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I came across this story a few weeks ago and thought it might be of some help to some of you as I read that a few of you were questioning whether drug induced DP was permanent. Its a bit long but worth it.

Five years ago, when i was 21, i had never heard of depersonalisation. i was a happy university student, merry with life, friends and essays, oblivious to any world except my own steady, reliable one. although i was a shy, deep thinking person i had never felt particularly anxious or stressed about anything in my life and had never suffered from any neurosis or psychological problems at all. at 21, i was a small cheery boat bobbing along on the ocean, basking in the sun; i was a bright red balloon exploring lightly in the air. quite simply, i was ignorant of any possibility of my life changing at all. blinded by the sun, i was not aware of the thunderbolt that was streaming headlong towards me.

depersonalisation (dp) is a horrible, unpredictable, inexplicable experience. more than anything, it is frightening. it is described by medical dictionaries as ' a sensation of feeling as if living in a dream, feeling of nothing being real, feeling detached from oneself, yet remaining aware this is just a sensation'. i know, it sounds really crazy and unimaginable. even now as i write this with the memory of dp inside me, knowing exactly what it is like, i cannot remember precisely how it felt and i cannot relive the terror of the feeling. that is a mercy for me.

sat in my bedroom with six other student friends in february 1995 i accepted the offered rollup of tobacco and cannabis and inhaled three times. i remember it was exactly three times because i was to think about it so many times afterwards. not having tried cannabis a great deal before, and not being generally into that scene anyway, i declined the additional offer and went to the other side of my room to go to bed. i wanted them all to leave really but they carried on smoking and laughing. they were chilled; i was tired and felt a little peculiar. so i lay down and tried to go to sleep. two minutes passed.

'jo?' 'jo - come over here...jo...please...oh my god what's wrong with me? Oh my god...Jo, something's happened to me...god, this is all wrong, I've gone...oh no...I'm not here...Jo, please, I'm not here...

I was having my first experience of depersonalisation.

I remember when I was asked by my alarmed friends what I felt like I told them: 'It's like I'm inside an egg or a bubble and you're all on the other side of it'. I had no idea what was happening to me and I was absolutely, uncontrollably terrified. I remember them all stood around my bed looking down at me and I could hear them and see them all accurately; but it was like I was watching cardboard cutouts of them, like they were on a stage or in another world to me. What was happening all around me just did not feel real and I was genuinely considering the possibility that I was dreaming. I felt different; I was not 'me' anymore. This new world felt so different to the one I was in just a moment ago and yet everything I could see was the same as it had been. Everything was exactly the same and yet everything was completely different. I could not make sense of myself and I did not recognise the mind that I was thinking with. I tried to think about what I was feeling so I could get a grip on it but I quickly seemed to slide further and further down into the experience and when I looked up I was lost inside my own mind.. The utter fear and incomprehension at what was happening to me grew swiftly into a panic and within minutes I began to hyperventilate.

A nurse who lived in our house ignored my pleas for an ambulance and watched me carefully instead. By this time I had wrapped myself up in a ball in the corner of the kitchen and was continuing my panic although I was perfectly coherent and not seemingly crazy. My assertions of feeling 'lost, different and in an egg' were clearly a result of the cannabis to the nurse and because of the probable temporary effect of cannabis she did not think I warranted a doctor. In retrospect, she was right too.

My hyperventilating was scaring me as I thought perhaps I was now heading for a cardiac arrest. I was breathing in and out so hard and loud it was all I could concentrate on and so the panic grew. Some of you may know that panic is an almost uncontrollable feeling when it sweeps over you, but I emphasise the 'almost' here because within ten minutes I was able to calm myself down. Ten minutes of panic though; that was a result of working myself up so much I could not see, I could not hear and I would not look at anything beyond my own fear.

What caused me the most fear during this experience was the dread that I was going to stay like it. I thought perhaps I had damaged my brain and I was going to be lost inside my own head for the rest of my life. If only I had known that I was going to come back to normal again within three hours I'm sure I would've been calmer. And so I did come back to normal again. Towards the end of the DP, sat on my bed with Jo watching over me, I 'flashed' in and out of the feeling a few times before eventually coming back to what I recognised as normality again. I remember saying something like, 'I'm back...no I've gone again...no, it's ok, I'm back now'. It was like I was swooping in and out of different worlds, though seeing the same things in each world. Anyway, I had eventually arrived back home.

I was completely back to normal for the next year, continuing with my adored essays (!) and regularly frequenting pubs as every good student should. Spring, summer, autumn passed. Then disaster struck my life again. My beloved, intelligent and funny, older brother, who was 22, was killed from a fall. I seemed to cope ok with this and our close-knit family huddled together for support.

Then, a few weeks later, before Xmas 1995, I did the stupidest thing and went to our local woods and smoked a couple of drags of cannabis again. It was, I was told, 'leaf', and therefore very strong stuff. Literally within 30 seconds of smoking it I felt a switch turn in my mind and suddenly I was back in depersonalisation. My poor friends walked me around a local park for hours, as I was too scared to go home to my parents and too scared to go to sleep. But the feeling remained although I was convinced it would eventually go, like my previous experience.

It didn't.

In fact, this time I awoke with the feeling in the morning and was to continue with it for the next 3 months.

I remember frantically working out to my Jane Fonda tape the following morning and drinking copious amounts of black coffee in the hope of 'burning' it out of my system and shocking my mind back to normal. But it didn't work and I was still alone in my frightening world. How could I tell my parents? My brother had had psychological problems which contributed to his death only a few weeks previously so I couldn't tell them I too was going the same way, which is what I believed.

I went to the doctor the same day and she told me I was having a psychotic episode, which scared me even more. She did not mention depersonalisation so I assumed she was right. She gave me anti-psychotic drugs which I took and sat waiting for the feeling to go. But it stayed. They didn't work because it was not a psychotic reaction - something I know now . Instead, I felt incredibly thirsty ( an effect of the drugs) and very anxious.

I went back and a few days later she gave me tranquillisers to soothe my mounting anxiety but they made the feeling worse about 10 minutes after I had taken them and I sank deeper into the DP. I cycled back to the doctors visibly swaying over the road from the effect of the drugs. She could do no more for me than she had, she said. I was lost.

I would lie in bed at night and listen to my mind thinking, and then realise I was listening to my thoughts as if I was someone outside of myself. Was I still me? I knew that I was but I did not feel like I did. It sounds mad, I know, and that was the reason I could not tell my parents. I was still alone and everyone I spoke to was still a cardboard cutout in a different world. I couldn't get back to them. I might wake up suddenly and be back in our local woods with my friends. I was a completely new person in a new life. I had a new body and new mind and I couldn't get back my old life. I was so, so scared that this time it was going to last forever. It seemed that there was nothing I, or the doctors, could do.

Christmas passed and the presents and food flowed. It was a sombre Christmas anyway because of my brother's death, quite a contrast to our usual love of the festival. I would not touch alcohol because I was so scared it would make me worse; and I didn't speak a lot to people, instead spending my time upstairs alone, reading and crying to myself. My parents were naturally concerned but I couldn't tell them what was wrong with me. "I'm going mad and you are all in a different world". And Merry Christmas. I did not want them to worry about me with everything else that had happened and so I held it inside, checking every moment to see if I was coming out of the feeling yet.

I found myself constantly checking my surroundings to see if I was back to normal yet. This, I realise now, was futile and actually worsened it because it was conditioning my mind to think about dp almost continuously. I was also starting to have certain triggers that would make the DP worse, like someone walking into a room and talking suddenly, or a light switch going on. These triggers could fling me into dp even more deeply and lead to me swiftly walking from the room up to my bedroom, leaving a bewildered family behind. I remember playing 'Trivial Pursuit' with my family over this Christmas, suddenly getting an intense wave of dp come over me, and just upping and rushing upstairs. My enjoyment of life was nil at this point, and I was praying to god to help me.

I wrote a poem at this point. It's short and ineffectual but it was raw emotion at the time:

'Inside myself and only I know
That from this place I cannot go.
I'm here alone, alone, alone,
Inside two minds and lost in one'

'I hear you all and see you well
but the things you say just build and swell.
You're outside there, I'm inside here;
And only I can feel my fear.'

'When you speak don't you know that you terrify me
Because you are alone in your reality
And I, I can see you, but I am in mine
I've lost the key and it's so hard to find.'

Depressing eh? I know, but as I said, it was pure emotion and it was how I felt.

~Onto realisation~
I returned to university after Christmas and because there was no improvement I went to the doctor there. It was then that I was told I was experiencing 'depersonalisation'. What reassured me most then was that she told me it was not an illness in itself, it was a symptom of something, normally fear or intense anxiety, and that it was NOT a psychosis. I knew at last that I was not going mad. She told me that it was brought on by the cannabis and the effect of dp would have lasted just while the cannabis was in my system, purely a matter of days. The reason I still had the feeling weeks later was because the dp was being fed by my fear of it and my constant tuning into it. My brain had conditioned itself to see the world in this way. So it was me, not the cannabis that was making the feeling stay.

So I knew I was not 'mad'. But this was only the start of making myself better. I still had the feeling
with me most of each day and so I determined to find out as much as
possible about it, even though I was very scared of reading something linking dp to serious mental illness. This was a very genuine fear at the time.

I read a lot of books about anxiety and agoraphobia. That's not what DP is, but there were some very relevant sections in the books. Particularly good and helpful were a series of books by Dr. Claire Weeks about anxiety and agoraphobia with titles like 'Self help for your nerves'. These discuss DP and dilute it down to a symptom of deep introspection that can be understood and controlled. It was through these books that I realised it was myself, through my consistent introspection and self-awareness, who was causing the dp now.

To take my mind from the dp I started to write my own crosswords. In doing this, I saw that having my mind taken off the feeling had actually stopped it. I was in control of it. This recognition was all I needed. Psychiatrists and doctors did not help me; I had to help myself.

I still think about it a lot now and feel like I might slip back into it if I am over-tired or have drunk too much the night before, but I do not tune in to it so it does not happen. It is not easy and I must admit to still being very scared of going back into the feeling. But I have learned to turn my thoughts away as soon as I feel it happening. I still have certain triggers for me that will make me think of DP and therefore bring it on, such as a sudden bright light, television and someone stepping into a room. I actually couldn't watch TV for a year at one stage. This was useful while at university because I spent all that time reading and writing essays instead! I know my triggers so well that I could, if I wanted to (and I don't), make myself go back into the dp again. I occasionally feel tempted to, just to prove to myself that I can bring myself out of it again. But basically I am too scared of finding my way out again. So I don't and I shan't 'experiment' with my mind any more.

I have not gone into DP for almost 5 years now.

~Reflections~
When I first got access to the Internet I looked up depersonalisation and was amazed to find lots of information on it and a whole site dedicated to it (http://www.depersonalization.hypermart.net) where there were hundreds of other people who have been suffering for years and still are. I write to a lot of these people now and advise them of what helped me to overcome it. Their lives seem to be dominated by depersonalisation and my heart goes out to them so much because I will never forget how terrifying and hopeless it all seems.

Perhaps someone reading this op may recognize some of the feelings I've described and realise that they've had it or still have it. If so, I am including my list of advice which I believe helped me overcome DP.

ADVICE
1) If you feel the DP coming, DO NOT TUNE IN.! Turn your mind to something else completely and leave the room/area if you have to.
2) Stop checking on your perception of things, this can induce DP or make
it worse.
3) Take up something that needs you to concentrate on something other than yourself, like crosswords or just reading.
4) Try to avoid situations/ objects that you know will make DP worse IF you are feeling particularly vulnerable to it. Otherwise, try to do things you fear. (For me my DP triggers were TV and cinema - temporarily - fairground rides, computer games and bright echoey rooms like supermarkets).
5) 5) Read as much about it as you can. (I went to libraries but you also have
the net as a good resource) and educate yourself, trying not to be scared
of reading anything that might make you feel worse.
6) Try to find someone to talk to about it. I had no-one who really
understood and it was very frustrating trying to explain myself.
7) Most importantly - don't EVER take recreational drugs (dumb to anyway, whether you suffer from DP or not) - this is 100% sure to make the situation worse and completely mess you up anyway.

That's it. I know it was long and I hope it wasn't too depressing a read. As I had said, I am fine now and look back on it as a horrible memory. I am now 'mentally sorted', happy with a wonderful husband and family. There was a time when I believed I would never be happy again. I was lost, but now I am found.

'My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny'.

(Elaine Maxwell)
 

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G-funk, thank you so much for posting this. I have to say, I was VERY moved by Elaine's account as I have been suffering from marijuana-induced DR and other more physical problems for ten years now. I have read a few times that the key to getting over the DP/DR is to not think about it. This post has convinced me to give it a try.

-univesity girl
 

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G-funk, thank you so much for posting this. I have to say, I was VERY moved by Elaine's account as I have been suffering from marijuana-induced DR and other more physical problems for ten years now. I have read a few times that the key to getting over the DP/DR is to not think about it. This post has convinced me to give it a try.

-univesity girl
 

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i actually spoke to elaine about this situation..shes the one who helped me recover and beat dp.. shes a nice girl to talk to , i would recommend talkign or emailing her if u can
 

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i actually spoke to elaine about this situation..shes the one who helped me recover and beat dp.. shes a nice girl to talk to , i would recommend talkign or emailing her if u can
 

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The key of getting over DP/DR is to not think about it! for me that's a fact and it has helped me GREAT. Just stop thinking about it, you didn't think about DP/DR when you weren't suffering from it :D
But it takes a lot of effort to keep your mind of DP as often as possible
 

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The key of getting over DP/DR is to not think about it! for me that's a fact and it has helped me GREAT. Just stop thinking about it, you didn't think about DP/DR when you weren't suffering from it :D
But it takes a lot of effort to keep your mind of DP as often as possible
 

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how do you not think about it when you are walking along the road for example and there is no outside stimulis to take your awareness away from 'you'...i could be on my bike but i still think about 'me' as i feel so compelled to stay in this little bubble of mine
 

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how do you not think about it when you are walking along the road for example and there is no outside stimulis to take your awareness away from 'you'...i could be on my bike but i still think about 'me' as i feel so compelled to stay in this little bubble of mine
 

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what helped me with the thoughts was boredom and repition. Most of my thoughts revolved around the same topics every day. I asked myself the same questions and it was getting so repetitive that I just tried to have an answer for each question I had.
-- i kind of see it like a defense mechanism even if the answer is a lie. at least you are directing your thoughts elsewhere sort of like displacement.
For example: I am sure you ask yourself "who is God" "Does he exist" etc etc... just have an answer ready and believe it even if you are doubting... just make urself believe.. later on you wont ask yourself the same question..

this seems like a childish practice what I am showing but it really did help me even if i was lying to myself
-- but it took alot of training.. but you would catch on if you actually make an effort to do so.. its not gonna work ont he first shot, once you get the hang then you will see your thoughts slowing and slowing down.
 

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what helped me with the thoughts was boredom and repition. Most of my thoughts revolved around the same topics every day. I asked myself the same questions and it was getting so repetitive that I just tried to have an answer for each question I had.
-- i kind of see it like a defense mechanism even if the answer is a lie. at least you are directing your thoughts elsewhere sort of like displacement.
For example: I am sure you ask yourself "who is God" "Does he exist" etc etc... just have an answer ready and believe it even if you are doubting... just make urself believe.. later on you wont ask yourself the same question..

this seems like a childish practice what I am showing but it really did help me even if i was lying to myself
-- but it took alot of training.. but you would catch on if you actually make an effort to do so.. its not gonna work ont he first shot, once you get the hang then you will see your thoughts slowing and slowing down.
 

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Well, as for "ADVICE" #4 (avoid triggers), I would have to become agorophobic to do this. It seems as soon as I leave my house visual derealization sets in.... In any case, I haven't become agorophobic yet but can definately understand how a dp'er can become agorophobic. I am about to leave my house to go to the grocery store. I will try to ignore the DP and stay very calm. Wonder if it will help. :)

-university girl
 

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Well, as for "ADVICE" #4 (avoid triggers), I would have to become agorophobic to do this. It seems as soon as I leave my house visual derealization sets in.... In any case, I haven't become agorophobic yet but can definately understand how a dp'er can become agorophobic. I am about to leave my house to go to the grocery store. I will try to ignore the DP and stay very calm. Wonder if it will help. :)

-university girl
 
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I read this story before and she is one of the lucky ones. The thing i don't understand is even when im not thinking about it, i still feel weird. Can someone answer that one. Im just waiting for the day when someone tells me YOUR FUCKED! This is how your gonna be for the rest of your life! Not to mention i smoked alot more than 2 times. What i want to know is that, how come this whole DP/DR anxiety thing didn't come about when i first started smoking? why did it happen a few years later??? Im just a mess, im depressed & i feel weird. I don't like my life right now or where its going, I feel like im just existing & walking through life but not really giving a shit or enjoying it.

im just an existance
 
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I read this story before and she is one of the lucky ones. The thing i don't understand is even when im not thinking about it, i still feel weird. Can someone answer that one. Im just waiting for the day when someone tells me YOUR FUCKED! This is how your gonna be for the rest of your life! Not to mention i smoked alot more than 2 times. What i want to know is that, how come this whole DP/DR anxiety thing didn't come about when i first started smoking? why did it happen a few years later??? Im just a mess, im depressed & i feel weird. I don't like my life right now or where its going, I feel like im just existing & walking through life but not really giving a shit or enjoying it.

im just an existance
 

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i wish i didnt feel so unreal and aware of myself,i wish i had the capability of not giving a shit,ive lost my lust for life, but not giving a shit is something i strive for
 

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i wish i didnt feel so unreal and aware of myself,i wish i had the capability of not giving a shit,ive lost my lust for life, but not giving a shit is something i strive for
 

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I had just about the same experience myself, indeed. I went to University up North in California (famous for cannabis), and had a REALLY negative experience. It was like how people describe LSD experiences...visions, time distortions, body distortions, flashing. etc. 6 weeks later, I couldn't fall back asleep after getting up to use the loo...and after waking up "just wasn't ME".

Not to go all chemical, because we all take it at different angles. For me, i took everyone's advice from every angle...but the one that was popular at the time. I was on massive amounts of drugs...let's see, to start, Ativan, Cartia, Depakote, Neurontin...and going to UCLA neurological, House Ear Clinic (both very famous indeed), for vertigo, blood tests, spinal taps, EEG's...etc, etc.

I thought i had "Minear's Disease" until I found Andy's Board, and cried myself silly. I've always taken DP/DR from a psychoBIOLOGICAL analysis, emphasizing the last...

Some things are superstitions, and some things DO help. Like I used to swear that if my chiropractor put me in the "right" setting, i'd be HEAPS better. So, given that nonsense... I found MY cure too...

From my own tally's and CONSTANT reading of Andy's Boards was the...

Klonopin (Clonazepam Benzodiazepam) / Celexa (SSRI) combo suggested by countless people, taken in my own comfortable levels. How did I obtain these drugs? I had a "very understanding, worldly" psychologist, and printed information from Andy's Boards, took it to him, and he said "Why not?". Thank GOD.

After a year or 2, I believe that the Celexa "balanced out" whatever chemical misfiring's that were happening...so after balancing out, I weeded down the medications one by one, starting with the most debhilitating...depakote...to finally Celexa, which i was TERRIFIED to give up. But I couldn't stand the weight gain. (50 lbs. overweight, watch out!).

Anyways! I would say after that, I've always been in the realms of 80-90% cured. The "constant" fear goes away, as long as I take my Klonopin, (down to a measly 0.5 - 1mg), and the Neurontin to think clearly.

New symptoms come and go...but that "black whole / fog / noticing a conversation happening TO you rather than participating" ceased, and I've functioned as a University student ever since.

Best of luck to you.
 

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I had just about the same experience myself, indeed. I went to University up North in California (famous for cannabis), and had a REALLY negative experience. It was like how people describe LSD experiences...visions, time distortions, body distortions, flashing. etc. 6 weeks later, I couldn't fall back asleep after getting up to use the loo...and after waking up "just wasn't ME".

Not to go all chemical, because we all take it at different angles. For me, i took everyone's advice from every angle...but the one that was popular at the time. I was on massive amounts of drugs...let's see, to start, Ativan, Cartia, Depakote, Neurontin...and going to UCLA neurological, House Ear Clinic (both very famous indeed), for vertigo, blood tests, spinal taps, EEG's...etc, etc.

I thought i had "Minear's Disease" until I found Andy's Board, and cried myself silly. I've always taken DP/DR from a psychoBIOLOGICAL analysis, emphasizing the last...

Some things are superstitions, and some things DO help. Like I used to swear that if my chiropractor put me in the "right" setting, i'd be HEAPS better. So, given that nonsense... I found MY cure too...

From my own tally's and CONSTANT reading of Andy's Boards was the...

Klonopin (Clonazepam Benzodiazepam) / Celexa (SSRI) combo suggested by countless people, taken in my own comfortable levels. How did I obtain these drugs? I had a "very understanding, worldly" psychologist, and printed information from Andy's Boards, took it to him, and he said "Why not?". Thank GOD.

After a year or 2, I believe that the Celexa "balanced out" whatever chemical misfiring's that were happening...so after balancing out, I weeded down the medications one by one, starting with the most debhilitating...depakote...to finally Celexa, which i was TERRIFIED to give up. But I couldn't stand the weight gain. (50 lbs. overweight, watch out!).

Anyways! I would say after that, I've always been in the realms of 80-90% cured. The "constant" fear goes away, as long as I take my Klonopin, (down to a measly 0.5 - 1mg), and the Neurontin to think clearly.

New symptoms come and go...but that "black whole / fog / noticing a conversation happening TO you rather than participating" ceased, and I've functioned as a University student ever since.

Best of luck to you.
 

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The fog, the inability to organise your thoughts and be in the moment is in my opinion one of the worst symptoms of the disorder. It?s pleasing to know that it doesn?t appear to be permanent, and that some have regained function in this area.
 
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