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Hello all,

I have never actually posted on this forum but did set up an account in November 2013 during my darkest days. The forum gave me hope when I had none and now that I have been recovered for the best part of a year I thought I should tell my story that it might give hope to others.

It was the summer of 2013, I was 18 years old and I had just finished my A-levels and had a place to study at Oxford University. I went to Amsterdam with some friends on a trip around Europe. I was not a very keen drug user at all, but one of the friends I went with was. Needless to say, he persuaded the rest of us to go have some cannabis at a 'coffee house'. I was quite uncomfortable with the whole thing because the only other time I had had cannabis I really had not enjoyed it. In fact, in hindsight what I experienced that time was indeed a short burst of DP/DR and I remember experiencing a fear that 'the feeling might never go away', but even despite my past experience I went along with it because I thought the worst that could possibly happen would be that I just did not particular enjoy it; besides, if it's legal (as it is in the Netherlands) it must be safe right? WRONG!

Shortly after starting to smoke it, my perception of everything suddenly changed. The world looked distant and lifeless, other people looked alien and I was truly terrified. Things progressed rapidly for the worse, and I was having all sorts of nightmarishly negative and paranoid thoughts. It felt like my brain had split in two and that I had going insane, I wanted it all to stop so much that I almost threw myself from the window of our 3rd floor hostel room. I have never felt such intense fear, dread and despair in my life before or since.

After several hours of panicking it finally exhausted me and I managed to get some sleep. Upon waking up I was initially relieved that the acute sense of fear had gone, but there was still a feeling of disconnectedness. I went outside and things still looked as distant and lifeless as they had shortly after smoking the cannabis. What on earth was wrong with me? Had this cannabis somehow permanently damaged my brain?

Fast forward a few weeks and I was starting at Oxford and losing hope that these were just temporary after-shock effects. As the weeks progressed I became more convinced that I had truly lost my mind. I was living in a permanent state of fear and desperation, scared sick that I might never feel normal again. I could not concentrate at all, and I had no desire to because life seemed so pointless since everything looked unreal. At its worst I felt as though I was just a speck of consciousness peering out the eyes of a body which I no longer controlled at a world void of all depth and purpose. I spent most of my time just crying in my bed, fearing an entire lifetime of this nightmarish drudgery lay ahead of me.

At the end of a hellish 8 weeks there I suspended my studies for medical reasons to try and sort myself out. In the time I had off (the rest of the academic year) I tried my best to make myself better. I browsed this forum and latched onto anything that sounded like it might help and gave it a shot. I made lifestyle changes (doing more exercise and eating more healthily), I tried medication (Sertraline), tried lots of therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness meditation, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, hypnotherapy, the THRIVE programme, I even visited the Kings College London Depersonalisation Research Unit) and did lots of self-study using 'The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook' and Harris Harrington's depersonalisation recovery stuff (both things I would recommend but not things which ultimately healed me).

Despite all of this, at the end of the year I was still feeling permanently depersonalized, anxious and depressed if not even more so because now I had tried everything and was depressed to find that none of them were the magic bullet. Sure, I developed a lot of good habits and mental health practices but this thing was not going away with just a bit of therapy and medication. It seemed to me that it was an existential crisis too and really I needed a philosophy. In my time since acquiring depersonalisation disorder I have read extensively into certain areas of metaphysics and theology; which, in my pre-depersonalization atheistic materialistic naivety, I thought was a load of rubbish, but now was fascinated by and was the only thing I could really concentrate on.

Next academic year I was back in Oxford doing my first year (attempt number 2!). I was still feeling awful and was totally apathetic about studying for the course, really Oxford was the last place I wanted to be. Every holiday that year I dreaded going back to Oxford and I could not bring myself to even look at any course work, let alone attempt to do it, so revision was a total no-no. The only thing that I liked doing was closing my eyes in a dark room because it was the only time I could escape from these feelings - you cannot feel derealisation when you cannot see! Somehow I managed to see the year through, and in hindsight it amazes me that I finished it, and finished it reasonably well given my state of being and the intensity of the teaching style there!

Going into second year I was truly fed up and just wanted to feel in touch with reality again. I had tried seemingly every mainstream secular intervention under the sun - as mentioned previously - but to no significant improvement in my condition. I hit another particularly bad depression which was precipitated by issues involving a girlfriend I had for a few months during my second attempt at my first year. I knew that it was not the right course for me even if I was in a healthy state of mind. I suspended my studies again in November 2015 to keep my options open but without any intention of going back to complete my degree there.

In the mean-time I had been investigating metaphysics and theology something which my atheistic self before the DP/DR would never have done! I started off trying to find some sort of atheist philosophy which would help me and allay my existential fears at a deep level, so I read Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura' and investigated epicureanism and stoicism, but they did not do much for me. I had also been reading books on the philosophy of science such as Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' among others and came to the conclusion that actually a materialist philosophy is wholly unsatisfactory in explaining the universe. The hypothesis of there being a God actually makes the existence of the universe we see supremely likely, whereas the hypothesis of there being no God makes what we see incredibly unlikely. The whole method of scientific enquiry is based on the assumption that the universe is fundamentally intelligible and has uniform 'laws' which apply throughout space and time. These assumptions make no sense from an atheistic and materialistic perspective: why should the universe be intelligible? Why should there be any 'laws'? Surely if the whole universe were a random occurrence we would not expect there to be any stable relationships between different properties, let alone expect such a universe to bring about the existence of beings with conscious minds that can appreciate the universe and think such thoughts? And of course consciousness itself has no physical explanation, in no way can the immaterial be explained by the material. By this point I was a deist, but I found most religious traditions difficult to swallow. Nevertheless, after reading Somerset Maugham's 'The Razor's Edge' I was inspired to look towards Hinduism - which is a lot more palatable to a skeptic than mainstream Western religions!

I read the 'Bhagavad Gita', an amazing work of literature, and I experimented with different forms of meditation. I think there are a great number of moral truths and truths about the nature of the universe to be found in Hinduism; but I needed something more concrete, something with a historical basis which I could really believe in, and something which promised to help me in this life - not in a future life. So I earnestly prayed to whatever God there might be to guide me to the truth, and I started to feel strongly attracted to Christianity.

I will not bore you with details, but after reading lots of books on Christian apologetics, which allowed me to take seriously some of the claims made in the bible, and praying that God might give me faith in it if it is indeed true, I started to believe that there might something to it. Upon further examination, I found the historical evidence for a real Jesus to be actually very solid but I have no doubt some artistic license and embellishments were made in his documentation. I think the problem most people have in believing it is not so much the historical validity - for instance nobody speaks about Socrates as if it were a load of nonsense, when the earliest copies of Plato's works that we have come from the 9th century AD, some 1395 years after Socrates died, while the earliest copies of the gospels come from around 60-120 years after Jesus' supposed death (c. 33A.D.)! - it is rather the nature of the amazingly bold claims being made which people struggle to believe. Yet it would be overly naïve to disregard all the claims about him as mere lies. The early apostles who claimed to have witnessed him after his resurrection died in the most gruesome ways proclaiming it to be true: whilst many people may have died for a lie, nobody chooses to die for a lie all the while knowing that it is a lie.

Within a short period after coming to faith I experienced a profound transformation in myself. When I had truly repented of my sins and committed myself to God regardless of whether a lifetime of the horror that is DP/DR lay ahead of me or not, God in his grace gave me life. I now not only feel the best I have felt since the whole depersonalization thing started, I feel better than ever before. There was no particular moment when thing suddenly seemed fine again, but over a period of months I just stopped thinking about it and focused on other stuff and a few months later I realised that I felt fine. I am now studying at Cambridge University and life is good. To God be the glory.

So to everyone reading this, I urge you: have faith in Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Life and the Truth. He alone is the hope and glory of all humanity.

"[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

(1 Peter 2:24-25)

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congratulations on your recovery, I was delighted to read your story as I also have recently recovered, and dp/dr shifted my whole understanding of the reality and being, however, I have developed pantheistic views as God for me is not something separated from nature but it is nature and existence itself and for sure it's not anthropomorphic or directly communicative. I believe also much of the anxiety that co-occurs with dp/dr stems from a state of cognitive dissonance because the changes of perception that we experience during the depersonalized state simply contradicts everything we know about ourselves and our relationship with nature.

wish you all the best friend !

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I hear you! Only thing that held me down was having faith in Jesus, also induced by cannabis. Scariest 2 and a half weeks I've ever experienced.. after talking to a psychiatrist who has dealt with this she really eased my mind because she assured me that I didn't cause damage to my brain and that we are not I'll. I immediately got off my SSRI after 5 days of taking it and I'm doing semi-ok. I haven't had any crazy panic attacks but my mind does wonder sometimes. The truth is we must not elevate mans word over God's word because it's through Jesus that we can recover quickly. No God didn't do this to us, he wants us well more than we want it. Whatever the enemy (satan) intended for bad God will turn it around if you allow him to do so.

Glad to hear you recovered man! Is it cool if we text? Would like to talk to someone that experienced this. I'm in the States BTW
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