Therapy Diary: Mindfulness

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

When I was in therapy last year, my counsellor told me that the goal for our sessions would be creating mindfulness. There were a number of ways we worked through being aware of my body and my emotions. Because my PTSD is very dissociative, it means there’s a mind-emotion-body disconnect. I often feel “outside” of myself in varying ways. Sometimes I am a floating balloon being held by my body. Sometimes I am a suitcase being dragged. Dissociation is a beast in itself and I wrote a short blog post on it a few months ago. This post acts as a bit of a follow-up.

Along with the exercises we did, such as identifying where an emotion existed in the body and describing it (anger being in my throat, or despair being in my belly—that kind of thing), I use or have used these tools to become more aware and mindful of my entire existence:

  • journalling
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tarot reading

I don’t journal as much as I used to while I was in therapy. I think this is because I’ve gotten better at being mindful/aware/in-tune/etc. Journalling was a very explicit way of creating awareness of my emotions and my body, and the relationship between the two.

These days, I lean toward yoga, meditation, and tarot reading. The yoga helps with my mind-body connection, with a focus on my body and how it connects within itself. The meditation points me toward the relationship between my mind and body while emphasising my emotions, feelings, and thoughts.

Tarot reading is a new one, though. I grasp onto symbols and metaphors, and that’s all tarot is. I don’t use a classic tarot deck, with Major Arcana and whatnot. Instead, I use regular 52-card playing cards with numbers and suits. There’s an additional layer of abstraction with these cards. The symbols and metaphors come from interpretation of the numbers and the suits. Instead of seeing a moon or a sun, I have to consider my own intuition and understanding for the numbers and suits.

When it comes to the tarot reading, I do a combination of reading cards for in-depth interpretation of a single card, or I do a self-reading with a 3- or 4-card spread. Some spreads require a question to answer, and others are assessment or guidance spreads. I don’t read the cards for prophecy or fortune-telling. I read them so there’s somewhere I can project my worries, concerns, desires, and intuitions.

On the whole, creating mindfulness has been the key to lessening my dissociative states—whether by frequency or intensity. I have been plagued by a constant disconnect between my mind and body because connecting the two was dangerous during my traumatic childhood. There’s been a lot of learning, trial and error, and patience involved. I have to constantly work in order to hinder the PTSD from dictating my life, but I’m finding ways that let me progress.

Therapy Diary: Dissociation

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My dissociation manifests in a few different ways and feelings, and I can compare it with a bunch of metaphors. But it all boils down to a single feeling—of rather, lack of feeling.

My dissociation means I’m not part of reality. I’m not fully in the world I’m interacting in. My body is doing one thing, but my consciousness is distanced.

Sometimes my dissociation is heavy and sometimes it’s light. I’ve described it as half of my existence floating behind me like a helium balloon; or half of my existence being dragged like a suitcase with a broken wheel.

You’d think that being dissociated is easy to notice. But I only notice the way it feels—the heaviness or lightness or distance or closeness—once I know I’m dissociated.

So the disconnect is something that shows up as irritation or lethargy. It’s only after a bit of wondering, “Why am I reacting like this?” that it dawns on me: “Oh… I’m not all here.”

And then what? What do I do once I realise my consciousness isn’t within me?

I try meditating for a few minutes. I try doing a vinyasa or two. I try lighting a scented candle. I try taking a warm shower or a cold shower. I try reading a book. I try playing a video game.

But none of those are fool-proof, sure-fire ways to reassociate with the world. They’re only baby steps.

It’s almost impossible to eliminate the dissociation the day it happens, or even the day after. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. I’ll power through it, but there are days I just can’t. I need to sleep and let myself succumb to another reality (the surreal of dreams).

My therapist told me that it takes time to feel safe enough to “come back” after being dissociated. So I don’t push progress or obligation on it.

Therapy Diary: Day 7

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My first short-term therapy session was on January 15 and the last was on March 18. It’s been two months since I last saw my counsellor and I can definitively say that even this short amount of counselling was helpful.

What’s Changed?

I’m doing more yoga and I’ve been approaching it differently than I did last year. There’s something more to it now. Before, it was focus on shape and form and getting a pose correct. Now, I focus on how it feels: how I can feel my strength or my weakness; my inhales and exhales. In particular, I can feel a connection between all of my body parts. Yoga has been one of the best practises I could have chosen, since it drastically lowers my dissociation—though I still struggle with it.

I’m also more aware of what sets me off/what triggers me. In particular, what triggers my anger and my panic attacks. I can’t even describe how this has helped me be able to even deal with life. From talking to people to running errands to sitting alone, I’m aware of my emotions and understand how to express or disperse them.

What’s The Same?

My depression is still fairly the same. I’m not that happy and barely anything gives me joy. But I’m trying not to dwell on that, on how I should be, or how I want to be. I know my friends have noticed it, and I’m trying not to talk about it because it’s a cyclical conversation. I’ll start talking about being depressed and it increases. This isn’t something I’ve learned to resource/cope with/deal with/etc. Pick a synonym.

I’m also still struggling with my dissociation. It isn’t as intense as it was in January, but it’s still around. I feel like the film on top of a stew left to cool on the stove. Like, I’m still part of the stew—or my Self—but it isn’t the same. I can’t simply stir the film back into the stew to have a whole stew—a whole Self.

What Next?

I’m going to be completely honest here: I don’t know.

I do not know what to do next.

I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not ready to take on more. I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing and hope that, little by little, something else will change. I guess there won’t be anything new to do: simply practising what I’ve learned in the hopes it’ll become habit or second-nature instead of a conscious effort.

Therapy Diary Day 7