Google defines the word dissociation as, “The disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected.”

Disconnecting to cope with cancer

It’s no wonder that we as cancer patients and survivors go through this as well. I found myself thinking about this the other day when I was driving and suddenly snapped back to reality. I had been dissociating for quite some time and had no idea I was on autopilot. It’s amazing that our brains can even do that. I am often surprised that I'm still alive sometimes. I wondered if my tendency to dissociate was linked to my blood cancer, since I find myself doing it a lot. But I have been doing it for quite some time.

I got my feelings hurt

I had been attending some parties in my social circles and I would find myself what I called zoning in and out. One day a friend brought up my zoning. No one had ever brought it up to me, so I assumed no one noticed.

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She said (and I’m paraphrasing) “You just have a face you make. It’s just Katelynn being Katelynn.” She wasn’t rude about it, but it had hurt my feelings. I don’t even see how it could have, now looking back at the conversation. Maybe more had been said leading up to it. But maybe I felt judged? Or invalidated. (A common theme in my articles.) The more I think about it the more it makes sense though.

Does my brain shut down to conserve energy?

Sometimes, in order to keep us safe our brains just kind of shut off. After a traumatic event we are zapped of energy. After my chemo I did not want to think, or feel. I shut down for a long time. I wasn’t “me” anymore. Everything was different. I remember trying to convey this to anyone who would listen. I think my zoning out led to me forgetting a lot of important information as well. It was harder to concentrate. I felt bad.

Cancer has caused brain fog

My memory has been affected a lot. I forget a lot of things…and people. Which leads to a lot of awkward “I’m sorry’s”. While my brain is trying to help, it can also hurt. But I also think it’s worth saying that we need to remember to give ourselves a break when this happens. We’ve been through a lot.

Even for people who are through the worst of it, we remember a lot of what we’ve been through. That doesn’t magically go away. I do what I can to get my head back in the game. (There’s a High School Musical reference for you millennials.) I write things down, I make alarms, I say things out loud and to people to help remember. But sometimes my brain still tends to let it all go. But I don’t want to beat myself up about it.

Do you find yourself dissociating a lot? Did you do it more after your cancer or is it about the same for you?

Warm wishes, Katelynn

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