Hi everyone! I thought I'd share my longgg DP/DR experience for those who are maybe interested
I'm a 23 year old female who experienced my first DP/DR episode at 16 years old. I think my DP/DR stems mainly from intense anxiety throughout my life, I was always an anxious kid growing up. I remember crying in nursery when a classmate told me my Mum wasn't picking me up as she'd died in a car accident on the way and I was an inconsolable mess.
From the age of 5 I had severe OCD of collecting things, I collected random litter from the street, items in the house, you name it. If I didn't keep that item, my mind told me I was going to die. I remember being in bed realising my own mortality at about 6 years old, thinking one day I'm going to fade in to nothingness and there was nothing I could do about it, I had a full blown panic attack. Over my childhood I had a few very close family members pass away under horrible circumstances, I was also sexually abused which I think may also have attributed to my dissociation.
Fast forward my difficult childhood and to the first time I tried marijuana. I went to the local park with my friend and had my first joint. At this point I'd say my anxiety was well under control. I felt like I'd forgotten about my traumatic childhood and I felt like any other 16 year old kid. However walking home after having the joint, I had a full blown panic attack. I didn't know where I was and everything was terrifying, I froze and rang my Mum to pick me up. When she picked me up, I confessed what I'd done and she took me home, I was terrified.
I went straight to bed and thought 'I'll sleep it off, I'll be fine tomorrow'. However I woke up the next morning and that 'weird feeling' was still lingering. Have I done permanent damage to my brain? Have I died and this is all an illusion? I was driving myself insane. I remember going to work the next day and every time I blinked everything was fuzzy and took a second to refocus. To say I was freaked out would be an understatement. I googled my symptoms and the first thread I read was 'you are damaged forever. there is no escape apart from death'.
Fast forward a few days and if I remember rightly, the DP/DR must have lifted. I don't really remember it going away, but I remember going to a party that weekend and feeling great and it not crossing my mind once. The following week I went to a concert, I was watching the band and BAM intense panic attack out of nowhere. I fought my way through it and it eased off after a minute or two. I carried on watching the band but I remember thinking 'this all looks so.. fake?' The car ride home, I had my head stuck out the open window trying to FEEL real and ground myself, sadly it didn't work.
This was the true start of my first episode, I woke up for work the next day with intense DR and vomited. I took a week off thinking 'I'll be sorted by then' however I never was. I quit my job and slept through the days/nights. I'd wake up, take more sleeping pills and go back to sleep. I couldn't bare to be awake for a minute. I told my Mum I was depressed, I still didn't quite know what I was experiencing, all I knew was I was petrified. I didn't want to explain to her how I felt worried she'd think I've lost my mind. I seen my GP who said I had anxiety and prescribed me Citalopram. Months went on, I lost 4 stone in weight simply from not eating at all. Suicide crossed my mind every hour.
Over the course of a year, I remember my symptoms very slowly fading and I got another job, I still felt the DR but it wasn't as intense and I could function again. I'd got used to the feeling and it didn't really scare me anymore. Months went by in my new job and DR never crossed my mind. I moved on from my horrible experience and lived an amazing life. I got my own flat with my partner and our own dog, life was great!
Fast forward 3ish years, I was now 21 and I'd just split up with my long term boyfriend. It was horrible. I went on a week long drinking bender to numb the pain. Every time I drank, I got increasingly more anxious, but I masked that with more alcohol. Yep, you guessed it, DR struck again. I couldn't believe it. All the same horrible sensations came flooding back, however now, I was an adult and had bills to pay and a little furry mouth to feed. I thought 'citalopram helped me last time, I'll take those again and I'll be fine!' So I started my medication again but I felt WORSE. I went back to my GP and he changed me to Sertraline, it made no difference to my DR but I decided to give it a chance. Again, I powered through everyday and over maybe 4/5 months there was improvements and by 7/8 months I'd stopped thinking about it 24/7. It popped in my head occasionally, and I'd think 'ha, oh yeah that feeling' and the thought would then disappear again.
Now, there's this time, my third bout of DR. I found out this Christmas that I was expecting my first child, after my partner being told he'd struggle to ever conceive, I was beyond excited. I felt amazing and my mental health had never been as good. I also never thought of DR anymore, so I was like 'great, I'll wean off my tablets for baby coming' huge mistake.
I stopped taking Sertraline for roughly two months and then my Grandad died. I was devastated that he'd never get to meet the baby boy I was carrying, his first great grandchild. I went to the funeral and the guy that abused me as a child was there, all the feelings and terror came flooding back. I carried on and the thought of my baby helped get me through. I was scared about other family members dying and not getting to meet him, I was scared about complications in labour, I was a worried wreck! 3 weeks ago, I woke up with those same lingering DR feelings. I thought to myself 'oh god please no' and went to the GP. He started me off again on sertraline (straight on to a high dose of 100mg) and sent me on my way.
I've never had such intense DR before as I have this past few weeks, and if I ever have my brain must have forgot how intense it was. I'm waking up every morning not quite knowing where I am, everything looks really unfamiliar even though I recognise it. It lasts 24/7. I think this episode has been triggered by pregnancy hormones, weaning off meds and trauma. I'm trying to stay positive and stay as well as I can for my baby, however when I'm in DR mode my emotions shut off as do my connections to people, which makes it so difficult. My brains focused on 'this is it. this is your permanent episode', 'you'll only get worse from here' which I keep telling myself isn't true and it's my over anxious brain catastrophising.
Third time round with DR and believe me, I t's not any easier. It's actually MORE scary now I've now got a human growing inside of me who's going to rely on me 3 months from now when he's born. I've researched DP/DR feelings in pregnancy/after birth and surprisingly, there's A LOT of women who experience it. I'm 100% focusing on recovery now, I'm going out still, seeing a counsellor, taking my meds, getting as well as I can for my little boy arriving as there's nothing I want more than to be connected and grounded when he joins this bizarre old world!
Thanks for reading my story! (sorry about all the blabbering on!)