I saw him adjust another patient in the same way and realized I’d just “left” every time he did it.

Monday was my reexam. It was time to be reevaluated as to how well the adjustments are going. It is also time to figure out how often I need to go. I had just gone twice a week and not thought about it. Now I was taking time and thinking.

It is bodywork. He is literally breaking up parts of me that are not flexible. And one way of dealing with dissociation is to flood the person with the problem thing. Don’t run away from it – face it head on.

Should I ask him to modify how he adjusts me, or should I just go into it with open eyes?

I debated with myself on Monday whether I should tell him what was going on in my head. Should I tell him I was possibly molested as a child?

I was writing this while in the therapy room. That is 10 minutes of TENS treatment. It is boring, so I write. While I was writing I remembered “asking Jesus into it”. Why not?

So I did. I prayed. Jesus, help me know what to do. Give me the words to say. Help me be healed.

And I told the doctor and he was very kind. We had the adjustment as usual, but I was present and mindful.

And I’ve come to see it as the same motion as being baptised in a river. We go down, held. We go down, backwards, trusting. We go down, into breathlessness. And we arise, changed.

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Health advice from near strangers

There have been several patrons who have asked where I was recently. They noticed that I was gone for a bit. I’m part of the place – I’ve been there since it opened. That was thirteen years ago. Some think I retired. That would be nice, but I can’t retire for at least 15 more years. I try not to think about how much of my life is being spent here. That is partly why I blog.

I tell them that I was on vacation for a week, and I was out a bit before that because I slipped a disc in my back. With the first part they sometimes want to know where I went. I stayed home. I did as much nothing as possible. I read a lot. I played some video games. I meant to collage or paint but instead I read books about image transfer. I still can’t figure it out and I think I’m just going to have to waste a few canvases and try something out.

The second part of my story is the funny part. When they hear I slipped a disc, they have a lot of questions. How did it happen? It happened here, at work. I was just walking along and twisted and boom. Pain. Nothing special. It was just the straw that broke the Betsy’s back. I did a forward fold to try to make things better and it only made it worse.

Sometimes they ask why it happened. I’m in pretty good shape, so they are surprised. I was too. It happened because I have scoliosis. It is very slight, and it has developed over time. Contrary to popular opinion, and the opinion of my coworkers and the patrons, scoliosis can develop. It isn’t always something you have as a child. So my back goes left, and the disc went right.

Then they ask if I am better, and I say I am because I am going to a great chiropractor. Sometimes they ask who. When I tell them, it seems like the majority of them go to him and agree how wonderful he is. Those who don’t go to him or have never been to a chiropractor have further opinions. My favorite – one lady who told me that I should be wearing a back brace. I told her that it is really important to move the discs. If you don’t get movement, the discs will get weaker. OK, she said – then are you doing the exercises your doctor told you to do? This is funny because she went from “don’t move at all” to “make sure you move.” Pick one. I assured her that I do yoga and water aerobics, so I’m good.

Others have said “make sure you don’t go too much.” – going on the popularly held opinion that chiropractors try to get you to come way too much so they can make more money. I point out that when I got braces, it took four years for the doctor to realign my teeth. Why should I expect my back to be any faster? They agree that I have a good point there.

I’m amazed how my business is their business.

That is part of my job. We get to know each other. We have a weird relationship, that is friendly, but we aren’t friends. It is hard to know where the boundaries are sometimes. There are certainly patrons that I have become friends with. I even married one. But there are others who think they are my friend because they see me every week and I smile. But they don’t get that I smile because I have to. It is part of my job. Just because I’m friendly doesn’t mean I’m their friend.