When the first few days of a new semester hits, the number one thing Professors insist on doing with their students in the classroom is a self-introduction. It's completely harmless, of course, as we line our seats in a circle and we're forced to make eye contact with each other. Most of the times Professors ask questions along the lines of "What did you do over your vacation?" "What major are you?" "What's your hobby?" when it comes to actually introducing yourself. Besides the slight anxiety these self-introductions give me, I've always found them to be interesting to see what questions are asked and what my fellow classmates answer them with.
In one particular class I have this semester, apart from saying who we are and what major we are, my Professor told us to add what a quirk of ours is. I feel like the term quirk in its nature is a very loaded word because of the definitions people put on it. Some associate quirks being annoying while others think it's an unique quality about someone. Regardless what the definition is, my Professor's definition of the word meant what makes us unique and, most importantly, why it does.
While the classmates before me were introducing themselves, I was thinking long and hard to myself on how I would do the same. What makes me unique? What kind of quirk do I have that will set me apart from everyone else? Quite frankly, I don't have that many, I tend to consider myself average at nearly everything, however in that moment when I introduced myself, I went for something that could maybe provoke some empathy. I think I said something along the lines of this, "Hi my name is Maria, I'm an English major, and I don't know if I would consider this my quirk, but... I tend to easily dissociate during any part of the day. So because of that, I'm always messing around with anything my hands are holding." This then turned into a small conversation about dissociation and its impact and what it means.
It made me realize that it's something that should be discussed more, so this is where the conversation continues.
The textbook definition of dissociation can be defined as something along the lines of the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected. It sounds like a repetitive mouth full of a definition, right? Well, to clarify, it does mean being disconnected in the sense that you feel like you're not really there. You may start to wonder if you're actually in the present moment or if you're in a dream. It's a weird way of explaining it, but when I dissociate, I can't articulate my thoughts and I start to almost daydream. It feels like nothing around me is real and it starts becoming pretty overwhelming.
Dissociation is not entirely a bad thing, in fact, people dissociate all the time without realizing it. You know the feeling when you're sitting in a lecture where the Professor speaks endlessly and it's pretty boring? Maybe you look out the window to distract yourself or you start daydreaming. That can be considered dissociation. You are essentially creating a different kind of scenario for yourself to deal with the current situation happening to you. However, the kind of dissociation that I go through is a little more than just simple daydreaming. It doesn't just happen during class lectures or when I'm listening to something boring, but it even happens when I'm doing something I enjoy. Dissociation in its essence is a coping mechanism towards trauma that an individual goes through in their life. Without getting too personal about anything, over the past few months, I have come to realize why I dissociate because I am also trying to cope with something. Is it trauma? Again, not going too personal into this, but it's something in that category.
It's such an odd kind of experience to go through because I'm so used to it now. It's a part of nearly every day of my life and it's kind of tiring dealing with it. Like I mentioned in my self-introduction that day in class, I tend to keep my hands on anything to help me out. Whether I'm holding a pen in my hands, messing around with my ear buds, or even playing around on my phone, I am definitely trying to make sure I'm still in reality. Dissociating sounds very scary if it's like you're losing your sense of reality, but I've come to acknowledge its presence in my life. I'm finding it easier coping with it and making sure that I can tell the difference between what's real and what's not. In fact, one of the students who went before me for self-introductions said something along the lines of how their quirk is manipulative daydreaming. In order to understand things better, they imagine reality as magic or fantasy and not only does it help them understand, but it makes it more fun. In a way, my coping with dissociation is similar in the aspect of me trying to find ways to make it more fun for myself. I mean, dissociation isn't really that fun, but it's comforting that my mind is helping me get out of a stressful situation to my own place to say the least.
With all this in mind, are you also someone that dissociates often? And if so, what do you do to stop dissociating and feel like you're back in the present? It's surprising to me how common it can be, but I believe that it's an important thing to keep in the back of our minds. You never know when you may be dissociating.