I offer you this not to "convert" you or anyone, but simply to share what just happened to me.
I had somewhat of a relapse this week and was feeling anxious and (yes) depersonalized. Both fear of imminent death (anxiety) and that things were not real (when I am anxious these things are merged into just one phenomenon). Not a panic attack, but a quiet desperation and things didn't feel right. I was therefore afraid to go to sleep a short while ago. I felt I was "not me," and was scared.
For all my talk of faith in God, though, sometimes I find it hard to turn to Christ. I cannot explain it, but it's almost like I don't want to bother Him or something. Dumb, I know. I'm an adult convert, so I haven't been at this very long (just a little over 20 years).
Anyway, today I bought Pope Benedict's 2002 book "God and the World," and I got into bed tried to read. I read the two prefaces (one by the pope and the other by the journalist who had a series of conversations with him -- which was the book I was about to read. It's an "interview" -- a follow-up to a previous interview the journalist conducted with then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1996.
The fear was real, though I had no bodily symptoms, so I told myself it was just anxiety. I have been working on some repressed feelings and had a talk tonight with my oldest sister about many things, and I've been dealing with my inner "stuff" for a while now.
After a little reading (maybe four pages), I still was scared and was sitting there trying to decide what to do -- take two Benadryl, take half an ativan, wait it out, go to sleep. The thought of sleep frightened me even worse. I neared feeling utter terror at the thought of sleep, and I could not understand it. I felt unreal, scared, lost, wondered if I had any faith at all, and hopeless, even though I still would tell anyone that I believed God was in charge and that even if died, I'd be going home. Of course it is my weak faith that makes me fear dying, but that's another matter.
At that point, scared, tired, depersonalized, I put my head down on the book and prayed to God. "Help me, Lord," I silently pleaded. I thought for a second that I could feel something draining from my body, but I was not immediately free of all fear and unreality. So I put my head down on the book again and did it again, "Help me, Lord." This was the prayer of utter faith and utter fear. I lifted my head and could not believe that everything frightening that had colored my world for the previous three hours was suddenly and completely absent. I felt tired, still, but there was no fear of going to sleep. My first thought was to come here and share this with people, even though I am aware that some will not find it helpful at all. I decided to do it anyway for the sake of those who might not believe in God but might be willing to try (after all, one has nothing to lose) to pray ANYWAY. I decided to do it also for the sake of those who are like me and sometimes avoid turning to God for some reason.
The fear is gone now, and has not returned during the time I have been typing this message.
I cannot tell you how astonished I was. I am not saying this is a miracle or anything, but I am saying the Christ came, I believe, to my assistance. There is no other explanation that makes sense to me. While anxiety DOES "pass" after a time, that anxiety I had wasn't going away anytime soon because I was in one of those self-perpetuating spirals where I could not stop thinking about the sense of fear that I felt. Not for an instant could I avoid feeling intensely the fear and the further fear of sleep.
I have asked God for strength when I've been ill with a physical malady, such as nausea, and I have asked him for strength and help when I was sick with the chicken pox at age 40, and perhaps I asked him for help when I was depressed, although not very seriously, I'm sure, because I hated everyone and everything and felt life was not worth living when I was depressed. So I don't have a lot of history of asking him to remove anxiety. When I had my first panic attack in May, I could not even believe that I believed in God. Nothing was meaningful at all. Nothing. The only reality was terrible fear. That was my total reality.
So tonight was different. I asked him with a heart full of faith to help me, and that's exactly what he did. He removed the anxiety from me within seconds. I was astonished -- totally amazed -- and I felt that he wanted me to tell someone about this. But who? Well, it had to be you all!
Right now I just feel a delicious tiredness that will allow me to go to sleep; I don't feel in the least unreal, but I am feeling that the world is stranger than any of us really can begin to know. If Christ did heal me 25 minutes ago, and I cannot but believe He did because of the sheer dramatic change that took place in me, then he not only hears our prayers when we truly call out in great need but he is with us always and ready to help whenever we turn to him. I postponed it; I will not postpone it again.
Now, I am aware that many people here think I just did something to myself, but I don't have to remind you how difficult you all, who have suffered from DP/DR and assorted other problems, know talking oneself out of it is, or wishing oneself out of it, or autosuggesting oneself out of it. So that seems unlikely to be what happened.
I am also aware that many people here will say it was just a coincidence, but I have to say that it wasn't time for the anxiety to pass naturally away, and that its passage was, indeed, timed perfectly to my two prayers for help. I might believe "coincidence" if it happened within five minutes of my prayers, but it happened instantaneously, or nearly. I prayed twice and after the second, I was "myself" (whoever that is).
I hate to say it, but this "depersonalization" feeling does have some of the features of a "higher" or "transcendental" consciousness about it. I realize that I never KNEW who I was. I am coming to see that I can only know myself as I am in Christ.
Maybe I shouldn't be posting this; I don't think it will harm anyone, so I am going to take the risk of offending some of you.
I just want to say that while I believed in God when I prayed tonight, I never expected he would instantly remove the fear. Never. I cannot possibly convey to you my surprise in its full extent.
But somewhat "depersonalized" I remain, and not in a bad way, but in a way that allows me to appreciate that there IS more to reality than one we see. But maybe "depersonalized" isn't the right word; I feel like me, whoever that is, and I feel real, whatever that is. And maybe that's the point I am making -- real is what feels real. To me, it feels real that Christ healed me tonight of my fear. The idea that I must try to remain in this radical dependence upon him has a dimension to it that is not unlike depersonalization, in that things are not just what we see with our eyes. I don't know if this will make sense or not, but I offer it with hope that at least some of you will turn to the Holy Mystery and ask for healing.
Even if you don't believe -- perhaps especially if you don't believe -- it might just be the source of as great surprise to you as it was to me.