I wanted to write a post on my experiences with Dissociative Amnesia, not because I want to broadcast in-depth details of my mental illness, but because I want to raise awareness of lesser discussed mental diagnoses. Mental illness is not always as black and white as depression or anxiety. Those are more commonly recognized diagnoses however, there are a lengthy ray of types of mental illnesses which do not receive much recognition.
Dissociative Amnesia is a defense mechanism the body develops as means of dealing with trauma. If an individual has a dissociative disorder, it’s fair to assume they also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all know PTSD as an experience war veterans who are haunted by the tragedies of war are crippled by, as it was originally noted in such victims however it is not exclusive to this population. It is worth noting that war is not the only form of trauma that torments the mind, and is capable of restructuring pathways in the brain.
In general, the body responds to trauma in unusual ways. Many responses to trauma are delayed/ or subconscious. At the initial moment of impact, a person may seem “fine” because their mind/ body are numb for the sake of survival. The reality that they have experienced something their mind was not equipped to cope through often settles in later, and can be quite horrific.
The Role Of Trauma in My Life:
In my particular case, I was raised in an environment of ongoing domestic violence. My most prominent parent was my mother who was extremely mentally unstable and attempted suicide in front of all her children on numerous occasions—often threatening to kill us simultaneously. When I was fifteen, my family and I flipped over on highway I-45 in Houston, and my father was not there to protect. He was still in Denver finishing a jail sentence.
Two cars swerved and hit us and my mother’s first impulse was also to swerve in order to avoid them. She did. The SUV lost control, we spun and hit the median, and consequently, the SUV flipped over on its side. I was face up in the passenger side and my mother was on the concrete, covered in a river of blood and shattered glass. Trauma.
I did not so much as cry when it first happened. My first instinct was to be strong and save my family. I did. I figured out a way to tell kind people who stopped to help how to pull me out and directed them as best as I could about how to get my family out. I was trembling and jittery, but there were no tears. There was only fight in me.
Connecting the Dots:
Once I left off to college, and a couple of years passed allowing me to settle into who I was and adjust to being on my own, symptoms of trauma started kicking in. I cannot say that depression and anxiety began settling in, because I do believe that I lead most of my life as a functional depressive however, I became very acquainted with flashbacks and panic attacks. These flashbacks involuntarily transported me back to moments of trauma. The panic attacks featured shortness of breath, convulsions, and visual hallucinations. I had not experienced anything of this nature beforehand, and that’s the thing about PTSD.
PTSD in my life lately:
When I say lately, I mean as of the past two years, PTSD has been manifesting itself alongside symptoms of dissociative amnesia. This means that during an “episode” I forget who I am, where I am, who my friends are, and other major and very obvious facts about my life.
Well let’s think about the word “Dissociate”. My body does not want to be associated with Mauriel because the trauma happened to me. Dissociating and forgetting facts about who I am, really gives my mind a bit of a break from any undesirable memories that are still lurking in my subconscious. It interferes with functionality however, it is my brain’s way of protecting me.
I hope you learned a lot from today’s discussion, which was meant to increase mental health awareness. Love yourself, affirm yourself, and be open and understanding, having patience with your mind’s unique way of dealing with things.
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