This is an Essay about Disassociating

An unfinished essay from a forthcoming, yet to be named nor well thought out essay collection.

There is an episode of The Simpsons where Homer is taking boudoir photos for Marge. In their basement, the photographer has set up a lavish set. Homer appears wearing a robe and a firefighter’s hat. Homer nervously drops his robe to the ground, naked except for a pair of briefs. His stomach comically bulges out. The photographer shudders and then proceeds to slath a pile of Vaseline on her lens.

1. ) It’s shitty how often fatness is the butt of a joke
2. ) I wondered about how those photos would look.

Was this something that photographers actually did? Was it a dreamy, muddled landscape?

When I am dissociating, I don’t actually know that I am. I think that is what it’s all about. Everything feels like it is in focus and I feel present ~enough. However, never all quite there. I never notice it’s happening until it stops.

They say that some overwhelming scents disappear after a while, as to not overload your brain. I remember asking bakers at this coffee shop bakery if they just loved coming to work and smelling all the cinnamon and bread,

“I don’t even smell it anymore.”

Working at a coffee shop, people would often comment about how great it smelled in the cafe, but I had long since stopped smelling the freshly ground coffee. They would smile at me expectantly and I would smile back, making small talk while ringing up their purchase, answering questions both silly and technical.

“Where’s the roastery?”
“Do you drink tons of coffee?”
“Can I have a latte with no milk?

When you’re in the thick of it, you can’t really see the outside of it anymore.
There is a safety in my disassociation. Looking at the world through petroleum jelly feels familiar. It feels like I don’t have to try too hard, you know?

When I snap out of it, sometimes its my hands make me come to. I think about hands a lot. About the thin and delicate fingers of a girl I am seeing, how cold they are and how everywhere they touch feels like its on fire. A perfect complement to what’s usually going on in the inside when I am around her.
I think about how small but strong my own are. About how my fingertips would look with tattoos. About them typing this sentence.

And suddenly,

I’m back.

And it’s awful and terrifying.

I feel ashamed that I can’t tell where the line of reality ends and begins sometimes. They say that this is a result of trauma. That your brain “Takes you to a safe place” to preserve you. But, I am so fully coated in goo at this point, preserved like the best of museum bugs, that I can’t see my way out sometimes.

The first time this happened, I was maybe 10 or 9 or some other important age. My trauma was maybe 4 years prior. A missing memory of years past that would come up every now and again before I beat it back down, retreating further into my liquid-filled brain cocoon.

We were in my dad’s van. One of those 10-seaters with the captain chairs in the middle that swiveled. Truly amazing stuff. I sat in the back-back, where any kid who wasn’t a teenager had to sit. I don’t remember much besides me suddenly asking my mom for a mirror.
“I can’t see myself.” I said.

I remember feeling distraught. Like I was disappearing. I realized later that I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

Who is Sarah?

I keep asking myself this question and diving deep into things for more meaning. I do the grounding exercises I learned from an episode of Jessica Jones:

Five things you can see,
four things you can touch,

I don’t know what I’m more embarrassed of: The fact that I need this or the fact that I rarely use it, because coming to is so jarring and I think I’m more of a coward than I realize.

When I have drank entirely too much, I use a grounding exercise. I start counting to three. Repeatedly. The rhythm helps me focus. Helps me think about what’s outside of the counting: Is my drink near me and out of reach of someone who might drug it? Yes. Do I have wallet, phone, and keys? Yes. Am I going to go get some water? Probably.

I scared my mom that day that I asked for a mirror, and I feel that any other mention of past trauma continues to do just that. Pain demands to be felt and there is so much outside of Vaseline world.

I’m just taking my time.



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