I’m a multiple, and I could probably get diagnosed with narcoplepsy if I did a sleep study. I literally fall asleep sitting up at work and my muscles are paralyzed for an instant; I slump and then snap out of it, only to slump again and again. I even begin to dream before I’m actually asleep. Sounds like classic narcolepsy, right? Except it really only happens at work. When I was younger it only ever happened in the car. But in either case, it only happens when I’m bored and drifting. In other words, when I’m in a dissociative state.
I’m finding that when I get into this dissociative “slump” state of being half in the body, half out of the body, it’s because someone else is around wanting to come out. It’s about switching.
I believe that the body tends to not remain “empty” — if it was easy to leave the body empty, then we could just leave our bodies empty during abuse and no one would have to suffer at all. Instead, we switch and someone else takes control.
So when I get into a dissociative state at work, what can I do? First of all, with my job it is sometimes safe to switch. There are some responsible parts that can do my job, and my co-worker knows about my alternate personalities. However, in this case I don’t know who is coming into the body, whereas usually we’re aware of almost everything that’s going on. Lately it’s been a sign of someone “new” (unknown to us) coming out.
I try talking to the person, even though I can’t quite sense their presence. I try to explain what’s going on and why I can’t switch, and what they can do in the meantime (my inner world is awesome). Then I try to be more aware and mindful and present. I like to do this with music and grounding techniques. Grounding is so important!!!! I always think I don’t want to ground myself because I want to float and fly and connect with magical things. But in reality, you have to ground yourself or else it’s all a dream and you’re drifting into dissociation.
So: grounding techniques. I have a small rattle in my purse, it’s a wooden egg with some kind of beads inside that sound really nice, almost like a rainstick. So I connect with my surroundings while rattling super softly, just trickling really. I think about my feet being flat on the floor, and connect with the Earth. I imagine the sky, since my office has no windows and that tends to bother me a lot. I imagine nature. Then I look back at my surroundings and tell myself I am at work, and I am somewhat refreshed.
I need to be more present in the body if I don’t want to switch, so I have to open up to feel things. One technique is to go through your senses, listing 5 things you can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell — but at work I’d have to do a shorter, easier version of that. It really is helpful.
Another good tool is active inward-looking. I don’t know what to call it. It’s not dissociation but it’s like seeing into your inner world with great clarity, not “making things up” but really seeing it unfold before your mind’s eye. Why bother? Well, there’s tons of reasons why you want to know what’s going on inside your head. But the most alluring reason is because you can get a little high or thrill off seeing your world in action if it’s a happy and good place.
For instance, in my world, my parts are all outside right now, experiencing the clear, sunny sky and mild-but-chilly temperatures. There’s so much to do. Astra has a hang glider and is thinking of going up to her launching point…except she wants to feel not floating but falling for an instant. Some of the older boys are organizing a better armory and arena for our inner smack-downs. This is a regular thing that goes on — where we put up an image of our perpetrators and vent anger on them. Some of the personalities are gathering herbs and talking to the forest-spirits. Others are out with the wolf pack, running for the thrill of it. We have a mountain with climbing aparatuses and rope bridges on it, so a few people are there. Robert and his crew are maintaining the trails now that the Winter snow has pretty much melted. They’re tracking animals and getting a feel for how the ecosystem is doing. Phoenix is out on a horse with her Golden Eagle on her shoulder, nearly flying. It’s good for her since she’s been out so much lately, doing work and taking care of things. Pomona, a newly-found part, is with her, learning. There’s a group at our spiritual centre, a yurt in the forest, giving offerings and making it look nice for Spring. I could go on and on and on.
When I take the time to do this, I am at my best. For some reason, if I slip out of the habit, I forget how rewarding it is, and I’m not drawn back easily. It’s a discipline to keep it up, and I try to do it everyday by writing it all out in a special notebook. But once I start it’s like a vacation, it’s pure joy, and utterly refreshing.
So…some time has passed since I was sleepy earlier, and I’ve done some things to help, and now I feel better. But I can’t just stop, or it will come back. I’m going to keep at it.