Another Experience with Dissociation

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nicole gave a speech this morning for her Oral Communication final. She was extremely anxious and nervous for this speech as she always gets overly anxious before, during, and after she speaks in front of any group of people. After she gave her speech, she went to the library and sat in the upstairs area to read. Books always help with her anxiety to calm her down, so she decided to read while she waited to go to the EP office to help with packing.

After she spent two hours in the library, she left to go help Aubrey, the EP advisor, with packing up her office. Nicole helped her for about two hours up until her counseling appointment. She saw several of the Student Life staff which made her feel really awkward the entire time. She saw this one lady who says hi to her often. She also saw Hank, the Counseling Center director, and he said hi to her. Fortunately, she was able to speak and reply. She also heard Taylor outside of his office, which kind of made her a bit anxious.

After she was done helping pack, Nicole got her bag from the office where Aubrey was and walked down the hall to counseling. The conference room is right next to the counseling center, and since that’s where Nicole has been working for the last half hour, that’s where Aubrey was going to go to finish packing. So, she followed Nicole all the way down the hall to the room and saw that she was going to counseling. Nicole hopes that it doesn’t interfere with her chances of becoming an officer on the executive board of EP.

Once she made it to the waiting area, Martha, the office coordinator wasn’t there, so Nicole sat in the waiting area. Once Martha returned and saw her, she said hi and asked her how she was. Nicole could barely speak because of how anxious she was. Her anxiety was very high for the entire week, but it was the worst that day because of her speech and of counseling.

As soon as they exchanged greetings, Martha went back to tell Taylor that she was there, and he immediately came out to the waiting area to bring her back to his office.

This brings us to the present moment, where Nicole is in session.

They begin the session as they normally do with Taylor asking her how she is and how her week was. Nicole answers saying that she was okay and that her week was okay. He then asks her if she has still been hanging out with Marshall, to which she responds that she has hung out with him a few more times since last week. Nicole is still very anxious, and her anxiety is at about an eight or a nine, so she is having a difficult time breathing, and her hands are shaking. Taylor can tell from her shallow breathing that her anxiety is rising.

He asks her if there is any particular thing she wants to do in this session. She can’t answer as her anxiety is so high that it keeps her from speaking, and trying to answer a question is provoking more. He gives her the option of talking about things or doing a grounding and breathing exercise to get her anxiety down to a manageable level. It takes all her strength in that moment to respond, but with a hoarse voice, she croaks out saying she would prefer to do a grounding and breathing exercise. So, he explains the exercise that they are going to do and guides her through it.

Since her breathing is so shallow in that moment, they are doing a breathing exercise. Nicole isn’t able to do it at first, but after a few breaths, she begins to breathe deeper though it is still really shaky. After a few more, she’s able to get it down some more. In between this exercise and the next is a blur, and she is still quite anxious, so they do a grounding exercise. This exercise is one where they begin by tensing then relaxing their muscles one by one. They start simple with their hands, then move to their forearms and finally their biceps. The hands and the forearm ones are okay, but when they get to the bicep one, it doesn’t go well. They tense and relax a few times with Taylor leading, but at about the fourth time, he tells her she can relax her arm when she feels like it.

Since Nicole doesn’t handle making decisions well, she starts panicking and getting more anxious. She isn’t able to stop flexing her arm until Taylor sees her anxiety rising and takes control back after a little bit. He tells her she can release her tense arm, and she relaxes but is still spiraling into her mind. He sees that her breathing is quicker, and she starts to space out as her mind is drawing her into it. She doesn’t completely know how to fight it, so she isn’t able to bring herself out of her mind and back into the present in the room. He tries to pull her out of her mind, but the first time he says something, she hears him but can’t pull away from her mind.

Taylor asks something like “Hey, are you still here with me?”

She doesn’t respond as she can’t which just makes her anxiety worse. She can feel her face getting warmer, her breath feels as if she can’t catch it, and her hands shaking more. Taylor then moves in his chair as if he is going to get up or something or move where she can see him to pull her out of her mind.

As he moves, he says, “Hey come back; come back to me.”

Since he moved somewhat suddenly, it startles her a bit, but it does slightly bring her back to the room. She’s able to look at him but only for a few seconds before she looks away.

As soon as she looks down, he tries to keep her from slipping into her mind again.

“Hey, come back; look at me. I know it’s hard, but try to stay right here. Focus on me.”

He continues talking about how her mind is trying to hook her and how it feels easier just to go into her mind, but it only makes it worse. He says he knows her anxiety is high, and he talks about a few other things.

Once he is done explaining, he gently says, “Okay, you can look away now; it’s okay.”

Nicole immediately looks down with her breath escaping again, and her mind is so clouded she can barely think. After this, he keeps talking to her, and she is able to look up at him a few times.

Taylor then pulls out a few sheets of paper, and they talk about the worksheets he printed out. He also talks about how her negative thoughts aren’t actually her thoughts. They’re a combination of everything that has happened throughout her life. He tells her that she should try thinking of the voice that says the negative things as Umbridge’s voice. She thinks to herself yeah this should totally work, but she realized later that she doesn’t quite remember Umbridge’s voice. She really only remembers when she read about her, and when she read it, it was her voice when Umbridge was speaking, so it doesn’t work too well for her.

After the session, she feels like a major failure because her anxiety was so high, and she wasn’t able to move forward or make any progress in the work she was doing.

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