It's been a longtime since I've been on here, years in fact. I recently had to write some non-fiction pieces for an online course I was taking and felt it was finally time to write a bit about my experience. I always promised myself I would come back and post, but had always been a bit afraid of re-entering this old world that I used to spend so much time in. If anyone ever wants to reach out, I'm here to talk. I know all to well what depersonalization can do to someone.
Rules of Reality
In the beginning I wrote it off to exhaustion or maybe it was dehydration. I was in graduate school, working full time as a teacher’s aide and keeping up a rather robust social life. It came on like an earthquake; sudden and its aftermath changed my life forever. I was fully rooted in our daily game of recess wiffleball. There was a pop-up. The sound of the kids encouraging me is still burned into my memory. “You got this Mister!” I looked up towards the falling ball and I suddenly lost it. Not the ball, but me. I lost reality. In an instant, I was viewing my life through a foreign lens. I was still me. I was still here. But, it was different. I was watching a movie of my life as it happened without regard for my current situation. I was completely disconnected. I was terrified. My calm walk towards the bathroom was a complete farce to the anxiety storm brewing within my head. Seizure, brain tumor, hemorrhage, stress, schizophrenia, a bad dream, I was scrambling to find a reason for this feeling. Was it the sushi I ate for lunch? Was this mercury poisoning? It will surely go away if I go for a run after work. Running is my remedy, it’s my escape. This time, running let me down. I was falling deeper and deeper into my own mind. I was still here. I knew who I was. I was a teacher’s aide and graduate student, a boyfriend and brother and son and friend. I knew what I had to do and I knew how to do it but everything was different. I was late again. Hop on the green line at the end of Kelton Street. Get off at the Park Street Station. Take the Red Line outbound to Ashmont. Get off at JFK/UMass. Get on the bus to campus. Walk to the Kennedy building. Sit down. Listen. Take notes. Do they know? Can they tell I am stuck in some strange land? The professor keeps looking at me. How did this happen?
The next morning, I opened my eyes with hopeful ambition that I had been placed back in the world I know and love. Then, I picked up the phone and called my doctor. Yes, I will need an appointment please. No, I’m not really sure what is wrong, but I’ve, um, disconnected from reality. Then it was MRI’s and antibiotics and antidepressants and therapists and EMDR and diet changes and acupuncture and yoga and more exercise and more doctors and more therapists. It was a lot of we don’t knows and it’s all in your heads. Google became my best friend and worst enemy. I read and researched and sat in online chatrooms searching for answers. Days turned into weeks turned into years. I was losing me. I missed the feeling of taking in a sunset, of feeling the ocean on my skin, of laughing with my friends. I missed life. I was scared it would never come back. I sat and scrolled and read and even started posting. Then, it was there. Depersonalization. The persistent feeling of observing oneself from outside one’s body or having a sense that one’s surroundings aren’t real. I had a name for my nightmare. Then, I read and talked and read some more. There were stories. Those who have lived with it their entire lives and have given into a life of detachment. Those who experienced it after smoking pot. Those who experienced it after a trauma. It was cureable. It wasn’t cureable. You need to meditate. You need to change your diet. You need to take supplements. Apple Cider Vinegar, that’s how you get out of this. I tried it all. I realized I have no chance, just give up now. I can’t live like this forever. No one understands. No one cares. I should just leave this world. But I never did, I wanted to live again. I wanted to feel and experience and be me.
One day I chose to stop fighting it. Stop the worrying and obsessing. No more chat rooms or discussion boards. No more dead end therapy appointments. No more specialized diets. I was going to learn to enjoy this feeling. People pay good money to feel detached from reality. I was enjoying the ride for free and it appears I was given a lifetime pass. Don’t fight it. Enjoy it. My mantra became ride the wave. I would say it over and over again during my darkest hours. I forced myself to live again, even if it didn’t feel like living. Watch the moon. Go for a run. Don’t skip out on friends anymore no matter how awful you feel in that moment. Eat healthy but don’t stress about every damn thing that goes into your mouth. Talk. Laugh. Love. Read. Listen to music. Even if it doesn’t feel right. Do it for yourself. Then, over time, it slowly got better. I had moments of clarity. The constant anxiety faded over time. There were glimpses of me, of reality. Keep enjoying it. Keep riding that wave. Then it happened. I didn’t even notice the moment or mark the occasion. I just remember coming home after a busy day and looking in the mirror. I was looking at me. The real me. It felt right. Seven years of hell brought me to this moment. I was more alive than ever. To this day, I don’t know what happened exactly. I don’t know why I suffered with this undiagnosed feeling of unreality. I do know, I appreciate life more now. I live in the present as much as possible. I enjoy feelings and emotions, the good and the bad. Life is not perfect and that’s more than alright. If you learn to ride the wave, life is pretty damn beautiful.