Well...hrm...not sure how to start, heh...and I apologize in advance for the length...this is basically the story of my life with this disorder.
Basically, I've known something was wrong for a long time - I'm 21, and ever since early gradeschool I've felt a stranger to reality. I would wander the school yard alone during recess, deep in my own thoughts because I just couldn't relate to anything around me...it was a nearly permanent sense of separation from everything. (I created an entire fantasy existance in my head, as a way to dealing with and explaining my feelings of estrangement from reality). I've used various terms to describe it..."reality tunnel vison" - the sensation like I was looking down a long tunnel at myself from somewhere outside reality, or being "outside myself inside myself"...I spent hours just waiting and wondering when I was going to wake up, because I felt so much like I was dreaming. I would often feel like my eyes were just two windows out of which I was watching a television show, like I was really just a little man inside my head pulling levers and pushing buttons to make my body do what it was supposed to do, and my eyes were viewscreens. I would often fantasize that maybe everything I was experiencing was just my life flashing before my eyes and that I was really on some bed somewhere, dying. There's just rarely any solid connections between my mind and body.
I've yet to know what it feels like to be able to look into a mirror and be able to say "thats me" with 100% confidence. I look at my body, my face, and I feel like I'm looking at someone else - the feeling that I'm wearing someone else's skin is always there. I've spent more time than I'd like to think, just staring in the mirror wondering where "I" really was, because the person in the mirror wasn't me. There's almost no connection between my sense of being and my body. I knew, logically, that my body was my own - every time I looked into the mirror that was what I saw, after all. Yet it was like there was always some part of me which was shocked to see my face in the mirror, as though it was expecting to see something else. Sometimes I just sit and flex my hand in front of my face, marvelling at it...because I can see that it moves when I want it to, but I still feel like it isn't really my hand.
This lack of connection to myself grew to the point where sometimes I would wonder about the strangest things. For example, I'd be listening to music, and I'd start wondering for hours "Do I really like this kind of music? Or do I just think I do?" And thoughts along those lines about everything...it's more than a little unsettling not to even be sure about my own likes and dislikes.
The feelings ebb and flow, but they're almost always there to some extent (they've lessened a bit since I've been taking Welbutrin for my depression, but not a whole lot). Usually it's just a mild disconnection feeling, which I've learned to set aside a little so it doesn't intrude too much. Sometimes though it gets much worse - to the point where not only do I feel completely disjoined from myself, but where I feel like reality is completely illusory. I feel like some sort of disembodied observer, watching a record of something that happened long ago - unable to interact, or do anything but watch passively. Of course, when people talk to me there's no problems, it's not like I *can't* interact...but the feeling can get so overwhelming that I find it hard to do anything other than draw myself into a little ball and just sit in absolute silence, just staring. These feelings make it incredibly hard to concentrate on anything (which isn't good when I'm supposed to be taking notes in lecture or writing an exam and just end up trailing off into space). It doesn't help my memory either. Due to all of these feelings, I never made many friends - I just felt too detached to really care...I couldn't relate to anyone anyway. "I'm not like them." I would always tell myself...because I felt completely wrong...a square peg in a round hole. Maybe like an alien who was placed in a human body and lost all his memories, left with only a feeling that 'everything is wrong' and that he had to be 'someplace else, doing something else, as someone else' ...but the exact details were all missing. When I bothered to do schoolwork, I always did very well, but it always bored me and felt pointless...most things feel pointless and meaningless to me, even now.
I usually feel hollow and completely out of place, I don't even feel like I can relate to my best friends or family (who have only been told about my depersonalization within the past few weeks, after I found out exactly what it is that I'm experiencing). Since I've been on antidepressants, I've been a little better, but they haven't made too much of a difference to my depersonalization. Welbutrin has helped a fair bit with my depression and with my social anxiety though...when I'm not on antidepressants, I'm exceedingly irritable and volatile, and my moods swing violently without warning - I also have an extremely violent temper, though I've learned over the years to restrain it and no longer cause harm to people around me (in grade one I attempted to strangle another kid I didn't like because he threatened to look up my phone number - that's the most extreme example). I also used to be a cutter, but since being put on meds, I can deal with any urges that do come up. I'm still shy, but not so much that I'm even scared of my friends any more.
To this day though I'm not sure *why* my depersonalization started...all I know is that I've lived with it for pretty much as far back as I can remember...I really don't know what it's like to feel completely solid and real in my own mind. It was in my abnormal psych class where I first heard of the disorder - when my professor began talking about it, I instantly realized...all these years, these experiences I've had actually had a name. I spoke to her about it, but she couldn't tell me much, so I've started looking elsewhere. She said that it was often formed in response to repressed trauma (as most dissociative disorders tend to be), but I can't imagine what would be repressed, and I don't really think that's the cause, in my case, but... *shrugs*
Over the years I've come up with various ways of explaning away the disorder to myself in ways that fit with my beliefs, so I have learned to cope with the day to day feelings more or less...though the far stronger episodes, which happen a couple times a week at least, still cause me a great deal of trouble...it's hard to get any enjoyment out of life when you don't feel like life is actually happening.
Thanks for reading...