My neurologist had finally figured out what was wrong with me. I started reading up on functional neurological disorder (FND), also known as dissociative disorder. Over the years, I had become so disconnected from myself that my body was no longer willing to participate in the charade that I had mastered. It was fighting me, forcing me to start taking a serious look at who I was and who I wanted to become.
My treatment was going to be multipronged. I had a neuropsychiatrist, a neuropsychologist and a neuro physiotherapist. The first step was understanding my condition and what had led to it. My family and I attended a course, and as the presentation went on, I was ticking off every symptom in my head. I felt vindicated, validated that what I was experiencing was not just in my head. It was real. Dissociative disorders are so complex, and I’m not going to attempt to explain the differences. I can only talk about my own experience. Dissociative orders are usually triggered by a very traumatic event that results in your body shutting down to protect/prevent your mind from dealing with your trauma. In my case, it had been years of sadness, and the main trigger was my cancer. The symptoms presented in different ways.
One day I would wake up and not be able to walk. I would be paralyzed from the waist down. Other times I wouldn’t be able to talk. The words would be in my head, but I was unable to articulate them. There was a time where I couldn’t write anymore. That lasted for about a month or two. I was so terrified. I remember an incident where I was at the police station and had to do an affidavit. My hands were weak. I couldn’t hold the pen. I remember the policeman who was assisting me looking at me with suspicion. I was so embarrassed. Other times I’d be talking, and then mid-conversation, my throat would just close up, and no sound would come out. I would also have memory gaps. To this day, there are things I don’t remember happening, even though my husband assured me that they did indeed occur. I became antisocial. The prospect of meeting up with my friends or family or even just going out in public became so daunting for me. I didn’t want to leave my house.
Part of my treatment was for me to develop a routine. Leave the house, even if it meant just taking a short walk around the complex we were living in at the time. Lucky for me, it had beautiful gardens, where I could just go out and enjoy the trees and flowers. The next part was to go for therapy and start talking about my feelings again. This was a lot harder than I had anticipated, but with each passing week, it became easier. I could finally see the light. I was starting to envision what going back to work would look like for me. The possibility of work was there again in whatever form it took. Healing was far from over, and I don’t think we completely heal as human beings. We just learn to accept and live with what we’ve been through. Achieving greatness seemed possible again. Social settings were no longer so uncomfortable for me. My blackouts were under control, and I was able to identify the triggers and thus react accordingly. I managed to spend more time with my friends and travel on my own without worrying about blacking out for the first time in years. I was present in my daughter’s life and provided her with the emotional support she needed to deal with the trauma of having her mother sick all the time. The entire family was in therapy and working through our pain and loss. The future looked promising. What happened next was something that no one was prepared for. No one saw this coming.