I am a 16 year old male who developed DP/DR seven weeks ago. One of the few things I still like to do in this state is write, so this is me doing that. After living through the last 50 days- each one being a new form of hell, after scavenging the internet for every piece of text that had anything to do with this illusory state of awareness, and after a ton of self reflection... Im full. My brain has been consumed with this new reality for every second of every day. One day I found myself browsing a subreddit of people describing how they were going to commit suicide, and that made me realize something: I am wasting my time. I never would of guessed that I would be scrolling through accounts of people lamenting about their catastrophic mental state during my free time. It is not healthy for a brain to absorb countless anecdotes of people who outline their tragic situations; how can I expect to overcome this if I am doing this day in and day out? This forum has brought me good along with a lot of bad. At the end of the day, I am inhaling and exhaling these forums. Its time to bring some balance back into my life. I chose to write this as a way to let it all out. I simply can't have a genuine emotional breakdown, so this is my next best option. I need to write out every relevant fragment of information about this disorder that has been floating around in my mind. I need to drain my brain of all the cognitive pollution that I have been drowning in for these past seven weeks. While I am doing this mainly for myself, I chose to post it on this forum because maybe at least one sentence in this text might be helpful to someone. The thought of this having a positive affect on some ones state is cool to me. I am going to divide this text into two sections: "GENERAL KNOWLEDGE" and "PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE". In the first section I will outline what I know about this disorder that is applicable in a general sense, and In the second section I will detail my personal experience with this disorder, and what I know about my case. Each section will also contain sub sections. I am not asserting that the information in this text (especially in the "GENERAL KNOWLEDGE" section) Is 100% factual. This is entirely my subjective interpretation of everything. I want this to be my last post, but Im not too sure if I can commit to that. So here goes...
There is a case study of 223 patients with DPDR that I found has been referenced a lot. among other things, I will be using what Ive interpreted from this study as the main basis for my knowledge about this disorder.
We all know that depersonalization as a disorder affects around 1-2% of the population. It may be a lesser known statistic that, according to wikipedia: one third of these cases are episodic, while the rest are chronic. I find it interesting that it is more likely for one to develop the chronic form of the disorder rather than the transient one, considering the former is more severe in a sense.
Another statistic that more or less confuses me is the one that states that 50% of people experience at least one episode of DPDR in their lifetime. I can certainly believe this, but I find it vague. It brings up other questions: what is the average length that these episodes last? What percentage of them experienced more than one episode? What were the main causes for these episodes? How are these episodes different or similar than DPDR as a disorder in regards to their nature and severity? What percentage of them felt distressed by the experience?
Another interesting thing I found in the study is that cases of DPDR that are highly correlated with anxiety seem to be less severe than cases that are less correlated with anxiety. How I made sense of this is that since anxiety can be more or less regulated, than so can the DPDR if its highly correlated with the anxiety, making it more manageable. In contrast, DPDR as a primary issue is more immutable, thus attempting to relieve stress and anxiety have little affect, making it more constant and unrelenting. Also, more severe cases of DPDR aren't as correlated with anxiety perhaps only because the sufferer is more likely to have been emotionally numbed because of the disorder, making anxiety less of a problem. Their is also an 85% co-morbidity rate with depression in the study, which is ridiculously high.
Weed or any drug consumption is a very common precipitant of DPDR. I always had the slight suspicion that weed, or psychedelic induced DPDR is generally more mild than any other forms. I though this because on the recovery section of this site it seems that EVERYBODY got it from weed, or MDMA, or ecstacy or whatever. But their doesn't seem to be any evidence to support this. So to anyone reading this, if you are scared you wont recover because your case wasn't drug induced, I wouldn't worry.
Overall, they found that the vast majority of the patients suffering from DPDR are highly debilitated, and they all have psychiatric and/or pharmaceutical mental treatment. They even found that compared to people with depression, the lives of DPDR sufferers were affected more. It seems apparent that DPDR is on the more severe end of mental disorders.
This may all seem very negative. But their are problems with this study, that the study itself acknowledges. First of all, the sample size is relatively small in my opinion. Second of all, the study states that their is a problematic selection bias with the study. The way in which they found the patients pretty much guaranteed that they would only find people that were particularly distressed or suffering from their situation. If I remember correctly, they went to specific depersonalization clinical institutions to find most of the patients. So of course people who are extremely crippled by their illness are going to be found at these institutions. In conclusion, it is very likely that chronic DPDR may actually be a very livable disorder for a greater portion of people than the study indicates. Ive read countless accounts of people saying that their symptoms really haven't changed to their knowledge since the onset, but they aren't bothered by it at all. In conclusion, we really don't know how much the average person with DPDR is affected by their disorder, but is is certainly one that can be overcome.
Depersonalization as a mere state of mind
I've started to notice there are different "genres" of ways people interpret depersonalization. I found there's a sort of pop culture interpretation of this disorder as it not being a disorder at all. It's DPDR viewed as a permanent "fight or flight" response. I think of sites like DPManual and people like Jordan Hardgrave when I refer to this pop culture view of this disorder. In summary, this is how it is interpreted through this lense:
DPDR is a natural cognitive response. It is a method for the brain to protect itself from trauma- be it anxiety, stress, abuse, negative emotion, etc. The main reason why it has now become long lasting is because one is stuck in a cycle of anxiety, hyperawareness, and depersonalization. You fear and obsess over your depersonalization, this in turn makes you depersonalize more, and so on. In this way, you are not experiencing a mental disorder. Rather, you are caught up in an extremely unhealthy mental state that only you can break out of. The way out of this cycle is to calm your mind and your body. Body relaxation, mindfulness, acceptance, exercise, and any way of relieving the underlying anxiety is key to a long term cure.
I have almost nothing against this view of DPDR. From a scientific standpoint, DPDR functioning as a way to transcend and manage intolerable trauma definitely has veracity. I think anxiety is definitely the main cause for many DPDR cases. I think the aforementioned remedies can work tremendously for virtually any case of DPDR. I think people like Jordan Hardgrave have great advice, and he has helped many people. However, I think this interpretation is too reductive. I dont believe that the underlying cause for every ones condition is always mere anxiety. I also believe, that while intense anxiety and stress may be the cause of the onset of DPDR. . . trying to relieve this anxiety and stress may not reverse it. Sometimes the development of DPDR may be the product of an extremely complex accumulation of negative emotion and experience over a long period of time, and thus it can't be simply uplifted by simple body relaxation exercises. Im sure if this was the case for everyone, there wouldn't be people that suffer from this disorder for upwards of decades unless they literally wanted to. And in the most unfortunate of cases, there may be no external cause for DPDR- it is entirely neurological, thus it is completely resistant to any cognitive or bodily treatment, (but this doesn't mean it can't be overcome, and pharmaceutical ailments may help). In conclusion, the way to cure ones DPDR may vary dramatically. It may take more work for some than others, or may take no work at all. For some it takes deep emotional processing, for others it takes cognitive behaviourial therapy, or maybe anti anxiety medication, or it may not be curable at all.
At the end of the day, I think everyone, regardless of whether they have a mental disorder, should incorporate the aforementioned habits into their lives. While it may not treat it, it does nothing but good for ones life if they choose to start meditation, exercise, a proper diet, and so on.
Depersonalization from a scientific perspective
This sub section is to provide contrast to the last, as I feel they are in some sense contradictory.
This is the domain in which DPDR is seen as a primary mental illness. Chronic DPDR, for all intents and purposes is a permanent malfunction in the brain. While DPDR may be deemed anxiety related, from a psychiatric standpoint primary DPDR is when it is an isolated disorder; it is not maintained by anything else, it is the main issue, and can only be treated directly. If it is not better explained by another mental disorder (eg. Panic Disorder, Epilepsy, Schizophrenia, Alzhiemers, major depressive disorder, which all may cause dissociative symptoms) or anything physical (Thyroids, Lyme disease, Gut problem, etc.) one is not diagnosed with primary DPDR but rather the other issue at hand. It is believed that DPDR can be treated with therapy, but not necessarily cured. Their are also no approved medications for DPDR. It is believed that DPDR can be purely a neurological issue, and can develop with no precipitant.
Overall, the scientific interpretation of this disorder describes it as a more bleak, and un treatable situation. All I can say about this interpretation of the disorder is that it is massively understudied; we simply don't know enough about this condition from a scientific standpoint. For me, examining countless anecdotes of DPDR gave me greater insight to the condition. There are in fact numerous medications that have helped DPDR and even removed it completely. And there are an unprecedented amount of cases in which people have fully recovered from chronic DPDR, even after having it for decades. It seems to me that the "cure" to DPDR is a unique antidote that lies within everyone. These facts seem to somewhat defy the scientific perspective of DPDR.
Depersonalization as a degenerative disorder
This is a topic that has utterly perplexed me these past few weeks. It is very germane to me as my case of DPDR has only been getting progressively worse these past seven weeks, which worries me. I have read a quite a few cases of DPDR where they describe the condition as getting continuously worse over years. For some of these cases, I merely attribute the cause to stress and depression that is generally garnered as one ages. If you get DPDR at 16, of course it is going to have a bigger affect on you when you get into university, getting a job, moving out, etc. thus the DPDR may get worse or it may simply become more apparent overtime. Other cases they describe starting to have mild symptoms of DPDR at a very early age, sometimes prepubescent. Overtime, it has only been getting more and more noticeable for them. To me I think this is merely a consequence of brain development. As your brain grows it complexifies, thus allowing for more intricate and more severe dissociation. For other cases however, I am truly baffled.
Statistically, it is inevitable that extremely anomalous cases exist, but this doesn't negate how bizarre they are. To my knowledge, typical neuro degeneration can be detected with various brain scans, as well as any neurological pathology. It is not news to me that our brains can begin a cognitive decline, and when this happens at a younger age nothing can really be said except it is unfortunate; sometimes our bodies fail us. But pretty much every time these cases can be detected by brain scans. Cases like alzheimers or dementia are caused by an accumulation of plaques within the brain. To my knowledge, it seems that most or all neuro degenerative disorders contain a physical element to them; a physical deterioration of the brain. Also, they pretty much all involve a loss of motor control. So when I discover cases where the only symptom is an ever increasing DPDR, and brain scans have detected nothing, I am astonished that these cases exist. I reasonably assume that there is no cognitive thought process, or anxiety, that could cause a degeneration of the consciousness. What I concluded from these unfortunate situations is that there must be a way for the brains "software" to deteriorate without a physical determinant. The inner machinations of the conscious entity that exists within the brain are capable of degenerating without any physical atrophy. Of course, at least according to science, the conscience is inextricably linked to the physical neurons of the brain. So what I mean precisely is that the neurons in the brain aren't physically devolving or losing functionality, rather it is the "code" that is created by the circuitry of the neurons that is being manipulated in such a way that is degenerating the conscious experience. It is useful to look at this from a psychological perspective; in these cases, it is apparent that their is a deterioration of the "self" that exist within the consciousness. Or maybe within the Freudian framework, their is a continuous decrease in the presence of the "ego". This is what accounts for depersonalization, as for derealization, they are heavily linked so maybe it causes it too. I recently have wondered if their is a difference in DPDR in typical cases and in degenerative cases. As elaborated above, the experience of depersonalization in degenerative cases is a result of a continuous reduction of the "self", while in a typical case, it is experienced as a mere detachment from the "self". Whether or not these two causes of depersonalization feel any different, or even exist for that matter, I wouldn't know. One severe degenerative case I read describes their "self" as being nonexistent, they are in a sense; dead. I wanna say It is almost analogous to the sunken place in the movie "get out". They experience the world purely intellectually, there is no somatic, emotional, or conscious experience. Once again, I am bewildered at how the brain can do this. So, is this merely hyper severe detachment from the self, or does the self no longer exist within this persons mind?
Of course, these cases seem to be extremely rare. If this worries anyone reading this, I wouldn't be stressed. As far as I've looked -albeit very little- there is NO research on how DPDR can be experienced as a degenerative condition. Perhaps there could be a multitude of other reasons that may be the cause for these cases. Long term use of pharmaceutical drugs may be the cause for some of these cases, but even still it is hard to believe.
My thoughts on recovery are parallel with how hopeless I am feeling in that moment. But in general, I genuinely believe recovery is possible for most people. I say most, because there have been people who have had this for decades. It would be ignorant of me to say they simply haven't tried hard enough to recover. However, I do believe virtually EVERYONE can overcome this disorder, what I mean by that is you can be in a state where it no longer bothers you. As I've said, the process and the way in which one recovers will be different for everyone. Ive deduced two overarching themes within the "pop culture" method to recovery, and the psychological path to overcoming or possibly recovering from the disorder.
The theme of the former method is simply to ensure your brain that you are safe. It means to eradicate any deep rooted stress, anxiety, trauma, and so on from the conscience. Mindfulness, meditation, muscle relaxation, exercise, good sleep, good diet, and a well balanced life are the ways to cure it.
In the psychological perspective, their is a lot of overlap in the idea of leading a balanced life. But it is in the name of acceptance. It is to accept that you have the disorder, and to continue to live your life according to what is actually meaningful for you. You are living a well balanced life for the sake of a well balanced life; not for the sake to cure the illness. Overtime, one will begin to forget about their disorder and live a normal life. In some cases, the symptoms are as good as gone.
This disorder that has shattered my soul has necessitated a lot of self inquiry. The underlying cause for why this disorder came into my life might be a very deep answer, or It could be a very simple explanation. All I know is that things happen for a reason. The events that have led up to my ruptured perception of reality make it seem almost inevitable- despite it still being absolutely unbelievable.
I have always been the highly analytical and hyper sensitive type for as long as I can remember. This has been a blessing and also a curse. I have always strived to view anything in my life as logically and pragmatically as possible. I think I've learned now that it is more than a simple proclivity to be a logical thinker; It's also a defense mechanism. Because I am highly sensitive, I experience life on a deeper level. Sometimes I feel this intricate experience is almost contrived in my mind out of nothing. I sort of manifest things that actually don't exist, and have an emotional response to it. This hyper sensitivity has made me sort of a pacifist and a push over- conflict is too overwhelming for me. All emotions- positive or negative- tend to be too overwhelming to me. It is only recently in this past year or so that I've learned to appreciate the beauty and intimacy of these emotions. The medium of film has allowed me to explore the fruits of emotion to a depth I never really have before. Before that though, my inability to manage these emotions has lead me to instead over analyze them on an intellectual level. If I was having a bad day, I wouldn't go home and cry, or lay in my bed and feel like shit. Instead I would pace back and forth in my room for hours, ruminating about the nature of every single detail of the day. More often than not, It would segue into a contemplation of existence itself.
I have experienced super brief episodes of DPDR since I was seven years old. I feel that my hypersensitivity is the reason why. It was never anxiety related, rather they would happen during moments where I was hyper stimulated or overwhelmed. Although I do think that considering it started out as highly recurrent episodes but slowly got less frequent overtime; the anxiety about having the episodes themselves may have influenced how common they were, but as my anxiety about it pretty much disappeared overtime, they would occur increasingly infrequently. I would experience them A LOT during vacation, which makes sense. When you travel you are in a completely new environment, and you are usually doing new or highly stimulating activities, on top of that we always go to places with hot climates, which contributes to the brain fog. They also seemed to get more frequent over the winter. The first few months after my first episode I experienced them every few days and they would only last a couple minutes. The first few years I would experience them maybe once a month, and vacations were still very scary during this time as they would happen a lot during them. As I matured, I learned to view these episodes in a non threatening way. My absence of fear about these sensations definitely contributed to their growing infrequency. Eventually, they would happen every several months and I could have entire vacations without experiencing an episode. I developed a strong sense of calmness when these episodes occur that I could almost allow myself to become enthralled in them. I actually began to find the sensations fascinating, I almost felt like I transcended my consciousness, my underlying certainty that the episodes were temporary definitely allowed me to have such a high level of acceptance towards them. Of course, If I ever recover from this and have an episode later in my life, I'm not sure I can have that same certainty. Im not sure if this is considered strange, but there was not one episode I had where I can actually say when it ended. The sensations would never acutely cease, rather they seemed to go away subconsciously. It's almost like how you can never know the exact moment that you started to dream in your sleep. I found that I would have to immerse myself in something for the episode to pass. sometimes It was as simple as going on my phone, or talking to someone. Other times, when the episode would last upwards of half an hour, I would have to leave the environment that was causing it. I remember the lights in grocery stores would always trigger long lasting episodes that wouldn't end until I left, as well as big social gatherings.
Four episodes stick out in my mind, I feel they give a good indicator of what generally would cause them.
The first episode I ever experienced was actually a lot different than any other ones I've had. It started out in my mind before it actually manifested around me, normally the episode would sort of hit me out of nowhere; there didn't need to be any preceding thoughts that accompanied its onset. It happened when I was seven, and I just got home from my trip to Hawaii. I was in my room, reflecting on the vacation. I recalled when we went whale watching and saw a blue whale jump out of the water. Suddenly I thought to myself, "that didn't even seem real" eventually, it DIDN'T seem real. The memory suddenly felt disconnected from me, almost as if it was a dream. Then, the entire vacation seemed like it didn't actually happen as I tried to recall it. I vividly remember crying out loud, saying to myself, "But I was there, we were on a boat, we were on a boat watching the whales!" Suddenly, I felt a brief sensation that the room around me wasn't real, this lasted a split second, and that was it. This freaked me the hell out, I think I might've slept in my parents room that night.
This next episode also happened when I was younger, I was maybe 11-12. We were at a mall on our trip to Victoria Island in British Columbia. Me and my siblings came across this life-sized chess board that was just outside the mall. As we were messing around with it, boom, I was hit with a wave of DPDR. It was as if something as minute as a life sized chess board was so strange to me that my brain had to detach from the experience. I immediately dropped the giant king piece and ran to my parents and explained what was happening, I have no idea how I described it to them. They said I must've had low blood sugar, and they took me inside a restaurant to eat and drink something. As I was sipping on a glass of root beer, somewhere during the conversation I was having with my parents it subsided. I feel this is a pretty good example of what tended to happen on vacation. I would be doing something, and then randomly I would abruptly feel the DPDR.
This episode happened when I was 15. Hockey was a big thing in my life until I quit two years ago. It became an even bigger priority as I started to play high level. nearing the end of my last season, we were playing a game against the first place team in our division. This game was extremely important, it would be a big factor in determining where we would end up on the standings before the playoffs. Like everyone else in the league, I was obsessed with my stats. Seeing as though it would likely be my last season, I wanted to score as many points as possible. I only had a few games left, so needless to say, there was a lot of pressure that revolved around this game. It was the second period, still tied 0-0, but they were massively outplaying us. One of our teammates got a four minute major penalty, so it was a four on five. My coach put me out as I was on the penalty kill line, there was a lot riding on this shift, we needed to kill this penalty and regain some offensive control. As they were putting some shots up in our end, one of the defenseman fucked up and lost control of the puck, I got a lucky break. I took the puck and rushed down the ice, maneuvering it between the opposing players. I was nearing the net, skating toe to toe with the defenseman. In one swift move, I shifted the puck to my backhand and shoveled it towards the net. I have to brag, it was a beautiful goal. As soon as I saw the puck tug on the mesh in the back of the net, I was immediately hit with those familiar feelings of unreality. It actually fascinates me how instantaneously it can happen. I almost think I was sent into DPDR before I even consciously processed that I scored. I suddenly felt like I was hovering, and as my teammates trampled me in celebration, it felt like my nerves were numbed with anaesthetic. I went back to the bench and waited for my next shift, and sometime during that it subsided. I know I must've had a great experience when my brain has to detach from something because its so overwhelmingly positive its surreal. It's like I cannot process the fact that an extremely gratifying event had happened to me. I almost began to crave the detachment that I would get whenever something desirable occurred. It was like an indicator that I experienced something great. The sensation was almost like some kind of a high.
The last episode that I want to discuss actually happened the first time I got drunk, it's the most recent episode that I remember. This took place on new years last year. Two of my friends and I got invited to a new years party. They came over to my house a couple hours before so we could do some pre drinking. It wasn't anything too heavy, but we wanted to be a little loose before we showed up. None of us had ever drank before - we were lightweights. We each had a glass of two shots of vodka mixed with ginger ale. This was enough for us to start feeling a little dizzy and frivolous. Shortly after we showed up, we started to consume more alcohol as we hung out. I must've been on my fourth can of a vodka-soda when I started to feel strange. This was the first episode I had where the sensations of DPDR were gradual. Coupled with the dizziness, I started to notice that the sounds of the music and the people talking felt more "flat". I started to really notice the cacophony that was being percussed by the party. I couldn’t focus on one voice, or the music, every sound was coming at me at once. Then the visual distortion came in, and it was fully manifested DPDR. For some reason, this episode particularly distressed me. I don't remember it being more severe than the ones I experienced it before. Perhaps the fact that I was super dizzy, and the underlying knowledge that this wasn’t an organic onset but rather triggered by a substance, maybe that fact scared me. I don't really remember. It lasted for around an hour, but it gradually decreased in severity over that time. I felt fine within two hours, and I was nearly sober at that point. This episode further illustrates how prone I am to experiencing DPDR. I didn’t even drink that much, yet it was enough to cause dissociation. Ive still drank quite a bit since then. I don’t really know if I stopped experiencing symptoms of DPDR the other times I got drunk, or If I just learned to get used to them. I wonder what would happen If I decided to drink now...
Events leading up to my 24/7 DPDR
The coronavirus is what kicked it all off. After first hearing about a new virus that has infected a couple hundred people in China, I thought nothing about it. But before I knew it, I was taken out of school, prohibited by the government to be in close proximity of anyone besides my family, and could not step foot in public without having medical grade mask strapped behind my ears. When I heard a government official announce that all schools in the province are going to be cancelled for the rest of the year. . .I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that my life was actually being affected by a virus that originated in China. It occured to me then that I am going to experience what will later be taught in history textbooks. I immediately called up my friend to rant to him about the news I had just learned. Me and him both shared the same anger and confusion about this whole ordeal. This was the school year where things were finally starting to look up for me in my life. I could say I was the happiest I've ever been since I first began my teenage years. I was experiencing things, I was opening up to my emotions, I was making new friends, I got a lot closer to my family, I actually could look forward to attending school. It was so unfair. This anger and resentment set the tone for the rest of the isolation and the summer.
This five month isolation gave me a lot of time to be stuck with my own thoughts. I went through one of the biggest intrapersonal changes of my life during this time, just from pure reflection and being stuck with myself. I began to consume a lot of philosophy, which sent me through waves of nihilism and existential dread, more on that later. I also began to really fall in love with the medium of film over this time. There was a period where I was watching 1-2 movies a day. Over this time though, my intellectual endeavours went from an innocent sense of curiosity and a yearning to learn about the world to a deep, dark introspection about the seemingly nihilistic and tragic nature of existence, and eventually about the nature of my life. I could actually induce mild feelings of detachment just from reading about philosophy. I really loved the topic, but the sensation of detachment and the existentialism was so overwhelming to me I actually had to take week long breaks until my mind settled down. I remember having to mentally prepare myself each time I decided to read up on philosophical literature. Eventually, this sense of nihilism and existential dread manifested personally. I began to believe I fucked my life up. I realized that all my past decisions have lead me to some sort of deadend to which I couldn’t merely turn around. I thought it was engrained within the nature of who I was that I would be left permanently unsatisfied with my life. I started to feel like I lost control over my future. I thought I was destined to live a shitty, lonely, unfulfilling life. I have my reasons for thinking this way, reasons that I don't want to get into, it would take thousands of pages to outline. In the end, It was a very dangerous and catastrophic way of thinking, and I didn’t truly understand that until now.
These thoughts started to become so real to me, I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever they popped in my mind. This sickness turned into dread. Overtime this dread consumed more and more of my day, until I fell into a full blown depression. I never truly realized what depression was until I finally experienced it. It isn’t severe sadness, it is an unrelenting loathing for existence, you become so consumed by this dread that you are certain there is no way out of feeling this way. Suddenly everything in your life loses meaning, the future now seems like a burden, nothing in the present brings you any pleasure, it is horrible. This feeling made me feel trapped. It was like I was stuck in a cage of feeling shitty, and I had no way out. This feeling felt so real I was convinced I couldn’t just stop feeling this way. That idea scared the hell out of me. This lead me to experience the first panic attack of my life. This only made me even more afraid. It was time for me to talk to someone about this. I thought I would find comfort in confiding to my mom. But the sheer fact of me verbally admitting I was fucked up only further solidified the fear of my mental state. This sent me into another panic attack, now it was accompanied by my good old friend; DPDR. Coupled with intense feelings of anxiety and impending doom, the person sitting across from me was no longer my mom. Suddenly she was this strange monster who was merely projecting herself as my mother. I suddenly felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I looked at my hands and I suddenly was no longer connected to my body. I felt like a scared soul trapped inside this human suit that wasn’t mine. I was sure the only way out of this feeling was to die. My hands are getting clammy as I write this. This hellish experience soon subsided, unbeknownst to me at the time it would come visit me later. A week of suicidal thoughts and heightened anxiety later, I began to feel better. I started to regain genuine motivation to do things. Unfortunately, the fight wasn’t over. I started to notice the DPDR slowly creep in my awareness, this was only the beginning.
I always say that my DPDR was triggered by a massive panic attack in the midst of a depressive episode accompanied by a shit ton of anxiety. But now I feel like I was looking at it the wrong way. I understand now that my DPDR was caused by an accumulation of resentment, nihilism, hopelessness, and fear. What accompanied that was a highly sensitive and analytical mind, along with an extreme predisposition to experience DPDR. It all adds up. At this time, I don’t what this all means. I don’t know what this knowledge grants me. Does this mean I have to involve myself in a lot of emotional processing, acceptance, and introspection to overcome my DPDR? Or is it already passed that point? Who knows.
The Progression of my Symptoms
My symptoms started out mild but progressed to what I now think are pretty severe. In the beginning stages, they were:
A slight haze
Felt a slight disconnection when I looked at and moved my limbs
People I knew had an odd sense of unfamiliarity, but they still definitely felt real, and I could still feel an emotional connection towards them
Felt a slight disconnection when looking at my reflection
No major affect on my emotions
Now, my symptoms are as follows:
Extreme 2D vision
My surroundings look like a mirage; as if it doesn’t actually take up space and is merely a projection of light or a hologram
Very little tactile and visual connection to my body
Sounds feel “flat”
Smell random odors
Vision sometimes gets blurry
Eyes strain easily
Slight visual distortions; objects look they are moving when they aren’t
occasionallyI feel like I am shorter than I really am
Can’t tolerate bright lights or loud noise
I don't actually feel like I am moving in space when I am; Feel like im walking on a treadmill.
Sometimes sounds seem to emanate from a different place then its actual source
The present moment feels extremely disconnected from the past, even moments that happened five seconds ago
The past feels like it didn’t happen
Extremely fucked sense of time
Severe memory and concentration problems
Feel like my thoughts aren’t my own
Feel like im in a dream
Can’t associate with my personality; my desires, interests, quirks, etc.
Feel disturbingly disconnected from friends and family
Feel like my memories aren’t mine
Extremely uncomfortable disconnection from myself. I literally cannot fathom that I am me and I have always been me my whole life, It is so bizarre and scary.
Can’t associate with the idea of being a human being
Feel like I am a spaceless timeless entity that inhabits a physical body
I look at my reflection and it doesn’t look like a reflection at all; rather I am looking at some random person through a window
Higher pain tolerance (at least I have one positive)
My entire life is unfamiliar to me. I feel like my consciousness was born one second ago inside of a random persons body and the memories of the past have been implanted in my brain.
Feel like my head is wrapped in bubble wrap
Making facial expressions, or laughing, doesn't seem to give me a “release” of the emotion because I am disconnected from my own face.
Somehow, Ive managed to stay somewhat emotionally healthy in this state (to the degree that one possibly can) in the sense that I can still express a wide variety of emotions.
Fear that I am going insane
Fear that I am going to metaphysically die. (my consciousness will be reduced to nothing)
Needless to say, these symptoms have been extremely debilitating to me. I have become desensitized to the constant fear that I have been living in that it rarely seems to manifest as an actual sensation of anxiety. Nowadays, the only way I still know that this whole thing scares me is through the fact that I am constantly ruminating about it, and having catastrophic thoughts such as the possibility that I have a degenerative disorder. It’s kind of hard to say if I even feel depressed, all I know is, it is uncomfortable and confusing as fuck.
Would you rather DP or DR?
I read a poll discussing the topic. There was practically a consensus; people would rather have DP than DR. I don’t fall into this majority. I would much rather have a sense of agency over myself, even if that means I am traversing through a world that looks fake. Being able to associate with my desires and my identity would give me a greater ability to experience emotions, even in the midst of a dream like reality. Not experiencing DP would give me leverage to ground myself. If I feel connected to my body, I can use grounding techniques that aid my DR as well. Doing muscle relaxation and meditation is far too scary for me. It forces me to sit and be fully aware of this unfamiliar person that my awareness inhabits. If I didn’t have DP, I sure as hell would be doing that every day.
People also say that they experience DP as a manifestation of their DR. I think my case is the opposite. I think the reason I feel disconnected from my friends and family is because I don't feel connected to myself. Thus, my parents don’t seem like my parents because I no longer associate with the son that they take care of. That being said, I still definitely experience symptoms of DR that are not connected with my DP.
My final thoughts about this hell of a mental disorder
Adversity is a big part of life. I have come to realize that a crucial role parents play in nurturing the growth of their children is to impose forms of adversity on them. The rules that parents impose on their kids are normally stupid and arbitrary, but the mere existence of the rules themselves is imperative to teaching the child about the limitations of life and their existence. In some sense, their should be a healthy conflict that persists between the child and the parent. This conflict can allow the child to garner the tools of dealing with limitations and adversity. Maybe your parents have strong convictions of what career they want you to pursue, but you desire something different. You finally got a chance to hangout with that girl you really like this weekend, but your mom won’t let you go. You planned for your Sunday to consist of relaxation and doing nothing, but your dad says you have to spend half the day picking weeds, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, cleaning out the garage, cleaning your room, vacuuming the basement, and dusting. It is the little conflicts like these that I feel build a sense of resilience to inconveniences and restrictions that occur in ones life. It is the first step to being able to deal with the real adversity that life has to offer. I have barely been struck with any real life challenges or responsibility. I have been spoon fed my entire life. My mom has too good of a heart to discipline me, I make sure not to abuse that. My dad can come off as intimidating, but he rarely follows through with any form of punishment. My parents have never pushed me into doing anything uncomfortable. I don’t do a lot of chores. Im growing up in a financially well off household. I have two loving parents, with two siblings that I get along with well. My social life isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t catastrophic. Im naturally gifted- I do fuck all in school, nor do I pay the slightest bit of attention but I still get pretty exceptional grades. That being said, my natural love for knowledge does rarely play a role in school assignments. I have hobbies and interests that I tend to regularly. Life isn’t too damn bad.
These past few years I began to realize that my life has been a cakewalk. I know that frankly, everyone's teenage years are pretty easy compared to their adult life, but I feel like mine has been especially so. I frequently think about the quote, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.” I didn’t want to be weak. I almost began to desire some form of adversity. I wanted a challenge that I could overcome. I wanted something. I wanted to experience life at its hardest.
Well, It seems that I got what I asked for. These past eight weeks have been the most horrible, torturous, frightening, and intolerable experience of my entire life. But this isn’t the kind of adversity I wanted. But part of adversity itself is that you certainly can’t choose what difficulty you want to deal with. Adversity doesn’t knock; it barges right through the door with a gun pressing against your forehead. After my mind has been haunted with the fear that this is a degenerative disorder, I am now praying that this is merely adversity, and not my fate.
So how could this have happened to me? How has a seemingly decent and safe life facilitated the shambles that my mind is now in? I have realized that I have been fighting against adversity my entire life. My battle isn’t me vs the world: It is me vs me. I have been fighting against my mind my entire life. It can be summed up by the quote, “man suffers more in imagination than in reality.” The dissatisfaction, fear, resentment, hyper sensitivity, helplessness, second guessing, over thinking, and all the inner turmoil that has been brewing inside my mind has caused me to fall into this catastrophic mental state. It is my brains way of saving me from myself. It is time for me to escape my mind. I need to live and not think. I need to completely unlearn all the negative and hopeless thought patterns that consume my mind. I need to be free.
I find myself missing my old life like it was some good dream that I cant return to. I feel like I am stuck in some sort of vivarium. My old life eludes me more and more each day. I miss being able to appreciate the sunset, I miss being able to shed tears to music, I miss being able to look at my reflection and feel connected to it, I miss being able to talk to my best friend without questioning if he even exists. I miss reality.
Suffering is an indicator of the human condition. We are all suffering from this illness. That is proof that we still exist, and their is a part of us that is crying for normalcy. We must hold on to this small component of our spirit. The part of us that is suffering, the part of us that is desperate to return to reality; is the part of us that ensures we are still alive. So long as we don’t lose that, the idea of overcoming this illness can become a reality. I feel that everyone that suffers from DPDR are similar in a way. All of our brains feel overwhelmed by life. We have gentle spirits, that are sensitive to the events that happen to us, big or small. We are now even more unified by this illness. We can all strive to overcome this, together.