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.