Dissociation from Trauma Saved My Life, and I Am Thankful
As a person who experienced dissociation from trauma, I am thankful for dissociation even though it happens to this day. It can be difficult to be thankful for things when you have dissociative identity disorder (DID). When you have DID, you have experienced significant trauma that impacts your entire life. So what's to be thankful for when things seem to be so hard? Is dissociation from trauma something to be thankful for?
Daydreams vs. Dissociation from Trauma
Dissociation occurs on a spectrum, with daydreaming on one end and DID on the other. Dissociation isn't "bad." It helps us escape when we need a break or we are bored. That's why we daydream sometimes. Even when we are overly stressed or anxious, dissociation helps our mind check out for a break. It helps us get through the day.
But when you have DID, you dissociate more often and to a more severe degree than just daydreaming. You start losing time. Not just minutes, but hours, days or weeks at a time. You lose entire gaps of your life. Your parts take over for you at times, and you may not always be conscious of what they are doing. Dissociation may become more of a hindrance than a help.
The Benefits of Dissociation from Trauma
There's a reason people with dissociative identity disorder turned to dissociation; it's a coping skill. When a person experiences significant trauma at a young age (90% of people with DID have experienced repetitive child abuse and/or neglect), the brain turns to dissociation as a coping skill.
This form of dissociation allows the child to essentially block off the traumatic memories, which are held by other parts and kept away from the child's consciousness. It can take years, even decades, for those memories to come to the surface, and for dissociated parts to be discovered.
While many view these memory gaps as a disadvantage, this dissociation is what allows people who have experienced significant trauma to function in spite of their experiences. Without dissociation, the human brain would not be able to handle the trauma. The child would suffer, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. In a way, dissociation saves us from some of the pain.
Why I Am Thankful for Dissociation
As I sit here recovering from my first Thanksgiving with my new family, with my 130-pound dog sitting on my lap and keeping me safe, and I can't help but be thankful for how I got here.
I spent the first 29 years of my life in constant trauma and abuse. I was able to physically escape, and after a few ups and downs, I found a safe place to live with a safe family who took me in as their own. I am forever thankful for them, my dogs, and my freedom.
But just as much as I am thankful for those things, I am thankful for my dissociation. The trauma I endured could have ended my life. There is no way I would have been able to survive if it wasn't for my dissociation. My DID allowed me to get through childhood. It allowed me to get through school. It allowed me to finally run away.
And even now, as I spend hours a day in therapy trying to decrease my dissociation, I can't help but be grateful for it. Without dissociation, I wouldn't be here. Dissociation saved my life.
Matulewicz, C. (2017, November 24). Dissociation from Trauma Saved My Life, and I Am Thankful, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, March 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2017/11/dissociation-saved-my-life-and-i-am-thankful-for-it
Author: Crystalie Matulewicz
Thank you for this.