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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My greatest fears: 1) Not existing 2) Losing my mind

Hello. I was moved to tears when I found this website. It?s a mixture of emotions; the possibility of putting a name to my affliction makes me happy, but I?m also afraid that I may be this way forever and it may be because of my use of drugs.

I?ll start with some little things I remember from childhood. I?m throwing these out here in the hopes of finding someone that can relate.
- I always felt different from other people.
- I was very shy around other kids (this has lessened somewhat over time)
- My parents say that I was easy to take care of because I could entertain myself; I didn?t need constant attention (this still holds true)
- I was really bright; learned how to read at an early age and picked up on things quickly
- I used to play little ?what if? games, like ?what if everybody on Earth is psychic except me? Everybody else is constantly communicating with each other and talking about me but they pretend like they can?t.?
- I was prone to feelings of guilt. In fact, I would be periodically beset by a strange feeling of general guilt over nothing at all. I could only describe it to my parents as ?The Bad Feeling?. I remember it hitting me once while at a hotel room the day before visiting DisneyWorld. I just felt that I didn?t deserve this kind of happiness for some reason.
- I can vaguely remember my first bouts of existential angst. I was lying in bed imagining that a robber might come into the house and kill me; just general scared kid stuff. Then I started contemplating death. I started to try to really wrap my mind around the concept of nonexistence. Then something hit me, as if for an instant I grasped the true horror of death: the loss of memory and identity for all time. My mind started asking those questions: ?why even bother living when the end result is the same?? My heart raced and my mind recoiled from the thought. I could not make my mind grasp the thought again until several weeks passed.

For the rest of my life, this anxious fear of non-existence has been with me. I can conjure up the true heart-pounding panic with a force of will, but for the most part it remains a steady throbbing in the background that serves to make me question the point of everything I do, while I outwardly continue to function normally.

I don?t seem to have any of the symptoms that prevent me from functioning outwardly. I?ve read about people that experience distortion of perception or loss of memories. I don?t have any of that (not yet), but I do have this constant disturbing thought process that I can?t shake.

I?ve talked about my pervasive fear of nonexistence and now I?d like to talk about my inescapable inner dialog. This is the DP symptom I can relate to the most. When I was younger I used to play a little mental game. I noticed that my mind was constantly filled with fleeting thoughts about many random things. I started observing this flow of thought. I started to differentiate between fleeting thoughts and ?serious thoughts? I called them, which were ones I was going to act on or think further on. So every time a thought rose out above the background chatter I would ask myself ?Is this a serious thought??. Gradually this led from an innocent game to questioning the origins of my thoughts, questioning the purpose of questioning, etc. in a process that I can?t seem to control anymore.

As an example, let?s say I?m in a social situation. I will be acutely conscious of how I present myself to other people. As soon as I say something I start questioning why I said it (?Did I say that to impress people?? ?Why do I want to impress people?? ?Do people think I said that to impress them?? ?Are they trying to impress me?? ?Is that what normal people do?? ?Is anybody else questioning their own thoughts like I am?? ?If it?s not normal to do what I?m doing, is anybody else noticing that I?m not normal?? ?Am I behaving like myself or like people expect me to behave?? ?Do I really have any of these opinions?? ?Is there a real self?? ?Do I have any opinions at all??) This process is constantly occurring.

This may be normal social anxiety, but I?m not sure. If I give in to this questioning process it quickly becomes very disturbing. I will begin to question who I am. When I try to describe myself to myself, I can only list my likes and dislikes and I start to feel that I don?t have an actual personality.

As another example, let?s say I?m watching the news and something about a national tragedy comes on. My gut reaction will be to be upset at the tragedy. Then the questioning begins. ?Am I really upset? Or is this a social conditioning to be upset? Do I really feel upset or do I act upset to appear normal? Do I really care about those people? What if I don?t care about people? What if I?m not a good person? There is no God, we are all alone in ourselves, is there any reason to care about people? Maybe I don?t really care about anything, and I just fool myself into believing that I care about things. Do I really care about my parents, my friends, and my wife? If my parents died today would I be sad, or would I pretend to be sad and not really feel anything??

I don?t know anymore if I?m a real human being or an unfeeling shell. Even though I?ve been an atheist most of my life, I?ve had a strict moral code more or less along the lines of the Golden Rule. I try my hardest not to harm people; I am made happy by helping people and doing volunteer work. I feel ill when I feel like I may have caused someone to suffer or feel sad, especially my wife. But I don?t know if this is really me or my idealized vision of what a person should be. I don?t know who I really am. When I follow my own internal dialog it?s as though my objective is to paint the situation in the scariest way possible, which is a complete lack of self. And I think maybe this is my mind?s attempt to expose me to the scary truth, which is so scary I don?t want to believe it. That?s why I struggle with myself over it. It?s true, and I hate that it?s true.

These fears are always with me and the dialog never stops. I think this is why I need to be constantly occupied with mental stimuli, such as video games, crossword puzzles, or books. I can?t enjoy just sitting on the beach and thinking. I can barely enjoy conversation with others.

The strange thing is that outwardly I appear completely normal to everyone. People seem to think of me as smart, shy, funny, and nice. It?s because I never talk about this stuff that?s constantly going on in my mind. Yesterday I had a talk with my wife and tried to open up about this stuff. She told me she has never had these thoughts. Never questions her own thought processes, never fears her own death (even though she?s also an atheist); just lives life in the real present. I wish I could do that. I didn?t even tell her everything. How could I tell her that I?m not sure if I really love her? That I?m not sure I?m even capable of that emotion? That I?m afraid I?m just going through the social motions of love and marriage?

Oh, about the drugs. The fear of death and the self-analysis have always been with me, but they are intensely exacerbated by pot. I used to enjoy pot back in high school; I liked how it ?dumbed me down? so I could really enjoy conversation or get a kick out of a stupid movie like normal people do. But in the last few years, any time I smoke pot I enjoy the first few minutes but I am soon locked into a panic where all the veils are pulled aside and I can no longer hide from the horrifying truth of myself. I become convinced that the thoughts I try to avoid are the only reality and that?s why I usually avoid them. Or I become convinced that I am losing my sanity. Now, while sober, I?m not sure how seriously to take those thoughts. Also, I once did shrooms and had a horrible trip where I was convinced that I had in fact died, and that my hell was to live in this mental state for all eternity. I never did shrooms again. After reading this website and reading about the link between pot and DP I swore not to use pot again. However, as I write this I feel a desire to smoke again, because I have this sense that I need to confront the reality of myself instead of hiding from it. I don?t think I will.

This isn?t much of a story; just a collection of everything that I think is odd about me. I?m just hoping that someone reads this and relates to something I?ve said. I have never talked to anyone that could relate to me about this and now it?s all I want to do. I don?t know why. I don?t know if this will make me feel better or make someone else feel better, but I feel like it might. Somebody please respond to me here or to my personal email.

Thank you.

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· Registered
1,345 Posts
I can relate well with some of the thoughts you are haveing. I often wonder about reallity, life, god, sanity, who the hell am I, and have I lost my humanity or soal. I also just learned of dp/dr or dpph. I have suffered in agany for 8 years now. Your experince with shrooms stands out for me. I felt that way for 2 months strait. I felt as if I left this earth and went to a hellish twilite zone. Allthough knowing full well I was here on earth after all. You seem to be a very smart person, as I have problems just writeing this post. As for your fear of death and atheist thoughts. I think you need to take another look at the idea of a God and afterlife. Reading the bible has made all my atheist thoughts dissapair completly. Also I now at least understand the meaning of life and the reason why we suffer. Even though I am still unable to feal much joy or experience the meaning of life.
Next time you look into the mirror ask yourself if you really believe you evoled from nothing!

Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I had my first thought about non-existence when I was 5 years old, I remember thinking "I don't want to die, I don't want to be forgotten, I don't want to lose my family!!" It still occasionally plagues me, especially at night when my mind has time to wander. I think that is why I converted to Buddhism, it helped me accept mortality and not be as afraid. Nothing is permanent, why would death be? It is a relief to know I am not the only person who has thought so deeply about this. I think people with "old souls" who are deep thinkers tend to come to this realization more often. It is not the actual thought of physical death that bothered me, but the loss of identity, the knowlege that I would no longer "be". I hope to someday be able to eliminate these thoughts and my panic attacks thru meditation and medical help and counseling.
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