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how i recovered 100% - ymmv

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#1 myrecoverystory



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Posted 02 January 2021 - 06:45 PM

Hi all,


I remember coming to these boards every day when I had chronic DPDR (age 17-23) following a bad mushroom trip. On that trip I imagined that I would be reincarnated in the same life infinity times and, needless to say, freaked out a lot. When I was coming down, I noticed a detachment from my body and especially the external surroundings, as if things were a bit more 2D, like I was living in a glass, like I could hardly recognize my own hands. I posted on here once before many years ago under the username oyster, but figured that that post has collected a ton of dust by now. I'm reposting to inspire hope once more and because I've learned a lot about DPDR since that initial post. I remember reading these boards and seeing people mention how those who recovered won't ever come back here, they'll be out living their lives-- so I just wanted to not do that. Here's my story, and I apologize if it's disorganized-- there are so many details so I'm just going to be spitting out what I think was the most important to my recovery.


When I was 17 I began experimenting with drugs. I had taken marijuana and ecstasy and decided that I'd like to try mushrooms. I had the bad trip mentioned above and came down feeling that things were entirely unreal. I grew panicked upon realizing that it wasn't going away, and once I found out what this phenomenon was called, found these boards and began reading. This severe dpdr persisted for about 5 years, until I began working with a trauma psychologist who specialized in treating dissociation (and even then it took about a year of treatment for it to begin abating). I found her on the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). When we met, she did an initial assessment of family history and I casually mentioned that, sure, yeah, I was hit a lot as a kid, but that my "living in a fog" was exclusively due to the mushrooms. She accepted my story, said that she couldn't assure me that the dpdr would absolutely go away, but that she was hopeful and that the least we could do is try.


So, I begin doing trauma therapy, and not long after the intake I realized that there was a reservoir of unaddressed pain about my childhood. My main priority was to make the dpdr go away, and the message boards weren't helping (they were probably hurting because reading about people having it for 40 years was elevating the anxiety), so I trusted her to just guide the therapy because I was willing to do whatever it took. We began processing my childhood trauma. I had no idea how much I'd been repressing. (Side note: just last week I read about how those with childhood abuse histories can have awful trips that lead to dpdr after experimenting with hallucinogens and experiencing existential loops like the one I had experienced.) Her first priority was getting me stabilized and bringing the panic down. Here is a major point: n=1 but I found that dpdr thrives on anxiety. The best way to set yourself up for success with this condition is to bring down your anxiety about it; from worrying about whether you're going crazy, to whether it'll last forever, to whether you broke your brain because of that stupid choice you made, to whether anything even really exists-- shake that shit off and bring the fear down. What helped me was to get curious about it, and get off the message boards so I could bring down the anxiety. I worked a part-time gig at a seafood shack and whenever I wasn't working I went to this little canyon near my house to practice mindfulness in nature on my own. (Caveat-- meditation that encourages one to get in body and especially to kill the ego can worsen or even induce dpdr in some people, especially those with childhood sexual abuse histories.) The mindfulness helped me (note: I don't have a childhood sexual abuse history). I would go into this canyon and read poetry and focus on my hands and the water bottle I was holding, look around at nature and even though I was trying to overcome the dpdr, I don't think it was the intentional practice that ultimately brought it down but 1) the trust that it could be brought down (I got it from my therapist, you can get it from me), and 2) the byproduct of the practice, which was bringing down the anxiety and gaining a sense of control over my life. It helped that I was living in a safe environment. If you are living in conditions your brain is processing as unsafe, it's possible that that could undermine your efforts.


So, I commit to this mindfulness practice, a diet of healthy food like salmon, swiss chard, no sugar, sitting and reading Mary Oliver poems in this canyon (lol), and doing this therapy work. It took about 1-2 years working with this therapist for it to abate the very first time. I was sitting in a little nature spot where no one else was around, and lying in the grass looking at a tree it dissipated for about 40 seconds. I was shocked and elated-- my brain was not broken. Even though it returned within a minute, it was proof that it could dissipate again. Later that week I saw my therapist, recounted the experience, and it went away again for about two minutes as we faced one another. Then the next week I was doing a full body-scan meditation and it went away for about an hour. After this point it started to come and go, typically when I was alone, and I think it's because my body felt safest in my own company (and on the rare occasion in my therapist's). Interestingly, it only abated in the daytime at first, and it stayed this way for years. I think this was because a lot of the abuse occurred in the evening hours, because in the daytime you can feel safe because you can see your surroundings, because I took the shrooms at night, and/or because those orange street lights that illuminate the town at night can make things look very unreal regardless of dpdr. One day, after getting more curious about my childhood (I don't remember much of it), I found a home video and I was surprised to see that I had been likely dissociating in one of the scenes-- it's just that as a kid, it faded in and out and wasn't as severe so I probably don't notice it as much. This only adds to the confusion-- did the mushrooms cause the dpdr, or did the abuse cause the dpdr that the mushrooms worsened? Was it the omega-3s in the salmon that helped, or was it the sense of control that helped? Was it getting off the message boards that helped, or was it developing trust in a therapeutic guide that helped? Was it the daily mindfulness over the span of a couple years? I'm not sure, but I imagine that it's all connected. If I had to guess, I would attribute the recovery primarily to the therapy, hope that it would go down, and commitment to stress reduction.


There are some things that are just downright good for everyone. These are: good therapy with someone experienced in trauma + dissociation work, if only at minimum to have an ear to listen; a sense of safety in the environment; and optimism that it might go away, because (1) a positive perspective can only help, even if you're truly skeptical, and (2) for some stranger who had it severely at a 10/10 level for half a decade and who recovered to come back and tell her story, it did. Now, I know this is difficult for those who are financially vulnerable, so anything you can do-- not riding the sketchy public transit system in your city at night, not living with a dangerous roommate, leaving a toxic relationship, as examples-- can help. My therapist took me on pro bono after I sent an inquiry email saying that I was an uninsured college student and didn't know if I would make it to my next birthday but that I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that I did (this wasn't an attempt to manipulate-- it truly had gotten that dire). I was blessed with ten years of free therapy with a dpdr expert-- a gift I know one is not given often. That's probably a bit of why I'm coming back here to help. 


I don't know if your dpdr will go away too, but as someone who had both trauma and drug-induced dpdr, my story is probably a good sign. I'm here, about 6 years post-dpdr (on the rare occasion I'll still get it at night, but not strong) and looking around my bedroom I'm 100% undissociated. I haven't touched anything but alcohol in 12 years. I'm doing my phd in clinical psych and dream of conducting research that advances our knowledge of this understudied condition. If I do, in a sick way it will have been worth it. Best of luck in your journey and I hope that this calms your nerves. If you have any questions I'll try my best to respond in the thread and to PMs.

#2 AnnaGiulia


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Posted 03 January 2021 - 05:05 AM

This is a great post. Congrats on all the hard work that you put into your recovery. I don't think we mention enough how much strength and dedication it takes to get to the place where you are now. So many people just want to "get back to normal", and they tend to discard all the months or years of an incredible struggle and effort they put into getting better. It is something to be proud of, as it is often the most perilous thing we will face in our lives.


Another thing we do not mention enough in relation to DPDR is trauma, especially prolonged childhood trauma, that can have many forms. A lot of people don't even realize they were traumatized in their childhood, because it was so normalized to them. And of course, there is repression. Or amnesia, as in my case. I went through some of the photos from my childhood, and on every one of them, you can see a child with a completely absent look. I was traumatized beyond belief, and I somehow managed not to look that way for quite a long time, until DPDR didn't actually force me to deal with it.


It was an incredible luck to get to work with your therapist, but if it weren't for your resoluteness to help yourself, it wouldn't have happened.

Not everyone will necessarily identify with your story, but the point I took is that recovery takes - besides dedication - a structure and professional help, preferably in the field of trauma-informed therapy.


Take care and thank you for this post,


#3 myrecoverystory



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Posted 03 January 2021 - 07:19 PM

Thanks so much, AnnaGiulia. You touch upon so many good points and I agree wholeheartedly. For me it took a lot of work-- about as many weekly hours as I was putting into that part-time job-- but I don't want people to read that and feel helpless because for me, it wasn't-- I began seeing improvement within 1-2 years. If someone has a trauma history and is able to access a therapist to do that work, it's the most important work someone can do in a lifetime even if the dpdr doesn't go away. And you're so right about the realizing childhood trauma. I did not enter therapy because of my childhood trauma-- I had no idea that it even affected me (nevermind so profoundly), so the dpdr was in a weird way kind of a gift because I'd likely have denied it for many years. I'm sorry to hear that you had that childhood amnesia and the absent look too-- without knowing your specific story I know that to have had that absent look for so long it must've been really hurtful and stressful to your developing nervous system. And I think it definitely bears repeating that not everyone will resonate with this story. I know that some folks come to know dpdr as a result of epilepsy, lyme disease, etc.-- so this post is to some extent for them too (stress reduction, therapist to listen to the experience, etc.), but if you're reading and your case is drug-induced, or you were hit as a kid, or you don't remember much of your childhood-- my story may perhaps serve as more of a guide.

Take care as well and thank you for your reply.

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