It seems that sometimes when I am in a very stressful or emotionally overwhelming situation my mind likes to go on vacation. It totally checks out, teleporting from my skull-cavity to somewhere a few feet above my body where it takes a nap, or dances, or sometimes swims with dolphins. The resulting husk (me) can no longer effectively communicate, but I also can no longer feel the distressing emotions that situation x-y-z would normally bring on.
I’m pretty sure the clinical term for moments like this is “disassociation”. I leave the situation, my consciousness goes away to avoid undue stress or traumatic factors. What is left behind can be on autopilot and at other times a still, blank meat puppet.
When this happened last weekend, I [operating as a detached husk] found the result almost a little funny. Things I would generally consider horrible were no longer an issue. While friends and family members were writhing in agony, my mind was dancing the cha-cha. Frankly, I was a bit glad because I knew going into the specific situation that it would be difficult… and having checked my senses of despair or concern at the door felt, well, nice.
I realize how that might sound, but imagine you’ve found a jack in the box and you know without a doubt that causing that clown to come out of the box will be disturbing, yet you feel compelled (and even obligated) to do it. You wind the little lever, hear the delicate chimes playing “pop goes the weasel”, but nothing pops out.
No clown, no demon, no carnage.
My life is full of these boxes that I am constantly opening, constantly being wrecked by outrageous emotional turmoil over a simple plastic clown, or a ceramic chipped demon. I admit, when nothing emerged (or maybe it did and I couldn’t see it) I felt a profound, perhaps even spiritual sense of relief.
That relief began to grow into feelings of hope that I might have somehow stumbled onto the secret management technique for mood swings and reactivity that would inevitably save me. Hope that maybe I have finally become desensitized enough to some of these clowns and demons to live comfortably with the acceptance of their existence but without judgement or the need for them to change. I pat myself on the back, good job, I thought. Maybe I am evolving.
My brain came home slowly. It might have come through the door into my void skull on Monday but by Tuesday it still hadn’t settled in. It was still unpacking the damp bathing suits and stolen hotel mini shampoo from the vacation, and by Wednesday with the suitcase put away and the laundry done it sat down in it’s chair and went to work plugging in all of the electrodes back into itself to reconnect to the husk.
Sure enough, as my brain reconnected every moment of the few days prior began to replay in my mind but the unconcerned and relatively emotionally blank tracks fixed to the images began to change. Every humorous moment became a punch to the gut. Every jack-in-the-box that hadn’t opened now erupted with laughing clowns, doubled over and demons waggling their fingers, satisfied that my sense of relief and self-satisfaction were a sham.
As I saw the true nature of things and the way these emotionally binding moments have been for many years sprung at me all at once, I felt ashamed for thinking I had somehow skated past them. For thinking I had evolved. For thinking I had won.
When the emotional flood hit me, it took my breath away. The best I could do was to sit and wait and cry until it was over, and even then -even today my guts and ego and emotions feel bruised.