I’m going to share with you my experience with DP/DR (Mostly DR) and how I successfully overcame it. Without a doubt it took a number of changes to myself and my lifestyle to successfully overcome this awful affliction but I promise you all that it is possible and you will not deal with this forever.
I’ve decided to talk about a few key things that I believe reintegrated me back into myself and the world around me.
Facing life head on
An introspective mushroom trip
Support from friends and family
The power of now
I’m 21 years old and I have dealt with anxiety/ panic attacks for over four years. Since the start of my college career anxiety had slowly crept into my life in various ways but I usually dealt with it pretty effectively (i.e. not self medicating with alcohol/ other drugs or taking benzodiazepines). I would deal with occasional situational anxiety and moderately spaced out panic attacks (3-4 times a month) but it wasn’t very serious and didn’t seriously affect my life until September, 2017 rolled around. That’s when full blown anxiety induced depersonalization and derealization hit me, and it lasted until the start of the new year, so about 4 months. I think a few different factors brought it about, I was studying abroad for a year in Spain (I still am, I’ll get to that in a second) and I was/ still am at a turning point in my life (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally). I was at the tail end of my college career so that just brought about more subconscious stress/ anxiety about what I am going to do for the rest of my life. But in September the DP/DR hit me hard, like really hard. I first wrote it off as extreme anxiety but after about a week or two of it not going away I started to become seriously worried about my mental state and the world around me. I began to question literally everything in my life, who I was, what life itself was, fate vs. free will, social constructs, and if I was going crazy. The going crazy thing really got to me, I obsessively thought about whether or not I had Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, psychosis etc. (If you’re reading this and you think you might have one of those- you don’t. Trust me.) I had racing, overwhelming thoughts 95% of the day, I would overanalyze anything and everything, I had completely lost control over my thinking process. I felt like I/everything else could dissipate into nonexistence at any second. I would wake up from long depression naps feeling like I was on the brink of reality, I was convinced what I was dealing with was something from an alternate reality. I became extremely disassociated from myself and the world around me. Nothing felt real, I was in a mental trap that there seemed to be no way out of. I begged the universe to wake me up from this nightmare every single day. I would try to pinpoint when I started to feel the way I did and whether or not I was in a prolonged dream that I couldn’t wake myself up from. I isolated myself for days on end, the only thing I looked forward to was smoking cigarettes because that was something that would (barely) calm me down. My life was so dark back then, I had no interest in socializing with people and I had no drive to better myself whatsoever, I was a completely different person than I ever had been and ever will be. I didn’t have any motivation to do the smallest tasks and was dealing with extreme depression because of all of this. I never became suicidal but if that feeling had lasted, I could see how someone could see that as an option. Looking back it literally felt like a four month long nightmare, by far the strangest and most terrifying experience of my life. Fuck DP/DR, I’m so glad it’s over and It can be for you as well.
My personal solution (these things may not work for everyone but they did for me)
Meditation and ‘The Power of Now’:
I’ll just get this out of the way first, meditation and the book “The Power of Now” had a HUGE impact on my relationship with anxiety and my DP/DR. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now starts out the book with a personal anecdote that sounds an awful lot like extreme DP/DR- then goes into how he dealt with it, it is a very powerful book, and I suggest anyone dealing with DP/DR or serious anxiety to read it in its entirety. As far as meditation, I’m not a sponsor by any means but I seriously suggest getting the app headspace for daily meditation. They have a subset of meditation exercises for anxiety that really changed the way I look at it. Mediation is the act of non thinking, which is the exact opposite of what brings about DP/DR. Thinking of solutions/ why your dealing with DP/DR/ what caused it/ existence in general is not the way out of DP/DR. That will only strengthen it’s grasp. At least for me, I dealt with uncontrollable racing thoughts all the time and meditation allowed me to focus on one thing and block out everything else. It’s hard to get into at first, but after awhile it becomes a pleasant, calming habit that can greatly affect your mental state and your life.
For those that don’t know CBD is the other active chemical in marijuana but it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects that THC has (which causes anxiety and sometimes DP/DR). I stopped smoking weed early into college because it gave me really bad anxiety but CBD is the opposite,it doesn’t give you that overwhelming, high mental feeling, it quiets parts of the frontal lobe which is responsible for cognitive thinking (which includes anxiety/ DP/DR). New research is actually coming out claiming it is an ‘antipsychotic’, pretty interesting, look it up if you think it’ll help you. For the most part, CBD helped me mitigate the symptoms of the DP/DR but at certain times it would strengthen them, I think because I might have been using it too much. Either way, it’s an effective tool if you use it in moderation. For some people it works, for some it doesn’t, it all comes down to your personal brain chemistry I guess. Luckily it’s legal in a majority of the states in the US and it’s extremely easy to purchase online. It comes in a whole slew of different consistencies, I got a oil tincture, pills and a vape pen. For me, it’s good if I’m feeling extremely overwhelmed/ having a panic attack but I don’t think you should use it everyday to mask the symptoms of DP/DR if you really want to conquer it. If you really want DP/DR to go away, using a crutch to block it out isn’t effective in the long run. That being said, it’s still a hell of a lot safer than benzodiazepines because it doesn’t seriously (or permanently) negatively alter your brain chemistry and there is not the hellish dependency like xanax or klonopin have, so if you need immediate relief and the choice is between pharmaceuticals and CBD, hands down choose CBD.
Introspective mushroom trip:
I began looking into the spiritual use of mushrooms as a way out of my DP/DR. I did a ridiculous amount of research on the spiritual and introspective use of mushrooms as a “cure”. I researched hours upon hours of forums, subreddits and scientific studies to see if they could help me in my situation, and the results looked promising. I ended up buying 5 grams because I was considering doing a “heroic dose” but ended up only eating two just to be safe. I did them in the safety of my parents house (my parents knew I was doing them and allowed it because they are amazingly supportive). I set up a little tripping sanctuary in my living room, made everything perfect and comfortable for me, listed out my intentions/ wrote a letter to myself and the universe, put on some chill music and ate the mushrooms. I had taken shrooms before so I sort of knew what to expect. Psychedelics have a strange way of allowing you to think about yourself and your life from a third person point of view, for me, it showed me that my mental issues only made up a small fraction of who I was, they also showed me how lucky I was to have the support from my friends and family that I did. Overall, the mushrooms allowed me to feel more deeply connected (and more importantly) less fearful of the nature of the universe and existence. Instead of being fearful of the unknowns and what if’s of life they helped me begin to feel ok with them. Although, It was an interesting, eye opening experience, I didn’t have the “profound realization” I was looking for. While they did have a tremendously positive influence on my DP/DR they did not cure it by any means, in fact they showed me that I needed to keep living my life no matter how bad it got. In essence- the mushrooms showed me what I needed to do for myself, which was to keep on keepin’ on no matter what life threw at me. Nonetheless, mushrooms can be a great and powerful tool when used responsibly, in the right environment and with the right intentions.
Therapy and support from friends/ family:
Therapy and support from my friends/family definitely helped but it wasn’t necessary by any means. I love everyone in my life and I’m unbelievably grateful for their advice, love and kindness that they expressed to me during that time, but when it comes down to it- the only person that can get you out of that mental state is you. Not drugs, not therapists but your own mental machinery. But, one piece of advice that my therapist gave me that really helped me was to write down what an ideal life for me looked like. I listed out goals, intentions and how I wanted to feel in the future (happy and calm mindstate, quitting smoking, meeting new people, voluntarily putting myself in anxiety inducing situations etc.) After I made a list of about twenty five things, I started to make real life actions to complete them. I promised myself that by 2019 I would complete all of them. And I can tell you guys right now, that I’m well on my way. Actually physically putting a goal down on paper makes you a lot more likely to complete it.
Facing life head on:
I want to make one thing clear. There is no out right cure to DP/DR and the sooner you accept that you’re going to have to continue to live your life with it the sooner it will go away. Much like a chinese finger trap, the harder you try and pull away from it, the tighter the grasp will become. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, sounds cliche but it’s true. I cannot stress this aspect of my recovery enough, accepting my DP/DR, not fighting against it or obsessing about it and continuing on with my life was THE MOST important thing that I did throughout this entire recovery process.
When I decided to come home to the US over the holidays, I wanted to recollect myself after dealing with 3 months of constant DP/DR. Because of this, I was not planning on going back to Spain because the idea of returning to the place that first brought about my DP/DR was unbelievably overwhelming and terrifying-- which to me was a massive disappointment because I loved learning Spanish so choosing to stay home and drop out of University essentially meant giving up on my dreams, so at that point I felt like a complete and utter failure. Anyway, after a mixture of support from my family and friends, meditation, supportive therapy sessions, experimenting around with CBD and the spiritual mushroom trip, I decided to return back to Spain and keep living my life. After all of those things I previously mentioned I’d say I was about 50% cured of my DP/DR. The other 50% came from actually making the terrifying, overwhelming decision to face life head on and travel back to the exact same place that brought my DP/DR about. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life because there were so many what if’s in my mind (What if this never goes away? What if I’m stuck in a foreign country and I have a mental break down? What if I really do have schizophrenia or psychosis? What if I hurt somebody or myself? What if this makes my DP/DR worse and I have no escape?) but I decided to disregard all of those uncertainties and just fucking do it. I chose to accept it, I acted like the DP/DR would never go away, and that almost took all of the power away from it. When I landed back in Spain I felt this strange sense of relief, like I had made the right choice by not giving into my fearful mental state. By choosing to actually face the essence of all of my built up anxiety, accept it and keep grinding, over time the feeling of DP/DR completely dissipated. I would keep saying things to myself like “It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.” and “You can run it, or you can let it run you.” Those sayings really helped keep my self esteem up when I felt like it was too overwhelming. After making that concrete decision to say fuck this DP/DR and choose the uncomfortable, anxiety inducing choice my DP/DR began to subside, life started to become easier. I began to have motivation to start eating healthier and exercising, which in turn only furthered my progression away from the derealization. When that dreaded anxiety, DP/DR mindstate would start to bubble back up to the surface of my consciousness (which it did multiple times) I just told myself that it doesn’t matter because I’m going to keep living my life no matter what. I started to feel better for longer periods of time without experiencing DP/DR (Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks) it started to affect me less and less frequently, and life started to become this beautiful, beautiful thing that I could fully immerse myself in again. I didn’t just “snap out of it”, like I was hoping I would when I was in the midst of it. It was an everyday struggle to get out of bed and put real effort into my life. Some days I would wake up terrified and riddled with anxiety just as I did when I was in the middle of my DP/DR but I knew that I was determined to make progress, and that I was stronger than the disassociation. I climbed my way out of that awful place and goddamnit you can too. I feel fucking grateful to be alive and I can promise you, yes you, person that is reading this- that the feeling of immersion back into reality, the feeling of really being will be there for you on the other side of the DP/DR hell that you’re going through.
For you all that are dealing with this. There is hope, there is happiness and you can achieve the calm, collected mindstate that you want or that you had before, but don’t keep expecting to just “wake up” and feel okay again. By far, the most important thing you can do is, every day, choose to deliberately and consciously continue on with your life, disregard the awful DP/DR mindstate that has consumed you for however long. Act like it’ll never go away and start to live your life again, I promise- in time it will. Take risks, do things that scare you- often times you’ll find that the fear is just a facade and that making the step into the uncertain will strengthen who you are as a person and the confidence you have in your mindstate.
I wish the best of luck to all of you in your battles and eventual recoveries from this affliction. Peace.