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#1 aray93

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 12:58 AM

NOTE: This ended up being a very long post. I'd appreciate it if you took the time to read it, but I don't recommend you do unless you actually have some time on your hands.

Hello, my name is Andrew. I am an 18 year old male from Burtonsville, Maryland, USA. Burtonsville is a suburb of Silver Spring, which itself is a small city wedged between the infill of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. You may recognize it as the host of that awful incident involving a gunman and the Discovery Channel building last year, it was on the national news as I recall. I recently graduated from High School and will be attending college in the fall. This past year has been a particularly devastating one for me, as it witnessed my discovery of perhaps the most harrowing experiences I have ever had the burden of bearing - my development of Depersonalization Disorder and/or Derealization Disorder (I often struggle differentiating between where the symptoms of the former end and the latter begin). It took a great deal of willpower for me to discover DPD/DRD and "come out of the closet", so to speak, as an afflicted individual. This is a very emotional and distressing topic for me, and I desperately seek out the support and reassurance of other people struggling with this illness, so I strongly urge you to read my story and respond, comparing and contrasting similarities and differences with your own stories.

First I would like to offer a little personal background. I was born and raised in this aforementioned Maryland suburb among a middle-class white family. I am of part Anglo-Saxon and part Eastern European descent. When I was younger (I mean elementary/middle school aged), I was considerably energetic and outgoing. I did very well in school, was placed in an assortment of "gifted" schools and courses, and got straight A's up until high school. The advent of adolescence witnessed the downfall of my academic performance. I ended up scraping by high school with lackluster attendance and extremely average grades. I've been prone to anxiety my whole life, and am currently medically diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and ADHD. Throughout my childhood, I rotated through a whole series of medications, including SSRI'S, anti-psychotics, ADD meds, benzodiazepines, and blood pressure meds (a tic-related thing). I've never had much success with regular use of any of them, and have since cut out almost everything. The only meds I take now are 12.5 mg of Seroquel at night (an extremely low dose, for insomnia) and a recently acquired but not actually filled yet prescription for 5 mg Ritalin. I'm telling you this because I want to hear any comments on the relation between OCD and anxiety issues and depersonalization disorder, as well as medications and DPD. I have noticed my symptoms improved somewhat after getting on the low dose of Seroquel, but I attribute this to the fact that it allows me to sleep at night (sleep deprivation always worsens the DPD symptoms). Otherwise, I haven't found any successful prescription treatment for the DPD.

Anyways, I've decided that, since they play such an intrinsic role in the development of my DPD, I shall begin my story on the day I first discovered drugs. Growing up in a middle class suburban area, Marijuana has always been heavily sewn into the fabrics of my environment. I first learned to recognize that classically distinguishable smell of burning cannabis back in sixth grade, as I was always greeted by a dense cloud of the stuff while getting off at my bus stop at the end of the school day. However, it should be noted that I did not actually partake in the drug until I was 15 years old, quite old by my generation's standards. For years I had bought into to the whole pot is bad sermon adults always preached to me, but by high school, my curiosity had gotten the best of me. It was the Halloween of my sophomore year. I slept over my friend's house with a large group of friends, all of whom were already quite experienced with the plant. The first few hits I took off what I now know to be a quite high quality batch of weed felt bitter and foreign. I was pretty apprehensive, but forced laughter congruent with the rest of the group's, as they all seemed like they were having a good time. I, however, had yet to feel anything. I was forewarned that many people don't get high the first time, and this was a rumor that proved to be true for me. We walked around for a little while as I tried my best to "force" what I thought was a high. It wasn't until several hours later when everyone decided to go for round 2 out of a makeshift bong that I had my first real experience with pot. I struggled with inhaling from such a crudely contrived piece, but managed to get a few decent hits. We quickly made our way back to my friend's basement. I was beginning to be irked by the fact that I still felt nothing. However, as soon as I sat down, and my body hit the soft cushion of my friend's couch, it hit me. My first ever experience of true, simple euphoria. I couldn't help but let a mild grin creep across my face as I began giggling at everything. I remember experiencing the euphoria like a wave. I felt like if I focused on it too much it would float away, but if I forgot about it, it would suddenly hit me again, even stronger than before. I loved it. I was too ignorant to things like depersonalization, brain fog, aggravated anxiety, or any of the other complications I would later experience from the drug. It was just simple euphoria.

After that I developed a pretty steep appetite for the drug. I was too inexperienced and penniless to know how or where to acquire the drug myself, so I would always make an appoint to sleep over my friends' houses as much as possible, bumming them for pot on a regular basis. However, my use never really exceeded 1-2 times a week. Over the next two years, I continued this routine while also experimenting with other common, "lesser" drugs; namely alcohol, tobacco, and a few pharmaceuticals like Ritalin. However, I liked none other more than Marijuana. I became pretty intimate with stoner culture, formed many stoner friends, loved getting into arguments with people about how we "like, totally need to legalize pot, man." Honestly, I was a pretty typical 16 year old. I now refer to the two years between 15 and 17 as my happiest, most "normal" years. My anxieties were relatively low, I was having a good time with pot and alcohol, etc. During the summer before my Senior year, I began to experience some anxiety issues again. I started having infrequent panic attacks and worsening insomnia. After finding a dealer in my neighborhood, and convincing my parents to give me a weekly allowance, I began buying pot on my own. For about 1-2 months, I smoked pot on an almost daily basis, almost always by myself. I didn't go out much. I perceived the brief anxiolytic effects of the peak 20 minutes of the marijuana high, as well as its sedating effects, to be a solution to my anxieties. In retrospect, however, I can honestly say it did nothing but worsen them. It was during this time I began to experience the first small effects of what I now know to be depersonalization/derealization, but was not aware of it at the time. I remember talking to my friend about how "sometimes I'll randomly feel stoned for a few minutes even if I haven't smoked at all." He responded, "that's awesome," to which I in turn responded with laughter, but thought to myself how, actually, it was quite disturbing. But like I said, it never persisted for more than a few minutes and wasn't frequent enough to really catch my attention.

After summer was over I got into a big fight with my parents and they ended up cutting me off financially. Broke, I was no longer able to fund my marijuana habit and resumed the old practice of bumming my friends. By the time Senior year started, my frequency of use had once again dropped down to 1-2 times a week. It was about one month into my Senior year that my whole life changed. It was a Friday night, yet another sleepover at my friend's house, yet another admittedly desperate grab for some pot. Sure enough, within the first hour, we're sneaking out into his backyard to share a bowl. Later, I was on his bed, marveling at how low my tolerance for the herb had gotten lately and feeling quite high. I had been a tad nervous that night on account of having a bit of an anxiety attack the last time I had used pot the week before, but all that had absolved into euphoria. I barely even noticed my friend telling me his college friend was gonna stop by later, or when his college friend actually did show up, or when he and my friend started talking about this batch of acid he recently bought. Next thing I know, I'm apprehensively placing a tab of LSD on my tongue, having no idea of what the hell I'm about to experience.

I could honestly write an entire book on my experience with acid that night. In fact, I have several times seriously considered doing so, and keep meaning to write an Erowid experience about it. In order to keep from getting too longwinded, I'll summarize it in a few basic points. First, I can quite easily say I had what is commonly referred to as a bad trip. What I can't quite easily say is just how bad it was. There really aren't enough words in the English language. I realize that's a bit of a cliche to say, but it's also the unfortunate truth. Second, this was my first experience with true, terrifying, and severe depersonalization. Third, I have not had a single positive experience with marijuana since that night. Finally, I literally am not the same person I was before that night.

The majority of my hallucinations were extremely negative, usually of sinister things like dark figures or storm clouds constantly flying at me. The depersonalization was so severe my senses often lapsed into complete third person, like a video game or something. I spent a large part of the night looking at a bird's eye view of my friends room, watching my friend and his college friend laughing and listening to music on one side of the room, and myself huddled up in the corner of the other side of the room, with this thousand yard stare on my face. I would sometimes hear these awful voices whispering the most tritely depressing things; like, I'm worthless, I'm a failure, I'm going to die, etc. I felt a constant swirl of pure terror flowing through my body at all times. The main "trip" was over within about eight hours. I passed out around sunrise and woke up at noon. My friend kept ranting about how he had such a positive experience, whereas I couldn't shake this feeling like I was in a dream. It felt like I had just been hit in the head with a heavy object - I was dazed, confused, and had this awful brain fog, like all my thoughts were soaked in some viscous fluid and I just couldn't quite focus on anything. Over the next few days, I remained in a constant state of depersonalization/derealization, suffered several terrifying flashbacks, and continued to experience mild distortions in my vision; like, pictures on the wall looked like they were floating around a little bit, the colors on people's clothing shimmered slightly, etc. I began experiencing horribly intrusive thoughts that I was going crazy, I had triggered a schizophrenic episode, or that I was just going to lose control of my body and walk in front of a moving car. "Losing control" was a very common motif during this time. Nonetheless, I was determined to make it through. I told myself, I refuse to let one mistake, one bad experience result in my death. I will not kill myself, as I had been contemplating, I will make it through. I started seeing my therapist 3 times a week and undergoing behavioral therapy.

About a month later, I felt as if I had succeeded, I had actually made it through. My depersonalization had, with the exception of an occasional few minute flare up, gone away and I had stopped having flashbacks. I was sleeping regularly again and everything felt fine. I had moved on. I turned in a job application to a local grocery store and it looked like I was going to get the job. Everything was working in my favor. So when I ran into a friend in the shopping center in my neighborhood, and he offered to share some pot with me, I figured it'd be fine. I was still under the impression that I love pot. Acid freaked me out, I reckoned, but pot's fine. Pot's a benign drug. Pot's good for you. Pot's safer than caffeine and alcohol and tobacco and everything else. No harm can ever come of pot. Just as the old anti-marijuana propaganda of my younger days kept me away from the drug, the now rampant pro-marijuana propaganda among my generation drove me back towards the drug. The initial peak effects of the high were actually fine. I remember briefly thinking "hello, old friend". I remember actually feeling an anxiolytic effect, a relief. The terror kicked in as I was starting to come down an hour later. I've done a lot of reading on this site and others, of people's personal experiences with DPD and DRD. A LOT of them involve marijuana. I frequently see one particular comment used to describe the experience that I cannot help but feel compelled to repeat. I see other sufferers of this disorder describe it as, "it's like I just never quite came down from the high". This is a perfect explanation, but allow me to elaborate, because I feel as if that statement taken out of context makes it seem appealing. It is NOT literally like being euphoric high constantly. Instead, that statement means that the detached from reality feeling you get from pot, that out of body sensation, unsure of what's real, like a coating of unreality is covering everything, just plain sticks. But AFTER the euphoria wheres off. So you're stuck with a horrible sense of constant dysphoria, disorientation, depersonalization, and derealization. And it is not pleasant.

Just like when I dropped acid, I remained in a constant state of depersonalization for several days after. I remember the next day I was at this party trying to talk to some girls. I was feeling severely depersonalized, and it must have shown because they all kept asking me if I was ok, that I looked really shaken up. I ended up going on this rant about how god awful hallucinogens and drugs are. I think I ended up really freaking people out. After that day I told myself I just can't leave my house anymore, it's just too much. It became a struggle just to simply exist, if that makes any sense. the most basic of functions, eating, sleeping, thinking, became such a crushingly difficult routine. I became terrified of sleeping, as the process of falling asleep felt too similar to depersonalization. I was extremely scared of the dark, so I ended up adopting a sleep schedule of staying up til sunrise then sleeping til sundown. Since this was right in the middle of the winter, this meant staying up til 8 am and getting up at 4 pm. Although, my sleep was usually very fractured and light, so about half of those eight hours were spent tossing and turning. I had no appetite, no energy, and began rapidly losing weight. I'm about five feet and 11 inches, and at the height of my illness I was almost down to 125 lbs. My parents began yelling at me daily. I don't blame them, I can tell they were honestly really scared of what was happening to me, but it really didn't help things. I wanted desperately to go to school, go work at this job I had actually been hired to but was unable to attend, hang out with my friends, be able to smoke pot without issue, sleep at night without issue. But I just couldn't.

My parents began meeting with specialists, talking of putting me in a mental institution. I was terrified, I didn't want to be locked up. I had made it through that first bout of these issues on my own back when I dropped acid, I felt I could do it again, I just needed more time. But the more time I had, the more my mental health depreciated. I began experiencing severe fight or flight styled panic attacks. My moods would shift rapidly and uncontrollably. I began to experience explosive anger towards my mother, every time she would try to talk to me about getting me help. I started breaking things. I even broke my dad's expensive acoustic guitar, something that plagues me with guilt to this day. One day my mother gave me an ultimatum. She said, "you either go back to school tomorrow, or I'm forcibly admitting you to the hospital." Bear in mind I was still 17, so that was perfectly legal, provided there was probable cause for medical incarceration which, I would have to begrudgingly admit, there was. The fear of going to the hospital dwarfed my fear of leaving the house and, since I slept til night time every day anyway, I decided to pull an all nighter and go to school the next day.

This would prove to be a terrible mistake. As much insomnia as I had, I was still always able to fall asleep every morning for at least four hours or so. After the all nighter, my brain went haywire and I simply could not sleep. I ended up not sleeping at all the night after the all nighter. As the sleep deprivation worsened, so did the depersonalization. I had such bad brain fog I couldn't talk. When I would try, my voice would sound alien and displaced, as if someone else were talking over my shoulder. After not sleeping at all for yet another night, on the morning of the third day, after nearly 72 hours without sleep, I mustered up what willpower I had left and approached my mom, telling her I need to go the hospital, I need something to help me sleep.

Well, I ended up spending 10 days in the hospital. My doctor, within 15 minutes of meeting with me, gave me a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. What really pisses me off about it was she never really explained why. Later, I found out from my case manager that the reason she did this was because after I told her I had been awake for 3 days she immediately declared it to be a manic episode, and, according to standard diagnostic guidelines, a person only needs to experience one manic episode to meet the criteria for bipolar. I suppose it never quite occurred to her that there are other causes of acute insomnia than bipolar disorder. She ended up putting me on an ungodly amount of antipsychotic medication, including 200 mg of Seroquel and 2 mg of Abilify. The fortuitous part of this is that those drugs knocked me the fuck out, so insomnia wasn't an issue anymore. However, throughout my stay at the hospital, I continued to experience severe episodes of depersonalization, no matter how much sleep I got. I attempted explaining this to my doctor, and she continued to insist it was anxiety related, her only answer to which was to ritualistically shoot me up with Ativan.

Eventually, they finally released me in early January on the grounds that my insurance wouldn't cover a longer stay. I had to sign a contract stating that I would attend this outpatient program and continue seeing a psyche. I did both of these things. My new doctor, after interviewing me, was absolutely astounded at the fact that my hospital doc had diagnosed me as bipolar. He immediately changed my diagnosis to OCD and took me off all the antipsych meds. However, he kept me on 25 mg (lowest possible dose) of the Seroquel in order to prevent a relapse of the insomnia. I still take it to this day and rely on it for sleep, albeit I do cut them in half, as the full 25 mg is a little too hefty for me.

After being discharged from outpatient, and finally able to sleep and generally function again, I resumed going to school and ended up graduating in time and getting accepting into college and everything. However, I still would suffer from depersonalization attacks at least 4 or 5 times a week, usually about once a day. No matter how good of a day I was having, how well I was doing, who I was with, I just couldn't fight it. I went to school everyday but I didn't really leave the house much. I kept to myself. Eventually, the social necessities of high school had me going over friends' houses again, going to parties, etc. I had learned to manage my DP attacks enough that I could keep my composure in a social setting. But of course, exposing myself to people my age inevitably started exposing me to drugs again. Everywhere I looked, that damn marijuana was wafting towards me. Just the smell of it was enough to trigger panic. If people started smoking near me, I would just leave. Go home or go somewhere else.

In one particular situation I was with a group of friends at one of their houses. They all decided to go smoke, of course. I started freaking out and telling them I was gonna go home. In response, one of them offered me some alcohol, insisting it'd keep me cool. Up until this point, I had not used any psychoactive substances since I got out of the hospital, as I was too afraid of re-triggering the experience I had back in December. I was apprehensive, but at the same time, I knew from experience the potently anti-anxiety effects of alcohol. So I decided what the hell. Suddenly, I found myself blissfully anxiolytic. I was relaxed, even mildy euphoric. But most importantly, the depersonalization was completely gone. Even the tiny little twinges of it I get at almost all times vanished. It also took away my fear of the others smoking pot nearby. I ended up having a good time. On that day, I learned that alcohol was a quick fix for both fear and depersonalization.

I made a practice of making sure I had a few drinks pretty much every time I socialized. Just to neutralize the DP, and any fears I have of the almost constant marijuana use going on around me when I'm with my friends. I could handle everything fine when I was alone, it was just my crutch for allowing me to live a normal life socially. But of course I would soon argue with myself, why feel depersonalized at all? Even in my own home, just because I can put up with it doesn't mean I have to. I have the solution, why not use it? So I started drinking every time I had an attack. Whether it was in public or by myself in the house. Now, to this day, I drink on an almost daily basis, and because of it, I have been able to largely re-assimilate back into my old life. I socialize almost as regularly as before.

My quest for curing the DP doesn't stop at the alcohol. Alcohol isn't always available to someone who's under 21, and even if it is, it doesn't work 100% of the time. Sometimes I'll get a real bad attack, or bout of attacks, that prove resistant even to booze. In search of both something to help the DPD, as well as simply drugs I can use recreationally that won't aggravate it, I've discovered my other savior, which is opiates. Opiates completely obliterate DP, but not just while they're in my system. I've found them to have a lasting anti-DP effect, giving me several days worth of sanity even in the absence of alcohol. Plus, they have the added benefit of getting you REALLY high. I think opiates have sort of filled the niche marijuana used to have in my life. I get nice and high on them about once a week or so, but without aggravating the depersonalization and even helping it. Now when I talk about opiates, I'm actually referring to the lesser potent stuff, like Vicodin and Percocet. I have yet to try something like heroin and I'm apprehensive to, as I don't want to get hooked. It's why I don't ever let myself do the pain pills more than once a week. I've also found that stimulants, such as amphetamines, while not actually helping the depersonalization, don't seem to aggravate it either. So, it has worth as something for a DPD sufferer to use recreationally, at least in the absence of alcohol and opiates.

Anyways, while I seemed to have found substances and ways to stabilize my life to the point where it at least roughly resembles what it did in the "glory years" I mentioned before of about 15-17, I still struggle with occasional attacks and flare ups of the depersonalization. I still sometimes get those days where I'm forced onto my bedroom floor, incapacitated, listening to Beethoven and crying my eyes out, praying for that wonderful sensation where I suddenly and abruptly "snap" back into my body and reality. What's worse is I frequently suffer from that "I must be the only person in the world experiencing this terrible phenomenon" mentality that I read is ironically quite common among DPD sufferers. I have to admit I feel very socially estranged from the majority of the people my age. I feel like, ever since the advent of these issues, I have lost several good friends, as well as a girlfriend, largely due to issues revolving around my incompatability with pot.

I feel a strong stigma from "straight-edge" people due to my heavy drinking and pill popping, yet I also feel very alienated from the pro-drug culture, due to my aversion to marijuana and hallucinogens. I can NOT be blamed for not trying to assimilate, as I have tried smoking pot a total of five times since my acid trip, albeit I was drunk four of those times. But regardless, I have consistently had an extremely negative experience with it. Not only is the high itself psychologically chaotic and disorienting, but I then suffer from SEVERE depersonalization episodes for the next several days if not weeks. I feel as if no one I talk to understands when I say things like "I can't smoke pot with you because it aggravates my depersonalization". I try explaining what I mean, and I'll get responses like, "dude that sounds awesome". Anyone who says that truly has no idea what I'm talking about. The sheer amount of dysphoria and cold, hard FEAR that runs so congruently with depersonalization is by far the worst thing I have ever experienced. If someone came up to me and gave me a choice between experiencing one of those horrible days long DP episodes or a broken leg, I would choose the broken leg in a heartbeat.

I guess what I've been trying to accomplish with this excruciatingly long post is I want to hear honest responses from people who do know what I'm talking about. I desperately want to hear someone say "it's ok, I've had that happen to me before too". Honestly, the DP attacks can break down my will so much sometimes, I just need simple reassurance, even in the form of a response on a "dpselfhelp" forum. I would like to hear other people's experiences, as well as their thoughts on mine. I applaud anyone who had the patience to read this entire post, and anxiously await your response(s).

#2 strangeways

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Posted 18 June 2011 - 09:51 AM

Hey Andrew, welcome to the forum. I just read through your entire post, it was great reading material for while I'm stuck at work. I used to live in Waldorf and I know its almost impossible to stay away from drugs there. I'm a little jealous that you can tell your story so thoroughly, every time I try I get so confused on the time line or months are such a blur I can even remember them. A lot of people have similar experiences here including me, with weed, wrong diagnosis as well as self medicated with alchohol. There really is a lot of great information on this site and insight on the people who have this disorder. I hope you can recover soon, and if you want to talk you can send me a pm. Good luck.

#3 aray93

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 12:05 AM

Hey Andrew, welcome to the forum. I just read through your entire post, it was great reading material for while I'm stuck at work. I used to live in Waldorf and I know its almost impossible to stay away from drugs there. I'm a little jealous that you can tell your story so thoroughly, every time I try I get so confused on the time line or months are such a blur I can even remember them. A lot of people have similar experiences here including me, with weed, wrong diagnosis as well as self medicated with alchohol. There really is a lot of great information on this site and insight on the people who have this disorder. I hope you can recover soon, and if you want to talk you can send me a pm. Good luck.


Thanks for the response man, it's good to hear an understanding tone for a change. As you can probably tell, collaborating my story so thoroughly took a long ass time, and was pretty taxing. It actually re-triggered a bout of DP episodes these past few days :/
However, I'm glad I did it, as I also feel a great sense of relief. I'm exceedingly glad to have found this site. If you don't mind, I'm going to add you as a friend and take up your offer on a PM sometime in the near future. Thanks again for reading, and I'm glad it aided work boredom.




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