I want to start out by saying that I was once a regular on these boards. Probably for over a year. I came on many times a day just to read posts or to post and read responses. My life pretty much revolved around my DP/DR symptoms as well as research on what could be causing the issue or what could help the issue. I'm sure I will have some naysayers who don't believe/agree with what my post says. However, even if I help just ONE person with this post, I've done my job. I always said that if I got out of the living nightmare hell that is DP/DR, that I'd help others. I'm hoping this post does just that!!
My name is Kitten (not my real name, but close to it for privacy reasons). I'm a 31 year old mom and wife. I've had minor issues with OCD and anxiety for most of my life. Little things that weren't that big of a nuisance. I had a thing with pulling my hair...but it didn't consume me. I worried about things too much, as my loved ones would say. I met and married my husband and about three years later, I got pregnant. Pregnancy was scary for me, as I'd never wanted to become pregnant but decided to go through with it anyway. I had a lot of support. My husband was supportive and helpful. My mom was home and helpful. Even my brother moved in with mom and was here to offer support. I had my baby and everything was magical. Beautiful.
And then just six weeks later, my support system was essentially "gone", if you will. My husband went back to work full-time with overtime added. My mom decided to go back to work 40+ hours a week. My brother moved out and got an apartment. I was essentially stuck inside the house, with no car and a newborn. I adapted pretty well and pretty quickly considering I'd never taken care of a baby before in my life. I was alone. A lot. I became very lonely. Staring at the clock pretty much all day waiting for mom or hubby or someone to come over. I didn't have a car at the time because my husband was using it for work. I live in an area where you'd have to walk 20-30 minutes before you could get to a park, library or store.
Within the first year, I began to develop what I call health anxiety, or hypochondria. I would regularly feel like I was having a heart attack or some other MAJOR illness. I made many trips to the urgent care or ER and was always told "nothing at all is wrong. go home". I spent my day worrying about my health, experiencing phantom pains or symptoms. At one point, I was convinced that I had a thyroid problem and actually felt my throat swelling up. When I had my blood checked and found there was nothing wrong with my thryoid, my throat swelling-sensation went away. The health anxiety stuff lasted for months. Once I convinced myself that "listen, there's nothing wrong with you and even if there is, there's no reason to obsess or worry about something you can't control", my anxiety and OCD switched to DP/DR.
My DP/DR symptoms were very much like everyone else's. They would morph, get worse, get better, get worse again. The best way I could describe the way that I felt was like I was holding onto my sanity by a thread. I truly felt that I had to just get through one more day...because the minute I "gave in" to the weird sensations, I'd go crazy.
Some of my symptoms included:
• Feeling detached
• Looking at myself and feeling severe disconnect. Not knowing who/what I was.
• Looking at others (my mom, husband or the worst, my child) and feeling confused over who/what they were.
• Looking at normal things and being petrified because nothing made SENSE anymore.
• Never feeling relaxed. Always feeling SCARED. PETRIFIED. HORRIFIED.
• Feeling like I was floating above and away from my body.
• Spacing out.
• Being severely confused over what everything was.
• Doing minial tasks and feeling severe disconnect and fear.
• Tunnel vision.
• Numbers were weird. Memories were weird. Faces were weird.
• Not feeling in control of myself or my surroundings. Like I was going to go totally nuts any second.
• Getting severe "waves" of dissociation, making me think my symptoms were getting worse.
• Feeling a severe sense of dread almost all the time.
There were points where I couldn't even brush my hair because the hairbrush nor my hair would make sense. It was an incredibly confusing, petrifying time for me. I was alone, in a house with a baby for up to 10 hours a day and feeling so severely dissociated that I felt I couldn't trust myself. I always felt like one day would just be it. I'd go nuts. I'd FINALLY lose all touch with reality. There were times when I had my baby outside and had to rush her back into the house because I'd start to "dissociate" badly. I felt if I was too far from the house, maybe I'd dissociate to the point of not being able to find my way back home. There were a few times I called my husband home from work because I was convinced I was going to dissociate so severely that I wouldn't be able to care for our daughter.
I finally bought a car. I was happy. MAYBE just MAYBE I could drive around and get out of this "funk". So I did. Me and my baby girl went cruising. I went to the town next to mine to do some shopping. And on the way, a wave of severe dissociation came over me so bad that I vowed never to use the car by myself without another adult in it again. As I was driving, I started dissociating and felt like everything didn't make sense. The lines...the lights...the other cars...where the fuck was I? What the living FUCK? The first time that happened, I came home and just went into the bathroom and started crying. My life was a living nightmare. I noticed that my DP/DR got better when I had "safe people" around me....like my mom or husband. It wasn't fully gone, but better. I felt like if I totally "lost it" while I was out in public, I'd at least have someone there to drag me back to the sanity and safety of our car or something.
All this time, I kept logging onto the internet. Checking these forums "I just experienced -such-and-such-....is this normal? Does everyone else who has DP/DR get this, too?". I would regularly look for ways to "cure" my dissociation. I was desparate to find a cure. I didn't give a shit what it was. I felt sick. I was convinced there was something MAJORLY wrong with me. I felt mentally ill and desperate to get help. I started making calls around. I went to see my doctor who prescribed me an anti-anxiety. It did shit. I stopped taking it after two months realizing it did nothing but make me dizzy as all hell when taking it. I went on anti-depressants. They did nothing at all. In fact, the first month I felt that they made my symptoms worse. I stopped taking them, too. My doctor told me to go and see a psychologist. Now, you guys have to realize...I live in a ho-bunk town and the medical professionals aren't the best. The psychologist who I saw, I explained everything. I told her I felt very disconnected. Like I was in a dream all the time. And that it was causing me severe anxiety. She looked at me and asked if I had been tested for amnesia and that it could be a health problem. I left the office and never made an appointment again...she obviously knew nothing about anxiety.
That's when I started thinking about other health issues that could be causing it. Did I have a brain tumor? Did I have a vitamin deficiency? Maybe I needed to take better-quality vitamins? Maybe it was the artificial sweeteners in my Diet Coke? Maybe it was caffeine? Oh shit...the fluoride in my toothpaste....it's the fluoride in the toothpaste. I can't tell you guys how many things I thought was causing my DP/DR. At one point, I was using non-fluoridated toothpaste, drinking nothing but water, spending nearly $200 a month on vitamins and supplements and avoiding caffeine like the fucking plague. Because any time I drank anything caffeinated, my DP/DR would get worse. Or at least...I convinced myself of that.
After going through this literal, everyday, every minute living hell for about a year and a half, my mom retired and I was spending more time talking with her and going out. My symptoms didn't go away instantly. In fact, I spent the first few months of her being retired thinking "damn, I thought when she retired and I had someone to talk to and be with all the time, I'd get better". But soon, my symptoms started clearing. Things started making sense again. I could have FUN with my daughter without being petrified because she looked weird and foreign. I could look at myself in the mirror and tweeze my eyebrows without being shocked because I didn't recognize myself. I put on a lot of weight throughout my DP/DR ordeal, but I was feeling damn good otherwise.
It's been probably over a year now since my DP/DR lifted entirely. There are times when I will have a short "burst" of DP/DR feelings, but they don't last. And I'm going to try to explain how and why I think I got over the hell without medications and without major lifestyle changes.
• Socialize -
I truly believe that my DP/DR was triggered and lasted so long because of isolation. If you're spending a lot of time alone with no one to talk to, find a way to change things. As I like to say...if you don't keep your brain busy, it'll keep it busy for you.
• Get Busy -
Inactivity gives your brain a lot of time to think about things. I truly, 100 percent believe that most DP/DR cases are OCD-related. I am sure that the majority of people on these forums have OCD and that your DP/DR is simply another manifestation of your obsessiveness. It's why you (and I in the past) spend so much time on these forums. It's our compulsion. It's a way for us to obsess just a little bit more or to verify why we're feeling the way we feel. When you get busy to the point that your mind isn't able to run a race around itself and get into an obsessive rut, you'll find your DP/DR gets better.
• Don't Use Coping Skills...Seriously -
When it comes to OCD, coping skills can just make your anxiety and symptoms worse long-term. Coping skills are there to tell your brain "hey...there's something really wrong with me, so I need to do this-or-that to feel better". Things I regularly did when my DP/DR got bad included: vaping (I'd vape because I felt it "calmed me down"), mobile apps and games, social media. I was pretty much on my tablet ALL.THE.TIME. Why? Because looking around the room or at other people bothered me so much that I thought I should just bury myself in my device. But what helps is forcing yourself to look at the room and other pople...no matter how weird they look. Don't try to analyze anything. Let that shit feel weird. You won't go nuts, or you would've already.
• Think About It...But Don't Obsess Over It -
This helped me a LOT. The problem with my DP/DR was that I was repressing it. I was so afraid of it, that I would dread when I felt it. Anytime I got a weird thought or existential obsession, I'd try to force myself to stop feeling or thinking that way. Once I started viewing it as more of an inconvenience and annoyance or just a "weird feeling or thought" than something that was LITERALLY.GOING.TO.DRIVE.ME.TO.THE.CRAZY.HOUSE, my anxiety calmed down and the feelings of DP/DR went away. I am sure you've all heard that DP/DR is a result of severe anxiety. You are anxious over a feeling of anxiety...which perpetuates the cycle. Weird anxiety-related symptom>fear of symptom>forcing self to stop feeling that way or thinking that way>weird anxiety-related symptom. When you get a feeling or thought, let it sit there...but don't start analyzing it or obsessing over "what it could mean/do/be/become". I used to try to control my feelings because I felt that if I didn't, I'd dissociate so badly I wouldn't even be in my body. But all repressing it did was make it last longer.
• Stop Isolating Yourself -
Again, I truly believe that my DP/DR was trigged by being alone. Isolation isn't good. I'm an introvert. I hate crowds, always have. I don't like people, always have. But even us introverts need to socialize. Connect with a family member, friend, make arrangements to spend time with people. If you're a teenager or young adult, get closer to your parents and spend time with them.
• STOP DOING RESEARCH -
Someone on these forums once told me that my DP/DR could be a result of minor seizures. I have never had a seizure, but when she said it, I sure believed it could be true. Your DP/DR is a result of over-obsession of your symptoms and doing too much research and talking to people about your symptoms. I found that when I spent time with my husband and mom, all I would talk about was my DP/DR. It made me feel good to get the things off my chest. But what it was doing was just reinforcing that I had a problem. I was constantly looking things up online, on these forums, talking about my symptoms...it was my life...no wonder the symptoms lasted, it's all I talked about! It's as if you were talking about yourself to someone and always saying what a stupid person you were...you'd eventually believe it and even feel stupid, even if you weren't. If you constantly talk, write, read about or obsess over DP/DR, you're going to be depersonalized and derealized. Also, like attracts like. You're talking about a symptom of OCD and anxiety with a lot of other people with OCD and anxiety. I'm not saying that people on this forum aren't genuinely amazing people: they are. But their anxiety can feed off of your anxiety and vice versa. And as far as looking for validation: no you're not crazy, you're stuck in a fear/OCD/anxiety cycle surrounded by DP/DR thoughts and feelings. That is all. Your symptoms are no different than anyone else's and if they are, it doesn't matter. How unique your symptoms are DOES NOT MATTER. Some days it's worse than others. It doesn't mean it's getting worse. I haven't come onto these forums in awhile and I'm only on here to post this to help others. I refuse to start browsing these forums again. Again, this is nothing against ANYONE here at all. It's just the nature of the beast. It's like an ex-smoker going onto a smoking site or watching smoking videos all day.
• Stop Believing There's Something Wrong with You -
I pretty much thought up every scenario possible. No way in hell were my awful symptoms a result of just meer OCD obsessing and anxiety. I stopped drinking caffeine because I truly believed I was caffeine-sensitive. I went out and bought expensive vitamins because I was convinced I had a vitamin deficiency. I thought maybe it was a brain tumor? Maybe I had an issue with my thyroid. At one point, I was convinced that I had a hormone imbalance from giving birth. There is NOTHING wrong with you. I stopped all the bullshit and went back to living normally. I now drink caffeine CONSTANTLY. I drink diet soda drinks CONSTANTLY...which are filled with artificial sweeteners and caffeine (my two biggest fears when my DP/DR was at its worst). I use fluoridated toothpaste. I don't take vitamins...ever...and my diet is shitty as the hills (I'm basically the opposite of keto...I love my carbs). I'm not trying to say that my lifestyle is ideal. It's not. I know I need to eat better and take better care of myself, but what I'm trying to say is that none of those things contributed to DP/DR. If they did, I'd still have DP/DR and I don't.
• Patience and Time -
You want to be cured. Today. You want everything to get better. Today. The problem is, like so many other things, you need to give it time. You might be saying "but it's been one year, three years, 10 years, 20 years...I've GIVEN it time". But...you're still on these forums. When I finally realized that my DP/DR was a direct coorelation of my OCD, I realized that obsessing over it, researching it, looking for validation and talking about it constantly weren't going to make it go away. I immediately got off of these forums and any time I would be tempted to TALK about my DP/DR to my mom or husband or brother, I would stop myself. The more you read into your symptoms, the longer they will be there. If what you have right now is OCD-related, which I truly believe it is, obsessing over it MORE isn't going to help. That's actually exactly how OCD works. However, it takes time to get over the obsession. It's not an overnight fix.
• Less is MORE -
I like to think of OCD and DP/DR as benefiting from the less-is-more approach. The MORE you research your symptoms, the MORE you look for validation of your symptoms, the MORE you talk about your symptoms, the MORE you fear your symptoms, the MORE you focus solely and obsess over your symptoms, the MORE you convince yourself there's something seriously wrong with you, the MORE you think you need something to get over it or deal with it (meds, alcohol, drugs, tobacco), the MORE the symptoms will be there. The LESS you research DP/DR, the LESS you talk about it, the LESS you fear it, the LESS you obsess over it, the LESS you dread having it come back, the LESS you use coping skills to handle the anxiety, the LESS it will be there.
• De-Stress -
I truly believe stress is an underlying factor for why DP/DR is triggered. For me, I was stressed over being a new mom, not having much help and because I was not sleeping properly or eating properly. I put a lot of stress on my body and mind and it eventually decided to zone out. Isolation and the loneliness that comes with it didn't help. I think it's a good idea to take time for yourself and to really force yourself to do things you used to like. When I was deep into my DP/DR, I couldn't exercise. Not because I was too tired or disabled, but because any time I worked out, I would focus on feeling dissociated and it made me feel worse. My body moving was weird because I didn't even feel like I was IN my body. But whenever I'd race off of the treadmill to get away from "those" feelings, I didn't realize that I was just reinforcing my fears. I mean, there must have been something really bad if I can't even walk on a treadmill, right? No. There wasn't. However, if you're using a de-stressing technique to RUN AWAY from your feelings, stop doing it. You literally need to face these sensations/thoughts/feelings, no matter how bad they are.
For me, my symptoms didn't go away over night. It took months. Months of not talking about my DP/DR...to ANYONE. Months of not researching it. Months of staying off of the forums. Months of busying myself. Months of doing things despite feeling derealized. Months of forcing myself to FEEL the sensations of DP/DR and not running away, crying or cutting corners. It's okay to allow yourself time to heal. When someone you love passes away, you don't get over it the next day. When you have a wound, it doesn't instantly go away, scar and all, within a day. Why would your DP/DR? But if you keep picking at the wound and throwing shit into it, it's never going to heal.
I remember asking my mom once, "Mom, how do you shut your mind up? All mine does is panic and think about how weird something is or feels or looks. It's like my brain won't shut the fuck up. I can't even take a shower without feeling dissociated." and she looked at me weird and said "I just think about random things...like when I'm in the shower, I think about what I'm going to do for the day". And at the time, I was like "pishhh...she doesn't know what I'M going through!" but now, I can take a shower and literally be thinking about dinner for that night and how I'm going to make it.
Are there times when my DP/DR flares up? Yes. And it can. Why? Because it is a type of OCD. It's like someone whose OCD revolves around everything being contaminated/dirty. They can get over the OCD...but in months or years, they may be tempted to become obsessed over it again for one reason or another (maybe coming down with a contagious sickness triggers their old contamination OCD). The person can fall into the same PIT of despair as before....if they let it happen. The same thing can happen with DP/DR. If you get a feeling a month, year, 10 years after getting over it, let it wash over you and keep going about your day. The minute you start obsessing over it "ohhh shit...it's back....it's BACK....NOOOOOooooooOOOOooo!!!", it's going to stick and you're going to have to work to get it to go away again. Sometimes, when I think about DP/DR...like when I write about it or think about it.....I get those old sensations of feeling disconnected and dissociated. However, I just get back to life and I don't let it stop me, and I certainly don't start doing research on it or start telling people around me how awful I feel. The feelings don't last very long as a result.
What does it feel like to be "recovered", so to say? I like to say it's not so much recovery as it's a different mind set. You're not recovering from anything. It's not an illness. It is a current obsessive state of mind. Similar to a hypocondriac who can't get through the day without thinking they have some horrible underlying disease. They don't actually have a disease. Having a different mind set means I can spend time with my daughter without living in fear. It means I can bake cookies or cook dinner without feeling like I'm going to lose control over myself and forget to turn off the heat and set the house on fire. It's being able to remember something from my past without being petrified of what memories even are or analyzing how they work. It's relaxing at night with a bowl of popcorn and watching a movie or a television show. It's looking in the mirror and feeling nothing, no fear. It's going out into public and being more ANNOYED with the crowds than scared of them. It's taking a bath at night and actually relaxing rather than crying because nothing makes sense. The world doesn't have that "dirty glass" or "tunnel vision" look to it anymore. My nervous system has finally relaxed enough because I decided I wasn't going to give a shit about DP/DR anymore. When I was deep into my anxiety and DP/DR, even sitting in bed at night was terrifying. Everything looked foreign. I even sounded foreign to myself. But now I just sit there and veg out. Hell, sometimes I stare at the wall thinking about the holidays or the upcoming week or finances or some other random thing.
Again, I hope that my post will help someone. I know I'll have the naysayers who say they've tried everything and have had it for 30+ years, but again, I would say to maybe stop coming onto the forums or doing research on it as a great place to start. If this post can help just one person, I'd be so happy. Again, and sorry for the long post, but I'm only on here to post my recovery story. I will not be checking profiles/other posts/other links/etc. I'll only be here to reply to comments and that's it. Thanks for reading, everyone!
Good luck, everyone!!