It's been a long time since I've posted anything substantial on here. I've come back to this site off and on throughout the years, but haven't really been a part of the community as a whole for about a decade now. I'm somewhat hesitant to post this at all as I don't want to discourage, dishearten or otherwise cast bad juju on anyone who might read this. But it's something that I need to do – reach out, as it were – send a probe back to earth from whatever distant planet I’m stranded on, and wait for a signal to return…collateral damage be damned! And really, I mean, this is just my story - or, an abstract thereof - and your mileage may vary considerably. So don’t read this as, “Oh shit! This is what I have to look forward to?!?” if you’re young and are just starting to find your footing with this disorder. None of this is a foregone conclusion.
I'd like to start with providing a brief overview, or an incremental update, if you'd prefer (since I already have a story posted in the Stories section from years ago). I've been afflicted with this disorder since I was around 12 years old. I'm currently in my early 40s. I've had some good years in amongst the 30, some of which have been relatively DP-free. 30 fucking years. That blows my mind. Anyway, I can recall with pinpoint precision when I first felt depersonalized (and by the way...for lack of a better word. I've always despised the word "depersonalization", though I think it's an apt one-word description. I hate having to tell my girlfriend that I'm feeling "really depersonalized" right now. It sounds like some anachronistic term from the 60s psychedelia movement). I can also recall the second, and third time I felt it as well. Eventually, it all just blended together, and I felt it pretty much all the time, but in the beginning my episodes were distinct. The way I described it initially was "I feel like I'm coming from a different planet". It makes absolutely no sense, but that was my initial gut reaction. A more accurate description would be to say that I felt estranged from myself, detached from reality, or as if I'm living in a dream. You know...the usual.
Anyway, I recall back in the early days of the internet, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and dial-up modems squawked their alien language into telephone lines, it was with rapturous delight that I connected with the DP community for the first time. I couldn’t believe that my vaguely articulated questions, posted on nascent search engines with improbable names like Yahoo! and fucking “Ask Jeeves” were actually giving me answers to questions I’d been desperately asking for years. Just the simple relief of knowing that I wasn’t alone in the world with these feelings was enough to usher hope and happiness back into my existence. I made friends with a bunch of you, and together we derived strength from our collective misery – like wounded birds, we mended to some degree from the nourishment we got from others. We offered words of encouragement, sympathy, and understanding. I was forever fortified by those words and this community. I clung to it like a lifeline. As time went by, however, I fled the nest for years on more than one occasion, encouraged by the strength I’d elicited from all of you. I would love to say that I’ve lived a full and happy life, but it hasn’t really been that way. It’s been careful, measured…a sputtering disappointment, to be honest. Sure, there’s been highlights here and there, and I’m not living in Syria or anything, so I suppose that’s something. But I feel as though the things that I’ve done, people I’ve loved, experiences I’ve had, haven’t been appreciated by me on an emotional or, dare I say, a spiritual level since I was young. I mean, I guess it’s a little more complex than that. There have been stretches of time where the DP has receded into the background, and within those stretches there have been clusters where I did actually feel some emotional connections the way I’d imagine most people experience them, and the feelings of unreality dialed down to a minimum. But those periods of respite have come along less and less the older I’ve gotten, and these days I feel so far removed from the person I once was that ever getting back to that place again seems utterly hopeless.
On the surface, of course, things aren’t all that bad. I’ve got a loving family; a good job; I have no major health issues that I’m aware of, and I’m a straight white male living in a first world country. Aside from this whole “feeling like my soul’s dissolving” thing, I’m doing quite well. And that sort of brings us to my current dilemma. When I was young I was somewhat able to tolerate the depersonalization once I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling it. I think I just sort of got used to it after awhile. It became my status quo. There were some dark nights, to be sure, when all the old horrors would come roaring back, but I became quite an expert at distracting myself, and pursuing paths to perfection in other areas of my life, while sort of ignoring, as best I could, the gaping hole I had inside me. Whatever the distraction du jour (whether it’s career-related, health-related, money-related, etc.), it was always welcomed by my self-sabotaging mind as it keeps me from dealing with the reality of feeling like I’m living in a dream, the emotional distance I feel when dealing with loved ones, and just the general state of being overwhelmed with even the fucking notion of existence. These past few years have been particularly miserable for me. My relationship is in a constant state of turmoil (she’s diagnosed with depression – we’re quite the pair); the last of my grandparents died, leaving me with the unthinkable notion of something happening to my own parents; and while my career is taking off in many respects, it really isn’t even in a field I care much about, and my successes there only serve as a sharp contrast to how much I’ve failed in the areas of my life that I’m actually passionate about. I think the reality of my situation is starting to sink in – how I’m not actually present in my life, and haven’t been for a long time. And as The Smiths famously noted, That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.
The last time I was visiting this forum on a regular basis was in the mid-00s. I had had something of a breakdown (at least that’s what I call it), and crawled back here for comfort. I was helped by the community as a whole and by a few people in particular for whom I’m eternally grateful. Since then I embarked upon a new career, published my book (something that had tortured me for years), discovered that love comes in many different flavours, and achieved a few superficial goals. These past few years though, my mental health has taken a veritable nose dive. The relationship I’m in has certainly contributed, as has my current living conditions. But probably more significantly, I’m becoming more aware of the decidedly finite aspect of life. I have a few friends who have gotten really sick, grandparents who have passed away, even musical idols who’ve been dropping like flies over the past few years. And I’m stuck. Just still stuck in a state of perpetual status quo.
I feel like depersonalization does something strange with one’s perception of time. Since I can remember, I’ve been seized with the conviction that I’m destined for something special. Not necessarily “save the world” special, but rather, I feel like I’ve known what path I should take in life. I feel tugs toward one area or another, toward one person or another, and when I’m on the path everything just feels right. Now, while ultimately I have to accept the responsibility for allowing my life to stray so far from where I want it to be, I feel that DPD has kept me in a state where I’m oblivious to the passage of time in terms of actually realizing that destiny. Like, I’m in my early 40s and am still convinced that I have all the time in the world to accomplish what I want to accomplish, while simultaneously waking up in cold sweats after having yet another dream which is some symbolic illustration of how I’m running out of time. It’s hard to explain, and I’m hoping someone can relate to this. It’s as if there’s no sense of urgency. I feel that painful realization of the world passing me by, but on a day to day basis it’s as though I’m paralyzed – incapable of meaningful action toward my purpose, but while constantly preparing myself for a Tomorrow that never arrives. Ugh. I hope that makes sense.
I think there was always some part of me – the part that dared to think too hard about my depersonalization at all – that imagined somehow, as the years went by, this whole thing would just sort of go away, and I’d somehow integrate seamlessly back into my old self, and all would be right in the world again. I never really imagined how it could have happened, since depersonalization has always felt more to me like something that transcends medicine – like, it feels more like a metaphysical issue than a medical one – but I’m a romantic at heart, and I think in retrospect, I always just thought it would magically get better. Admittedly, it was a horribly impractical way to live. And as the years rolled by, my life became more and more absurd – pursuing paths that were only serving as distractions. Shuffling through life as if only to get through it.
Before I found this community I was echoing Pink Floyd as I shouted “Is there anybody out there!?!” into the abyss. This time I’m asking a different question: “Is there anybody out there that can help?” I’m willing to try almost anything. I’ll travel. I’ll participate in studies. I’ll test out pill X with pill Y. I’ll swallow my pride, and I’ll swallow my meds. I’ve been through all of this before, but it was years ago, and I’m hoping for new options.
And of course, I’m not abdicating my own complicity in how I feel. I need to force myself to do things that I’m uncomfortable with – like posting this story, for example. Getting help. Admitting to myself and to others that things aren’t working with my status quo. I need to confront this and if it can’t be cured, I need to accept it, and learn to live with it. I need to be honest with myself and with others in my life about how I feel – accept it as a “mental illness” if that’s what it really is. I need to somehow come to terms so I can at least salvage what’s left. Please connect or respond if you have any suggestions. I want so desperately to wake up from this, to feel connected to my loved ones in the way that they deserve…to experience life again, and devour it like the delicacy it is.