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Good afternoon everyone.
I have had depersonalization for nearly as long as I can remember.
Most people who have it seem to have gotten it after doing drugs, or having a traumatic experience.
Mine was different. I remember sitting on the couch doing homework, and it was as if something "hit" me in the head. Not a physical force, but a complete mental shift. It was so shocking and horrifying that I remember running outside and literally collapsing to the ground. I was completely blinded and couldn't see, hear, or feel anything. I don't remember if my eyes were open or not, but it almost felt like a blinding light was in my head burning my eyes from the inside.
Ever since that day, I have had depersonalization. It was really really bad until after college. I still have it, and I honestly can't tell if it's gotten better or if I've just accepted it and found a way to deal with it.
I live in fear, worrying that it will come back as strong as it was before. I will not be able to live or function if it does.
As a very young child, I tried to explain to my parents what was happening. They were very religious and fundamentalist people and they didn't have any kind of understanding about mental illness, especially not something like this. Also, I was so young I didn't really know how to explain it correctly. I would just say things like "it feels like nothing is real", and "it feels like I don't exist." It was so bad I thought of ways to kill myself as a very young girl, but ended up not attempting because I didn't want to make my family sad.
I also remember becoming extremely OCD as a child after this happened. I would have to repeat the same prayer every night. I would unlock and lock doors and sometimes would have to go back three or four times to check a door that I already knew was locked. My anxiety skyrocketed after this experience as well. There was a period I couldn't eat for two weeks when I was about 9 or 10, because I was afraid to swallow. My body felt completely non functional and disconnected. I also started having severe existential anxiety and crippling existential thoughts. I would obsess and worry about heaven and hell or the fear that it may not exist, my parents dying, oblivion, and things like aliens or origins of existence. As a grew older, I started becoming very angry and bitter towards my parents because of my religious upbringing. I ended up leaving the church (I would say it was very cult- like) around the age of 17. My depersonalization was still really bad, but since I was older I think I was able to function more than I could as a young child. I tried marijuana for the first time at the age of 18. As soon as I smoked I realized that my feeling of being "unreal" had nearly gone away. It was the best day of my life and I thought I had found the cure for my depersonalization. I find this odd because now I see a lot of people saying that weed actually triggered the disorder. I started smoking WAY too much pot in college because it really helped, but it made me suffer in other areas of life. However, I still feel that without it I would have killed myself. After I got used to smoking pot, the symptoms started to creep back. They are manageable now to a certain extent but it still haunts me. I have trouble making emotional connections with people. I have social anxiety and I still have existential anxiety and obsessive existential thoughts far too often. I find myself staring in the mirror for log periods of time because it doesn't feel like I know who is looking back at me. I will look at my hands, or any object and wonder how the hell it even exists. I'm hyper aware of my own consciousness. It feels like there is an outside observer watching my thoughts. And I know it's "me" but I don't know WHO that "me" is. And when I try to think outside of it, I become afraid and confused. Exercise seems to help a little. Losing my old religion also seemed to help. Microdosing magic mushrooms also helped alleviate the symptoms. I am depressed because I just don't want this to last forever, but I think it will. I live in the Bible Belt, and most psychologists I've spoken to don't seem to have much or any information on treating this problem. Another thing I've noticed is that when Buddhists or other similar spiritualists talk about nirvana and transcending existence, the symptoms sound a lot like depersonalization. Could it be the dark side of enlightenment? I just have so many questions and no answers. I've lived this way for so long I don't even know what it would be like to live without it. Even when I smoke pot or do the things that help, I can still feel it there looming in the background. I like to be alone, but I'm also afraid to be alone with my own thoughts for fear it will become stronger. I am glad I found this forum, and hoping to meet other people who have had similar experiences, or just to learn about other people's experiences with this "disorder". I hesitate to call it a disorder because I'm not sure I'm convinced that it is. I had a lot more to say but I'm running on little to no sleep, and my mind has gone blank. Thank you all for reading.


Hi Kelsey,

When I read your post I felt like I totally understood you since I have a lot of very similar symptoms. You are really strong if you have lived through this as a child. Even though I lived a couple of short episodes when I was younger, when it struck full force when I was 30 and it felt like hell on earth. I had my therapist, supportive friends and parents who know a little about mental illness and still could not bear it. So kudos.

I also have Ocd and had similar symptoms like checking many times, repeating prayers, existential dread and many of what you said and I somehow beat that. Unfortunately years later I fell into this mess while reading a philosophy book (feeling as if I don't exist was my primary symptom) and I am slowly crawling out of it. I found a psychiatrist who is very experienced and said I was actually having a severe ocd break which caused my depersonalization and prescribed me an old drug called Anafranil. We slowly increased the dosage and I am right now having bits of recovery and 'flashes' of real life once again. There are also a lot of people who recovered with or without medication so do not lose hope, This does not necessarily have to be permanent even though it feels like that.

I thought about the similarities to buddhism too and it may be the dark side of enlightenment or it could be a coincidence. It certainly feels like the antithesis to it, since those practicing it feel peace and an increased connection with existence, and we have an extreme lack of it while like them we have altered senses of self.

Anyway, just wanted to respond to a similar story. Stay strong.
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