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I am Chris, a 53yr old male from New Zealand. I am a newcomer to this site having come across a post on the internet by Suzanne LaCombe (Shrinklady) on dissociation which had the following effect on me. One was to realise (or more to the point confirm) that I am in a chronic state of dissociation to the extent I now no longer know who I am or how to be, out in the real world or what I am doing from minute to minute, literally.

My memory of my life is now extremely vague which I find incredibly frustrating especially because it has a seriously detrimental effect when trying to explain to the various mental health professionals I have seen, how I am or what I am feeling (basically nothing, which obviously limits the ability to have any meaningful engagement) Professional diagnosis has ranged from melancholia to clinical depression to a bit of dissociation. To me it feels like I have had a lobotomy & have lost both my intellectual & emotional intelligence & as a result now have a serious personality disorder which I will never recover from as I no longer have any sense of self. That is my heartfelt belief & to deny that is to deny the truth.

I am totally disconnected from reality & as a result can no longer remember what reality in the normal world was like. It was Suzannes' description of an extreme dissociative state that prompted me to write in the hope that someone has suffered something similar (not wishing such a state on anybody I hasten to add) & has to some extent through whatever means somehow managed to get a grip on their lives again.

All I know is that I have no longer the cognitive ability or concentration to function at what I reckon is 1% of my previous capacity, this in my mind is no exaggeration. On top of that I no longer have a personality of any sort whereas once I loved a laugh & joke, loved life, appreciated nature & had lots of interests, now I am not interested in anything & with regards to nature/scenery it's as though I am blind & my other senses no longer register anything either. Is this the depression/dissociation or have I totally lost my mind?

When on the rare occasions I am in the company of other people I struggle to keep up with or understand conversations & try & fit in by hopefully nodding in what I hope are appropriate places.

If I dwell on any of this it just leads to total despair so quite possibly I avoid those feelings of loss & despair by dissociation.

I accept that the main cause of my current condition is a result of my actions in having an extramarital affair over a 5 year period & so acknowledge that I have reaped what I have sown or that karma has paid me a visit, I acknowledge that. I also know the affair caused massive inner turmoil that played havoc with my conscience, values & integrity & subsequently destroyed the lot as I maintained the affair (despite the feelings of overwhelming relief & that bordered on joy when I called it off on a number of occasions knowing deep inside I had done the right thing however there was a corresponding guilt that accompanied those occasions & I ended up going back). The hypocrisy, deceit, lies & dishonesty involved became the norm & affected every other area of my life until I became unrecognisable from the person I once was & that other people believed I was. My life had been a lie.

The longer the affair went on the less & less of a person I became. My actions inhabited my dreams (nightmares) & almost all my waking moments, injuries & ill health became commonplace, I ignored all of this or distracted myself by exercising obsessively even when injured. I dealt with issues of conscience by sleeping as little as 14hrs a week which induced a permanent feeling of jetlag which after a while became the norm but also served to lessen my inhibitions. I ignored the damage this severe lack of sleep was doing to my brain/mind although the signs were clearly there as I noticed my mental faculties weren't as sharp & I was becoming more forgetful but I just put it down to working too hard & being tired. I totally ignored the overwhelming feelings to stay in bed, the difficulty in doing simple things like brushing my teeth & carried on the best I could.

I know what I did was 100% wrong & totally selfish & the effects it has had on my family have been devastating although I am embarrassed/ashamed to say that in my current state at times I can no longer not see it due to my disconnection.

Prior to my mental breakdown everything just got faster & faster & faster, I became less & less competent in doing almost everything, things I previously enjoyed like soccer & golf, swimming running, keeping fit. One day I realised that I could no longer do my job when I was unable to understand what someone was trying to explain to me, I was nodding my head but had no idea what they were talking about. That night I had an intensely graphic, dark & terrifying nightmare in which I was hanging on by my fingertips to the bottom rung of a rope ladder above a bottomless black abyss & then being unable to hang on any longer, of letting & go falling into that abyss at which stage I had an epiphany that I would never ever get back into reality & that I had lost my mind which felt as though it had shattered into a thousand pieces that could never be put together again. I never went back to work after that & having been a police officer 24/7 for the best part of twenty years lost a major part of my identity. The conflict both morally & ethically of my affair also played out in my work. I remember saying to myself who am I to make decisions on people being right or wrong or dishonest when I was doing what I was doing & so subconsciously stopped making decisions which was a major part of my job as a Police Sergeant created major problems which eventually led to my breakdown.

This was over two & half yrs ago during which time I have regressed to the point that I unable to look after myself, I rarely go out because I am afraid of bumping into people who knew me as I was because deep down I know I am mentally & emotionally retarded. In such instances I put on an act to the best of my ability but that ability is fast eroding as I struggle to remember how I was. I find myself unable to relax because every single thing just serves to remind me I am no longer myself (or normal). I have no self respect, my mental ability on IQ tests is under 60 where once it was around 135, I have no emotions. I used to cry at feel good films (although I would always hide such emotions) & haven't been able to relax since the breakdown at all unless dissociated (or nowhere land as I call it which is taking over bigger & bigger chunks of my day. I have tried to work but am forever forgetting to do simple things & struggle to have conversations with people because at the end of the day I no longer feel human & therefore struggle to relate to people. Friends will talk about old times & I will pretend to know what they are talking about but I have no actual recall of such events & so am continuing the actions of the affair in being deceitful & pretending which again if I dwell upon such things sends me further into a tailspin.

Suzanne's description of the symptoms of dissociation made total sense to me & were basically what I have being trying to tell all & sundry about how my mind feels but due to my cognitive state & memory fugue I cannot explain myself clearly enough & end up going off on tangents. As mentioned I have tried psychotherapy but because I have disconnected so much from myself, my memory of my life is so vague that I was only able to engage at the most shallowest of levels.

I no longer recognise the "thing" that looks back at me if I am brave enough to look into a mirror. I just see a dead person that I am totally disconnected from. I have to constantly try & remember how I used to be otherwise I just sit & stare like a zombie. I have told mental health professionals that I can feel myself heading to a catatonic state which is a situation that is irreversible, I used to be scared but now because I am less & less aware and therefore less & less worried. I used to be a passionate & extremely competitive person & used to get upset that I have lost those traits but now because I have no memory of what those traits felt like I cannot reconnect to them & bring about their return in any aspects of life. There once was a time where I woke up every morning & wanted to yell out "help, please help now it just feels like absolute madness/nothingness.

An inner voice at the time of my breakdown told me that it was too late & to deny that is to deny ones absolute knowledge of one's self. I know in my soul which I feel has died that I am an evil & selfish person & hence have reaped the just desserts.

Of course this has had a massive affect on my family, my son has major issues himself because the way I have been, a policeman instead of a father, putting work before everything, not letting him see normal natural emotions & then of course the betrayal of the affair. The way my mind is or isn't more to the point & my lack of memory means I am unable to offer him or anyone else for that matter salient advice about anything.

I apologise if this has turned into a long winded, confusing waffle, I have tried to correct spelling errors (another reminder of my shortcomings as I used to be an excellent speller & writer). I guess I'm just looking for a slither of hope when the fact being I ceased to have any a long long time ago.
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Dear Chris, thank you for sharing all this. I would like to write more as some of what you shared seemed similar to what I have experienced (in a milder form though). I could be reading too much into it though; you know how people often compare with what they know and then sometimes see similarities where there aren't.

Anyway, I am sorry about all this pain and destruction and I do want to share some of my own experience. I have a session with my consult therapist today, so I am trying to focus on that and I might be a little out of it for a while after the session. But I will try to write after that.
Chris, this wasn't confusing to read at all - it was really articulate and really heartbreaking. I'm sorry life has led you to such a dark place.

I am no professional but it sounds to me like what you are experiencing is a form of severe depression with dissociative features - maybe even some post-traumatic stress. Although I haven't been in a place of severe depression myself, I do know others on the message boards have and have made their way back to functioning, balanced lives (i.e. able to experience love, fun and happiness again) with the right treatment.

I think there aren't many responses to your post because it's in the 'mental health' section which doesn't get a lot of traffic, just because of how the boards are set up. Try copying this and posting it in "Questions about content on MyShrink and/or being in therapy" and I am sure you will hear from some people who have made progress from the kind of situation you describe.

Personally, I just want to say that I don't think you are evil at all. Affairs happen. They happen in many, many marriages, for lots of different reasons. I have had number of 'emotional affairs' that caused a lot of destruction in my relationship, but after a lot of individual and couples therapy, I don't do that any more. It was never a good thing for my relationship, and it is something I take responsibility for. BUT - the reasons it happened are complex. At the time it felt like it was the only way for me to survive, and maybe it was. It didn't make me evil, just like your affair doesn't make you evil. Just human.

I think after 20 years of being a cop you would possibly be carrying a huge amount of stress and maybe some trauma too, which could have led you into a vulnerable situation. There were probably longer-term problems in your marriage that you didn't know how to address (that was certainly the case for me). I can understand how you would end up in a situation where the decisions you made were about emotional survival, rather than doing the 'right' thing. That doesn't make you evil. It probably doesn't even make you selfish - just flawed and out of resources, a situation most of us get into at one time or another.

I very much relate to how the experience of the affair became traumatic in itself for you. An affair can be extremely isolating. It can alienate you from ALL your normal every-day support systems (friends, social life, spouse, kids, colleagues) as you try to maintain something secretly that is profoundly emotionally important. As time goes on the secret relationship has its own huge pressures. And you can get alienated from yourself, when you hate or just don't understand what you are doing, but the needs that took you there in the first place are still needs that are driving you. It's profoundly confusing and upsetting, and that's before you even begin to think about the pain of others involved.

To me it sounds like you really need someone who can listen to you, hear your experience without judging you and help you to understand it and put it in context so you can begin to heal. I know it's hard to communicate all of this stuff to any professional, especially when you're in the grip of the depression/dissociation itself. But this post is a brilliant start. Can you find a well qualified therapist and take this writing to him or her to help you explain?

I strongly feel that it's possible to recover and recover well from the situation you're in, Chris. I hope you will give it a try - and if the first attempts don't work, keep trying. It often takes a while to find the right help, but it's worth it, both for you and for the people who are part of your life.
First of all, you are going and have gone through A LOT. Second of all, THANK YOU for typing all that info, because I know that it must have taken a lot of effort to put it together right, and to even think for that matter due to the condition you suffer must have been EXTREMELY hard.. I can definately tell you are a VERY strong individual, and that you have HOPE inside you.. It's there wailing out for someone to rescue you from the UTTER HELL you're experiencing. NEVER LOSE HOPE. I believe "HE" is very much REAL, and is giving you that hope, and is also using you as an instrument of ENCOURAGEMENT for others, as an INSPIRATION..Keep going.. Because it can only get better..
I'd like to tell you that from my experiences of suffering nearly the exact same things that you have with the dissociation, catatonia, depression, etc.. Because I have a type of schizo-affective disorder in which I have bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (I have Undifferentiated-type, which basically means I have all forms of the disorder), I also suffer from PTSD due to prolonged and severe child abuse, and dissociation as well. Also, unclassified personality disorder because I have several symptoms akin to each personality disorder, I may even have multiple personality disorder. But anyway, to get to the point, I'd like to offer you some insight to what is currently helping me, and might you consider taking the same approach or at least giving it a try if you haven't already...In the way that is prescribed for myself, or in a similar way (*Yawn*,sorry It's past my bedtime Smiler ). I take medication on a daily basis. I take a mood stabilizer, 2 anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, something for insomnia due to side effect from other meds, an anti-psychotic. When they first put me on an anti-psychotic, they put me on the only ones that were around back then, and they had some severe side effects.. So, now they have the "atypical" ones, and they are way much better, with fewer side effects. They can help you come back to your senses, and help you feel human again (at least that's what they did for me). So, pls consider this if you haven't already..
I really hope this helps, there isn't even a word for the intensity of disconnection/pain/whatever/ that describes what you go through that I know to describe what you r going through, it is so much to bear, and I know, I felt like crying when I read your story it hit me so hard. May God bless you, and pull the heavily stifled, gasping for the refreshing & glorious breath from your weakened, lack-lustered and apathetic soul, to sing again the beautiful & vibrant songs reminiscent of past-times long lost and forgotton. <33

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