The Dissociative Fugue: The Wandering Self

When I think of my years in a Dissociative Fugue, the first word I think of is memory. Then amnesia. For many people, amnesia is the stuff of movie heroines hit in the head, waking to the arms of a heroic partner helping them to remember their name, where they came from. 

And I have been hit in the head repeatedly throughout my life. One time, in grade school, a bully knocked all the books out of my arms and shoved my head into the pavement. Jack Kerouac said the self is an illusion. If so, my illusion slipped away that day, for the first time of many times. For me, the self is not illusion, but a very real indicator of who I am, where I'm standing, my place in the world.  Add all of that to a growing trend in a post modern interpretation of truth, and exactly who am I? Add severe childhood trauma to that, in which being assaulted on a school playground is just the tip of the iceberg, and I began what is often called a dissociative fugue when I was about 40 years old. 

Armed only with fragments of a self I had started to become or wanted to become or felt to be entirely inherent, I became compelled to wander. This began after my second stay in a mental hospital. I was desperately running from something under the guise of a very focused chase on the search for self. I would build it, I thought, from experience. Enough experiences would resemble a self. And so I went. All over the place, sometimes into dangerous encounters. I live with the reality that there are those I do not remember. 

When this illness led me into homelessness, it made all the sense in the world to me. A fragmented self without a tether. I did what I always did to avoid looking at all of my pieces: I threw myself into work. I volunteered to the point of exhaustion.  Work will not set you free. 

Then I stopped. I stopped volunteering in the established homeless services framework and lived out on the street, in the woods. I met people I can only say weren't me. It slowly came that there was a me, however scattered, and other people had a me, too. Most of all, through all of it, I was loved. All the 'me's.' I had friends who cared enough to say, "Earth to Robin!" when I was off in a place very mired in old trauma, like swimming in mud. 

Sometimes, it is said, those with a dissociative disorder, 'snap back.' It's true, but it's a slow come back. After the initial glimmerings of a self, of a very true and oriented me, Robin, the arduous process of focus, of putting the puzzle together began. 

It began with baseball in 2014, when we received the gift of

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Comment by Poor Woman on March 15, 2015 at 3:28pm

So good to find you writing here once again!

That bully must have been really a troubled person. For some of us, life isn't easy enough to where they are allowed to enjoy what time they've got.

My hope for you is that now the enjoyment times will redouble and then exponentially rise.

Peace to you, Robin


Comment by Robin Sneed on March 15, 2015 at 3:37pm

Thank you, Poor Woman! Peace to you...

Comment by Zanelle on March 15, 2015 at 3:43pm

A long, slow journey back.   I like that.

Comment by Robin Sneed on March 15, 2015 at 3:50pm

Thank you, Zanelle...I'm glad I got to make the trip!

Comment by Carole Dixon on March 15, 2015 at 4:28pm
This dissociative fugue sounds like a scary thing. I've done some work to bring my fractured selves home. Nature does wonders for me when I go looking for myself.
Comment by JMac1949 Memories on March 15, 2015 at 5:42pm

" swimming in mud..." what a great description of mental illness.  R&L

Comment by Robin Sneed on March 15, 2015 at 8:13pm

Hey, Jimmy! Thanks..I'm working on it....

Comment by Robin Sneed on March 15, 2015 at 10:25pm

Carole, somehow, I missed your comment earlier. It is a scary thing in a way, in moments, I have admired nature my whole life and found solace in it. Thank you for reading!

Comment by Robin Sneed on March 15, 2015 at 10:32pm

I just realized what I'm essentially saying is that I really live in a manufactured world and view nature through a window. That is true for the most part. I'm glad I lived in the woods, but I wouldn't choose it like that now. Without shelter, humans die. Every day of that experience was a huge risk. 

Comment by Steven Bridenbaugh on March 15, 2015 at 10:55pm

I recently read a book about a history teacher who has amnesia about his own life. He teaches at the university level, and does it quite well.

But he has all kinds of difficulties, such as remembering his students names. And much of his childhood is completely lost to him. His explanation of the phenomenon, which he says is quite common, is that a person can be overwrought with unpleasant memories. In the process of forgetting these, we can become more forgetful in many other ways. This seems to explain some of the peculiarities of my mental condition, nowadays and in the past. 

He found a personal way to deal with his disability, and that was to learn more about his childhood from his siblings, and to make peace with it all. 


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