Signals flashing through the air,
I don’t even seem to care.
No expression, sit and stare,
Mind withdrawn: I am not there.

Dissociation is, I believe, a defense mechanism, a way of getting away mentally rather than physically. For me it appears to be an unconscious reaction to some sensory or emotional stimulation – the first I often know of it is when I realize somebody is trying to get my attention and they say to me that I was “miles away”.

Don’t ask me where my mind wanders during these episodes – they are blank. I have no conscious memory of what has happened and no sense that any time has passed. In a way it feels similar to the hyper-focused state of flow in that my sense of the passage of time is distorted.

It’s not something that happens often – it’s far more common that I’ll shut down or otherwise become non-verbal and unresponsive while still being aware of what’s going on around me. But every now and then I’ll notice that there is a discontinuity in my memory – either I find myself in a new location with no memory of how I came to be there, or I notice that there has been some change around me. Different people, a change in the lighting. Perhaps the sun has set and I find myself wondering, or even asking out loud, “When did that happen?”

Jump cut reality/
Fast-forward memory/
Void in my history.

Returning to the here and now is jarring, unsettling. It’s like falling asleep in one place and waking up in another. There is a strong feeling of dislocation, of confusion. A sense of having lost something. It can even be frightening – being aware that I have moved in time or space but not knowing anything about the transit.

5 thoughts on “Dissociation

  1. This is interesting. My son has PDD-NOS related to characteristics of Aspergers. He often denies he said things or he would lie and he denies he lies or he believes what he says is true and he is not lying when I know it is not true. I wonder if this is some form of dissociation. Tania


  2. My son used to do these "check outs" all the time. He sometimes called it: Going to the Zone. He would do this when overloaded at school or anywhere, really. Teachers would tell me that he'd get this glazed look over his face and still be sitting utterly rigid, not like he was falling asleep at all, and then a few moments to minutes later, something would shift in him and he'd look around the room as if he'd been plucked out of it and suddenly put back in and be a little shocked at what was going on around him. I used to do this myself but have not been doing it much at all. I am now hyper alert of my surroundings all the time and when an emergency/emotionally jarring something or other happens, I don't shut down, I hyper absorb but yet have this weird (unless it involves myself or son) total emotional shut down where I move through the situation doing what I'm supposed to do and go through all the motions and words but have no attachment to anything. (Other than when Dad and Grandma died and watching my Mom hurt.) The emotions come on later and then it feels as if I'm drowning. Could be weeks, months or even a year after something happens before it really actually strikes me.


  3. Wonderful! Dissociation is a big feature in my Aspergers, as well. You describe it beautifully. I'm happy I found this post and your blog. I plan on reading much, much more! Amy


  4. I also believe it is a protective defense mechanism. In shutdown I avoid overstimulation and my brain gets time out to try and process whatever is going on. It's a numbness that consoles.


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