Whats up guys - just made an account to post this. I told myself 4 years ago that I would be doing myself and others a disservice if I ever recovered and DIDNT come back to tell my story and help others. And here I am - as close to completely recovered as I've ever been. I apologize if I ramble on here, just trying to get all my thoughts out.
I was 19 years old, summer going into my sophomore year of college, when my DPDR started. Like many other people, mine was triggered by weed. I was with some buddies late one night after a night of heavy drinking, decided it was a good idea to take 5 bong rips in 30 minutes, next thing I know I'm having an anxiety attack to an extent that I never knew was humanly possible. It was fucking horrible, I wont go into detail but needless to say I woke up the next morning and my world was completely altered - full blown DPDR.
I had absolutely 0 history of anxiety, depression, or any other mental health diagnosis prior to my episode. I was an extremely happy kid who enjoyed life to the fullest. I attended a great college, had a ton of friends, did well in school, the whole 9 yards. So I just want to remind people that this can absolutely happen to anyone at any moment, and is not reserved just for people that have pre existing mental health conditions. So don't feel helpless if you were completely normal before all of this DPDR, also don't feel helpless if you did have pre existing conditions. Anyone and everyone is capable of overcoming this asshole of a disorder.
Symptoms / Feelings
When I tell you that I had every symptom under the sun, I mean it. Blurry vision, loss of memory, disconnect from reality, disconnect from my family/friends, couldn't recognize myself in the mirror, couldn't recognize my own voice, felt absolutely no connection to things/people/thoughts that i previously had emotional ties to, and the list goes on and on and on. I experienced every single last thing that you probably experienced. There were certain symptoms and feelings I had that were so uniquely scary and uneasy that I can't possibly put into words. My mind was in fucking shambles to say that least. There was a point that I was convinced I had weed induced brain tumor that was affecting my thoughts (I laugh at this now). It is honestly weird for me to write down these symptoms right now, being that I feel almost none of it anymore. In a way it is almost difficult to actually remember what I was feeling during the worst days of my DPDR. I do remember that there were stretches of my life (when i say stretches I mean months) where I seriously couldn't go 5 seconds without thinking about my symptoms or without thinking I was going absolutely bat shit fucking crazy. I am here to tell you that these thoughts and symptoms DO fade (i will get into it later). They really do. I remember reading people saying this years ago, and thinking "there is no way, they must have not had it as bad as me, because I do not foresee any of this going away EVER" *kind of, i'll get to this later*. But here I am to tell you, whoever is reading this, that you WILL get through this, you will live again, and this too shall pass.
Living With DPDR
I can write a novel about my life experiences with DPDR, but I will try to keep this brief. I developed DPDR summer of 2016 going into my sophomore year of college. Like many people, I became obsessed with my symptoms and lived on this site and other sites in order to find some sort of closure. I felt like I needed to understand what was going on in my head, and I felt reassured that other people experienced similar things that I did. This is good to an extent for learning purposes, but any more than that is bad. The sooner you press that exit button on your browser and never return to this site ever again, the sooner you heal (i'll get into this later).
Despite suffering from horrible DPDR 24/7, I still managed to go about my daily college life for the next 3 years - sophomore, junior, and senior year, and honestly, I think this is the best thing I ever could've done. Despite feeling like a shell of myself every single god damn day, I still woke up every day and faked the shit out of life. I would go to classes, play sports, do school work, socialize during the day and go out during the night. I'd be lying if I said DPDR didn't affect any of this. Let's be real - I felt downright stupid while i had the worst of my symptoms, and my grades reflected that. I went from a 3.5 GPA freshman year to a 2.7 sophomore. I primarily contribute this to my inability to retain information and have a normal progressing conversation about anything remotely intellectually stimulating in school. NONETHELESS, I took my 2.7 GPA with pride and continued on with my life. And i did this for 2 straight years. I maintained some sort of normalcy in my life regardless of my DPDR, even though my perception on life was all sorts of fucked up from DPDR. Like many people say - fake it till you make it.
It is hard to pinpoint when my symptoms lifted, because every new day felt like the last. It is important to know that recovery IS NOT linear. There are definitely stretches where you go backwards and feel more mentally drained than before. But it is important to recognize that this does not mean you are going backwards on the big picture scale. There will be road bumps, there will be drawbacks, but it is important to keep faith in yourself that every day is one step closer to complete recovery.
I want to note my confidence that deep down in every single one of us, we know we can recover, even when we perpetually tell ourselves that we can't. DPDR is weird, it's like 99% of your brain has been taken over by some foreign entity, but there remains 1% in all of us our old self. The part of us that REMEMBERS that we used to be normal. We don't necessarily remember the feeling of normalcy in the thick of DPDR, because i for sure forgot what normal felt like, but we do internally acknowledge that we once were normal. That in itself is the small glimmer of hope in all of us that recovery is possible, as estranged as it may seem.
What Helped Me, and What May Help You Too
No more weed: For god fucking sake, DO NOT try weed (or whatever substance triggered your symptoms) EVER AGAIN. I made this mistake only a few weeks after my original anxiety attack. And surprise - it only made things worse. Weed is the ONE THING that i never touched since, and will never touch ever again. Why would you go back to the very thing that turned your world upside down? Don't do it.
Alcohol: I will be completely honest - I drank alcohol a lot in college, throughout my DPDR, and even now. I enjoy socializing and alcohol is a big part of that. No, i am not an alcoholic nor will ever be, but I think it is important that you don't develop the idea that you need to avoid everything under the sun that is considered "bad". Alcohol didn't affect my DPDR, if anything it made me happier while drunk. I would socialize more and in some respects feel a little more "normal", if that makes sense. By no means am I telling you to go out and drink your face off every day. You have to make that judgement call. If you can drink responsibly and feel as it it isn't negatively affecting your mental health, have a field day. If you feel that alcohol is continually making your symptoms and thoughts worse, then don't drink - your call. Trust your gut. AGAIN **Do not develop the mindset that you need to eliminate everything in your life that is perceived to be bad in order to recover**
Opening Up: One of my biggest regrets is not opening up about my DPDR to anyone. I lived with DPDR for 1.5 years before opening up to my mom about my disorder. She was obviously super understanding and encouraging, as anyone close to you should be. So go ahead and talk to a loved one or close friend about it. It eliminates some of the lonely feelings deep down.
Try Therapy: My mom found a therapist for me. I only went for 1 month and felt it wasn't necessary, which you may find as well. But don't avoid it forever and never try it. You may find it super helpful, as i've read many people do. Or you may be like me and realize that it just isn't for you. But you wont know this until you give it a whirl. Also - I was never prescribed medicine (SSRI's, etc). I took that el natural route as I have always been afraid to take medicine. This is not to say that medicine cannot help you. Some people try it with worlds of positivity. Others don't. Talk to a professional and see if its right for you.
Stop Thinking About a Cure: There is no "one day" where you will wake up and feel normal again. Throw out the notion that your recovery needs to happen by a certain date. I always told myself "if i'm not better by this day in the future, I will never get better". There is no timetable to this. Recovery is a process that takes time. Stop thinking about the day you think you will recover, and start living for each day.
Let Go: You know by now. You have DPDR and your mind is all sorts of fucked up. So what is the fucking point of dwelling on it. After you're done reading this, exit out and never return to this site again. Stop watching youtube videos about it, stop googling your symptoms, stop trying to find artificial fleeting closure. I'm not saying you will immediately feel better after doing this, but you will look back somewhere down the road and be happy that you stayed off the internet.
Embrace the Feeling: I highly encourage you to not let this disorder stop you from doing things you used to enjoy, and from trying new things. Yes, you won't feel a strong connection with much of anything at first, but please continue to go through the motions. Go grocery shopping, visit family, play some basketball, play video games, go out or hang out with friends, try to find a new hobby (exercising, art, you name it). I assure you that if you fake it for a bit, you will begin to find a sense of enjoyment in these things, albeit very small. Good nonetheless. Do not sulk and lay in bed day in and day out. There is NO mental stimulation there that leads to recovery.
Treat Yourself Well: I saw someone said this on the forum already, but I can't agree enough that it is important to take care of yourself. Eat well, maintain a healthy diet, exercise, shower every day, stay clean. This doesn't mean become obsessive about physical appearance. This just means take care of yourself so you have some sort of personal achievement. In the aggregate, this will help down the road.
My Life Today
Despite living with DPDR for nearly 3 ish years, I have still managed to be what some would consider "successful" in life. I am 1 year out of college (graduated in May 2019). I have a job in finance in a major city making close to 6 figures. I have my own apartment. I have developed new friendships in both my social and work circle. I am absolutely not saying this to brag in any sort, but I am saying this to show you that despite being a shell of myself for almost all of college, I have still managed to come out of this with some positivity and success - AND YOU CAN TOO. Never fucking give up. Never throw in the towel.
Throughout the hell hole of a ride: I laughed, I cried, I felt nothing, I had sex, I got a girlfriend, I got dumped, I made friends, I lost friends, the list goes on.
Despite thinking that your life is fake and purposeless, the reality is that life goes on. Your actions now are as real as they ever will be. Experience it all. Embrace the good and the bad. One day you will look back on things and be amazed at how far you've come. Again, recovery isn't linear. It is super fucking gradual. Go out and live life, as uncomfortable as it may be.
I'd be lying if I said my symptoms were completely gone. Sometimes they return in high stress situations. Sometimes they return randomly out of the blue for no reason. The difference is that i don't dwell on them anymore. I don't panic. I welcome the feelings into my brain, and before i know it they're gone. And this will be you eventually, trust me please.
I could've written 10 times what i just wrote to describe my life with DPDR. I probably missed a lot of what I wanted to say, but I hope I can help someone, even if it's just one person. Take a deep breath, get off the computer, go live your life. Don't feed the internal anxiety that perpetuates this disorder. I am here telling you that you will recover. Read that again. You will recover. Tomorrow is a new day.