It’s Foggy, Isn’t It?

By Bob a lived expert, and Epione Trauma Training Consultant


Hello. I’m a social carer. I support a number of people with a range of needs around mental health and learning disabilities; typically one-on-one support for an hour or two, although there are occasions when it’s two-on-one. There’s also a sleepover shift in our service and I normally do one sleepover a fortnight; occasionally one or more a week when we’re short staffed.

A few years before I became a carer however, I was a fully fledged heroin addict; Liar Steal was my name and Shooting Up was my game. Don’t worry, that’s all behind me now. For all intents and purposes my past is completely in the past… except for the fog. I can’t quite shake the fog.

For the benefit of meteorological enthusiasts, I’m taking about the fog of dissociation. You know, that mind numbing thing that happens when an external force or pressure exceeds your internal and external resources to such an extent that you descend into a deep foggy abyss. That’s the fog I’m talking about, the one that I can’t quite shake.

The thing is, I don’t need to observe the needle on a barometer to know when the fog is on its way. I already know with absolute certainty and foresight when it’s on its way: the fog descends upon me every time I come off a sleepover.

That’s not to say or suggest that my sleepover shifts are traumatic. They’re not. They’re normally pretty good. But there’s definitely something about them that triggers the onset of the fog; in my case, it almost certainly has to do with sleep and the inherent low quality nature. I may well have resolved the trauma that led me to become an addict in the first place, by and large, but it would seem my emotional elasticity has been chronically compromised nonetheless.

So what does all this mean? It means that I know I’m going to be foggy and extremely fatigued after a sleepover and there’s not much I can do about it. Well, not in a hurry at any rate. And not without a large degree of acceptance and compassion.

First, I’ll have a shower to wash off the shift from the outside. Next I’ll put away my things to tidy up my external environment. Then I’ll play some low-tempo music to slowly ease myself back up towards normality: playing really energetic music at this point is pointless because I won’t be able to ‘beat match’ my internal, fragile rhythm with anything too vigorous. After that, I’ll go for a short nap. It doesn’t have to be for any longer than two minutes, just long enough to reboot my brain. Together, this is normally enough for me to make it through the evening with a recognisable level of functionality, with me feeling essentially normal in the morning following a good night’s sleep.

The other thing I do from a self-care perspective is to avoid obligations when I come off a sleepover, or to allow myself the freedom to cancel prearranged obligations. If I really need to hibernate for the rest of the day then I’m reconciled enough to allow myself to do just that.

Of course, connecting with people who love me can be transformative as well. That goes without saying. But when your fiancée lives on the other side of the city and your best friend lives even farther away than that, sometimes that loving connection seems insurmountably distant. Like it’s virtually there, but virtually out of reach when all you can see and all you can feel is the fog.

So that’s my fog. My own personal fog that I just can’t shake. I know when it will come and I know when it will go away. And I know it’s my mind and body’s way of saying something overwhelming just happened and we’re going to numb you out for a bit… but it’ll be okay.

My fog is a symptom of trauma; from a long time ago. And although it still affects me today, it doesn’t define me. Indeed, I am not my trauma. I am simply a foggy human being called Bob.

Interested in identifying, understanding different types of dissociation? Want to be able to apply polyvagal theory to work under defence mechanisms and support people to develop skills to create safety and stability? Please, check out our enhanced trauma training course and look forward to you joining us.


By Bob a lived expert, and Epione Trauma Training Consultant


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