Distant Reader
June 2, 2012 1:02 PM   Subscribe

What are some techniques that I can use to become more of an active reader despite my dissociation?

I was diagnosed with dissociation, depersonalization and derealization earlier this year. My head has felt hollow for quite a few years now. But, sitting in silence or reading nearly anything makes me feel even more distant, agitated, and makes me feel like my mind is very hollow. While I tend to feel quite distant from myself generally, I don't feel as distant as I used to except for when reading or sitting in silence. And, when I read it doesn't feel like any of the words are registering. It barely even feels like I'm seeing the words. I struggle with remembering anything after the moment has happened too. It's very frustrating when I'm trying to study for an exam. I'm going to mention this to my psychiatrist when I see him this week.

But, in the mean time, I'd like to know of techniques that I can use to become more of an active reader despite my dissociation.
posted by livinglearning to Education (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I have a hard time focusing on what I'm reading (or retaining information from what I've read) I do a few things:

1) I read it out loud, either to myself or to someone else
2) I write my notes as I'm reading it - what are the main points? What do I need to remember?
3) I skim a chunk of it, then I go back and I highlight or underline the key parts

Basically to get past the distant, dissociated, hollow feeling - the silence - I have to interact with what I read to retain it. Interacting means I'm repeating what I read rather than sort of just running it through my brain (in one side and out the other without grabbing on to any of it) and it means I'm focused on scanning for the important bits.

I find typing my notes is sometimes easier than writing them out because then I've put what I've read through my own filter and I can sit back and sort of pick at it and edit it, re-read the little bits I've written down and see where the obvious questions & holes are so I can do another quick look-over of the material and round out my notes. The re-checks mean I'm repeating it to myself a few times and then I'll remember it better.

You could also try reading out your material or your notes & recording it, then listening to that while you do something else mindless - scrubbing the floor, doing the dishes, riding an exercycle or walking on a treadmill, throw it on an mp3 player and go take a slow walk - to get past the "sitting in silence" part of it. Maybe right now it's easier for you to process audio words better than visual words, and to incorporate some physical movement to get past the still, hollow feeling.

And as always, you could find a study partner to work with; sometimes nothing works better for me than to have someone to quiz me or to bounce the information off of, and repeat it to each other, and do drills, flash cards, and so on.
posted by flex at 1:24 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're already working with a therapist. Stick with that. "In the mean time" does not necessarily bode well for your treatment plan. You've already crossed the biggest hurdle, and that's getting treatment. The temptation is to hurry it along, or to 'help it'. This is not usually a successful plan. That and the last thing you want to do is set up a conflict between what your therapist is planning and what you get from J.Random.Whomever off the Internet.

My advice, stick with getting this hashed out through your face-to-face meetings with the therapist.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:52 PM on June 2, 2012

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