I am nearly 100% recovered and would like to share my story and offer my thoughts/experience/insight to hopefully help others.
First, my story with DP/DR. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am a 19 year old student from the UK.
My DP/DR was triggered by a panic attack from being too drunk/high in a crowded train car on New Years eve. It was the most intense experience I have had: the world seemed to slow down to a complete stop; I felt like I had fallen into some kind of void of consciousness. Anyways, everything was fine until a few days later when I began to feel "high" again (it is important to mention that I was also going through a very stressful period in my life). I tried to resist the feeling but doing so only made it worse. Almost immediately, the classic symptoms appeared: panic attacks, emotional numbness, 2D vision, floaters, visual snow, after-images, tormenting existential thoughts. Unfortunately, like a lot of people I thought that I had either triggered schizophrenia or somehow fucked up my brain with drugs. The first month was absolute hell. Most of my time was spent sleeping, crying or mindlessly surfing the internet. I did not have the nerve to tell my parents or seek help or treatment. I constantly had mild panic attacks in class and could not concentrate on anything. It got so bad that for a while, I contemplated dropping out of uni...
About three months later, I am calmly writing this. I haven't had a panic attack in about two weeks (despite the stress of essay deadlines), and nearly all of my symptoms are gone (still have floaters and slight emotional numbness and strange thoughts)! I also still have some unresolved relationship issues I need to deal with, but I am certain that a full recovery is around the corner and just wanted to share my experience before I move on with the rest of my life. In short, you will recover. Let me explain why:
My thoughts on "DP/DR":
If I am like anyone else going through this, the big question for people seems to be: "what the fuck is the cause of depersonalization/derealization?" While there are many different theories, from childhood abuse, chemical imbalances to spiritual enlightenment; I have come to the unscientific conclusion that DP/DR is:
...merely a symptom of accumulated trauma/anxiety
- I believe that for at least 98-99% of people, DP/DR is simply a temporary defense mechanism to deal with accumulated trauma. This trauma may be anything from childhood abuse, "unprocessed" trauma, PTSD or even accumulated stress and anxiety. The panic attack or drug use is simply a trigger for the defense mechanism to engage. Once the root cause, whether it be trauma and/or anxiety is dealt with, there is no need for the defense mechanism (experienced as DP/DR).
Do not let symptoms/feeling/fog of DP/DR generate more fear and anxiety, as they can quickly (probably have already) developed into a cycle. DP/DR is "protecting" you from the perceived dangers. If you perceive a symptom such as 2D vision or anxiety as a danger, this will fuel the cycle. You need to break the cycle by "letting go", also known as "not giving a fuck/learning to ignore the symptoms/thoughts".
original trauma(s) -----> trigger -----> DP/DR -----> fearing DP/DR -----> DP/DR continues ----> fear continues
In short, you most eliminate both the original trauma and the DP/DR cycle. This is MUCH easier said than done, however this will probably cure 98-99% of people! This can be done either alone or by seeing a therapist/psychologist/counselor. Also, I am not against taking drugs for anxiety, if a doctor recommends it.
Sadly, there seems to be a very very very small percentage of people who seem to have DP/DR as a "disorder". I am not sure why but I suspect that most of these people also have other severe issues as well (chronic OCD, depression, anxiety) which complicate DP/DR. I honestly hope that they to will recover, but I recommend you leave this forum as they are not exactly encouraging...
"congrats, you got the short term version..."
"I have felt like this for last 25 years..."
"DP/DR will never go away, deal with it..."
I also wanted to add that it is highly unlikely that drugs, particularly recreational use of soft drugs (marijuana) altered your brain structure or create a permanent chemical imbalance. Likewise the fear of developing schizophrenia is equally irrational (if you were developing schizophrenia you would not be able to realize it, the fact you think you are developing schizophrenia proves you aren't).
1. stop fearing DP/DR
2. socialize as much as possible, make new friends
3. quit researching symptoms or DP/DR
4. sleep at least 8-9 hours
5. eat a healthy balanced nutritious diet
6. go to the gym and/or run regularly
7. develop a positive attitude towards life
8. CBT therapy for anxiety (if needed)
9. have sex/intimacy/human contact
10. temporarily minimize the stress in your life
11. taking multivitamin/fish oil
12. take up old and new hobbies/interests
13. learn how to properly process traumatic events (don't let it accumulate)
14. quit "reality or recovery checking", it is a very slow process
15. reflect on your life, what you are doing, what you want to do
16. learn to live everyday like it was your last
17. improve your relationships with your family
18. leave this site forever
19. distraction is key
20. do things that force you to be "in the moment"
21. take long reflective walks
22. interact with your surroundings
23. write down and share your thoughts and feelings with others
I did not include this to the checklist, because this probably won't help most people, but did help me:
I started to wear a mechanical watch again (Junkers 6060-5). This actually helped me realize that reality still existed in intense DP/DR moments as the watch would help "ground" me in reality and helped with distorted time perception of DP/DR... This also renewed interest in watches!
Lastly, you have to stop over thinking everything, particularly existential thoughts. This was really hard for me to do, but I came up with an answer: just live your life, there is nothing you can do about your existence. Live life, many of these questions do not have answers. Let the thoughts happen but don't give them value. Again I realize, this is easier said than done.
Remember not to be hard on yourself. Do not blame yourself for getting DP/DR, it was not your fault. Even if it was drug-induced, there was no way to predict that drugs would trigger DP/DR! As you recover, you may find some of the "recovery steps" very difficult. Just remember that this is totally normal!
In addition, stop worrying about how long it will take to recover! Everyone's DP/DR is different and everyone's circumstances are also different. It took me 3 months to get where I am here today and I am probably 90-95% recovered. It just depends on the person. Think about it like this: it's like when you were a child and you keep asking your parents "are we there yet? are we there yet?" Did this make the journey any shorter? No, if anything it made it feel longer! DP/DR is the same way, you have to try to stop constantly monitoring how you are feeling and thinking about how long you have had or will have DP/DR.
Also, wearing sunglasses helped me deal with the visual symptoms (particularly light sensitivity and after-images).
Things to avoid:
-spending excessive time alone/prolonged isolation (this is very important)
-drugs (yes, even the sticky icky...) as you WILL relapse even once recovered
-alcohol (only after you recover, while it may provide some relief, DP/DR is a joke in comparison to alcoholism)
helpful links: (the only "research" you should be doing!)
DP/DR did not change me, if anything it made me realize how beautiful life is and the importance of helping others, even if they cannot do anything for you. You realize that it is relationships, not materialism that make you happy. Sorry if this sounds preachy or cliched but it's true! Also, once you recover you will be mentally stronger than ever! Once you conquer fear, you can conquer anything!
This basically concludes my post, I hope this helped. I try to answer questions for a while, but eventually must leave this site and so will you
UPDATE: I am on holiday and will probably not respond to any questions for the next 2 weeks or so! So if you do have any questions, just post them below and I will try to answer them when I can. See you in 2 weeks or so! Stop analyzing and start living!
Time will heal! DP/DR are just symptoms of anxiety/trauma. Recovery is slow, non-linear journey. It may get worse before things get better. Just remember you will recover, and this won't change who you are. Almost anything can be overcome if you put your mind to it!
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" - FDR