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This is a very long, and comprehensive post outlining my struggle with substance induced DP/DR. I have broken the post into sections that are signified by the bold headlines, and include information on my story, the recovery timeline, things that have helped, and some final thoughts. Feel free to read the parts that you find helpful. :)

Intro


My struggle with DP/DR began eight months ago. I am technically new to the site, but I have been a frequent lurker since I first stumbled across the forums just a few days after the DP/DR had set in. In the depths of my experience I found myself incapable of writing, or truly processing, anything about what was going on.

My recovery journey has been slow and tedious, and though I am not entirely back to my most ideal metal state, I can say that I have come to a place where I am stable, generally happy, and very in touch, once again, with my emotions. Things generally feel real, and I am no longer plagued by paralyzing existential questions. I have a few reasons now for writing this; first and foremost, I want to offer hope and recovery information for anyone who is struggling right now. I also would like to join the conversation. I want to help guide those still struggling, and also want to talk with hose who are like me- almost out, but still dealing with some of the late stage hurdles involved in finally getting away from DP/DR for good.

I will put my email at the bottom of this message: feel free to contact with me with any questions or comments you might have about me, my recovery etc. DP/DR is truly one of the most difficult conditions a human being can endure, and I consider myself a friend, ally, and listening ear to anyone out there struggling.

Where it came from

Drugs. Life stress, I'm sure played its part to a lesser degree, but mostly drugs. On January 11th, I dropped two tabs of what I had naively believed to be LSD (a drug I had taken before, and thoroughly enjoyed). While I never did learn what the mystery chemical was, it instantly sent me spiraling. Panic, confusion, and a twenty-hour trip which I was sure I would never come down from, during which I was entirely disconnected from the world around me. This was my first taste of DP/DR. I did eventually come down, and actually displayed no signs of persistent DP/DR for a few months.

Then, on February 26th, I indulged in an absurdly large dose of marijuana edibles (400 mg, and for perspective, my highest previous dosage was 50mg which in itself was way too much for me.) Up to this point I had lived a very stressful two months: I was felt trapped in a relationship that was unfulfilling, my brother had been hospitalized for a severe self-harm injury that was nearly fatal, and I had been trying to actually give up smoking marijuana, a daily habit for me, and found that its grip was much stronger than I had expected. All of this had led me to a relative state of depression (nothing as bad as what was to come), and looking back on it, I'm sure these issues had left me pre-disposed to the terrifying edible experience. After eating the edibles I was overcome with feelings of absolute terror, and I tried throwing them up, walking around outside, which was scary, then coming back inside, which was also scary, and eventually resigning to simply riding the thing out.

The next two weeks were really a blur. I did not plunge fully into a depersonalized state, until 11 days later, when I woke up in a state of extreme panic. I felt exactly as I did during the edibles experience, and was convinced I had somehow become perma-fried. I now realize that I wasn't "still high" but rather was experiencing a panic attack. The first, unfortunately, of many. The following week was the worst of my life- I was utterly confused, convinced I had incurred some type of brain damage, was experiencing hellish panic attacks, and felt so disconnected from the world around me I legitimately considered the possibility that I was dead or dreaming. A few days into my heavily depersonalized state, I broke down during a leccture and went to my university's health services. I told them something was wrong with me, but I wasn't sure what. My parents ended up flying me home, and the weekend involved nothing other than downing Xanax after Xanax, trying to find ways to keep the anxiety attacks at bay, and scouring the internet in hope for answers. I am thankful that I had the ability to get help, go home, as it really helped me through the first few days.

Important Thoughts:

There are a few notes I want to make about DP/DR which are important to consider as you read the rest of my story.

1.) I do not like treating DP/DR as a thing in and of itself. Instead, I like to think of it as an accumulation of symptoms including, but not limited to: anxiety, depression, anhedonia, feelings of disconnectedness, visual abnormalities, feeling as "real" life is being watched behind a screen, social anxiety, head pressure, OCD, abstract understanding of meaning, and existential questioning. In my personal experience, I did not ever feel all of them, at 100% intensity, at once. Breaking the condition down into its individual parts, I found, is very helpful in managing DP/DR. For example: maybe you find yourself in the midst of a period of heavy existential questioning. Instead of saying "My DP/DR is getting worse" or "My DP/DR is out of control", say to yourself "I am dealing with DP/DR, and as a result, I tend to question reality quite often." Just because one symptom is particularly bad, doesn't mean that you are not recovering from the condition as a whole.

2.) I recognize that my story is not everyone's story, and that my experience has been relatively brief compared to some long-term sufferers. I do not claim to be an ultimate source of information, nor would I want to be insensitive to those who have been dealing with this condition for a lot longer than I am. I have found plenty of online sources that say people dealing with chronic DP/DR are simply not taking the required steps to get better. I am not one of those people, and while I do believe DP/DR is not permanent, and that everyone can achieve recovery, I am nothing other than a fellow sufferer trying to provide perspective and advice to anyone willing to listen.

Recovery Timeline

My recovery has been an undulating road, marked by peaks and valleys. The best advice I can give is stay the course, and not get too caught up on how you feel in one particular moment There are many other recovery stories out there which will say the same thing- over the course of weeks/months, you should measure progress in finding the highs a little higher, and that the lows don't get as bad . I do, however, believe that for most people, there is a recovery trend that is generally upward that looks something like this:

RECOVERY!
/
/
/\/
/\ /

/ \/

/\ /
/\/ \/
/

I want to offer an outline of my recovery journey that anyone in the midst of struggling might find helpful. Below are summaries, focused on a few key symptoms, and how they changed from month to month. As you will see, some things actually got worse before they got better, and it is important to never lose the faith that tomorrow will bring healing.

Feel free to skip this section if you please, but if you are curious about the fluctuating progressions and regressions of my symptoms throughout my recovery they are all here…

Feb. 26- Edibles Overdose

Mar. 8- First sober panic attack- Start of DP/DR nightmare. Days are considerably abstract, vision is strained, no emotional attachment to anything. Literally all I can feel is the oscillating sensations of anxiety, depression, anhedonia, and intrusive suicidal ideation. Basically absolute hell.

March:
Anxiety was pretty high, and I felt literally no pleasure in anything. Panic Attacks had begun to abate, but the world felt incredibly distant, as though I was looking at everything through a plane of glass. I did have a certain sense of optimism in these days that the symptoms would be gone soon, and that made everything a little easier.

April:
Daily anxiety was getting worse, and I sometimes felt overcome by a devastating loneliness for which I could do nothing but "hide out." I did feel that there were times during this month where the "pane of glass was gone," and there were other times that I felt a very mild happiness.

May:
Anxiety was still very high, and I am starting to feel hopeless. Some days feel worse than March. The pane of glass is starting to fade, but it is bringing no relief to the anxiety which is present all day, every day. Every time I see my hands I am subject to a series of existential thoughts and I begin to panic. I also am starting to notice an ever present headache and head pressure. I do, however, have moments of break through, where I can feel some happiness, but it never stays for very long.

June:
Anxiety is at its absolute worst. Everything has this sinister quality that makes me almost sick to stomach. My jaw is always clenched/ hurting. Panic attacks are back. I have a persistent headache. The pane of glass is starting to get worse, and I sometimes feel an anhedonia so intense that I resort to self-harm. Life is hell, and even still, I cling to these breakthrough moments where I feel happy to see someone. Music is starting to bring me some pleasure. I also smoked some pot during this time to see if it would make anything better, but it intensified symptoms to extreme levels for another week.

July:
Anxiety is back down to a manageable level, probably its best since March. Jaw pain is starting to go away, as well as the headache, but the head pressure is still there. I no longer experience crippling, daily existential crises. The world is still very abstract. I am happiest around my family and at home, but doing anything slightly out of my routine I had set up was very hard. I am taking things one day at a time, and existing very carefully,

August:
Haven't had a true panic attack since June . Anxiety is slowly fading, and sometimes, just before I go to bed, it seems to be gone. I can do slightly more adventurous things, like family vacations and a one-night camping trip. Even though they are incredibly stressful and are not at all a joyous experience, I can do them. I get a job delivering pizzas, and I don't have any major breakdowns. There is still this a moderately intense disconnectedness, but I can deal with it.

September:
There was one weekend in September I felt entirely normal. There was no anxiety, and I actually had fun. One night I went to bed excited for the next day, a feeling I hadn't experienced since February. While the anxiety did come back, there were no panic attacks, and I was making it through some pretty tough days of school without breaking down, and even finding some confidence to speak out in class. Breakthrough days happen more often, but they are not without some days of intense darkness. Also, things like philosophy and space don't scare me anymore, which is great.

October:
Most days are pretty normal. A few flare ups in anxiety, and sometimes around 2-5 PM I feel this existential queasiness, but I am sleeping well. The head pressure is gone. The pane of glass is gone, and I am very connected to my emotions, and experience a joy and happiness unlike anything I have felt in quite a while. I am no longer distant from my memories, nor do I feel confused when I see old pictures of myself, like that was someone else. My biggest issue is that I sometimes still feel intensely depressed or emotionally isolated, but even these are not persistent, but rather come in waves. I have experienced days that are 100% without symptoms, and this is the biggest indicator that I will eventually come out of this completely.

Things that helped A Lot

Sobriety: At times this meant total sobriety, with patches during which I would consume coffee or alcohol. This was almost always to my ultimate detriment, and I felt that the most progress was usually made when I was off of everything. This was shocking to most of my friends, amongst whom I had gained a reputation as a heavy abuser of substances, but to me, it was crucial in developing a new, healthier personality that wanted desperately to enjoy life without chemical influence.

Disclaimer: I do, now, drink coffee daily and have a few drinks on Saturdays. These don't seem to be
taking much of a toll on my day to day mental health, however I have considered cutting them out
once again to see if it helps knock out the lingering waves of depression and occasional brain fog.
Never, ever, will I mess with pot, or any hard drug again.

Therapy: This was hard for me, as mental health services were previously an institution I had chalked up to a sort of "rent a friend" business for people who couldn't deal with break-ups or the death of their cat. Instead, seeing a therapist was great for me on numerous levels. In the beginning, when I was in absolute crisis mode, she would make me promise not to kill myself before our next meeting. Meeting with her would provide something for me to look forward to during the white-knuckle stage, where I was barely making it through. It also was a safe space to work out the absolute strangeness going on in my head, as well as a time to process the hardships that had pre-dated the onset of DP/DR, and each of these things usually allowed me to experience breakthroughs.

Going out and doing things: This is the most frustrating piece of advice to hear when you are highly depersonalized, but it might just be the most important. We can't feel emotions, experiences that should be fun are horrible, and at any moment we could experience something that causes us to spiral into existential panic, so why should we choose to engage with the world? Well, the point of this piece isn't to speculate on what DP/DR is, or what causes it, but I do want to share the theory that I feel best fits my case. I think that a big part of DP/DR is that our minds have bee somehow tricked or conditioned to view everything as a threat, and that the only way to truly work through the anxiety it causes it to go out and repeatedly experience the world in such a way that reinforces the idea that it is not. Before my first day of re-entering the work force, I was convinced that the world would literally unfold before my very eyes and that there was no way I could make it through a shift. But I did. And I did again, and again. And eventually, there were small little bits, like a pretty girl or a good after shift meal, that I would begin to look forward to. This is an incredibly arduous process, but one that I feel is crucial to a full recovery.

Time: Not much to say here, other than that for those of us experiencing drug induced DP/DR, I believe that, over time, our brains will work themselves out. There is no permanent damage done, and I truly believe our brain chemistry can reconfigure itself if we allow it to.

Things that helped a little

Eating Right

Sleep

Exercise

Lexapro/ SSRI's (I did go on this for a bit, and while it didn't help the DP/DR at all, it did help stifle the panic attacks. They did not come back after I went off, and I consider it helpful in my overall recovery. That said, it is a tool, not a cure)

Trying to laugh

Watching Comedies

Dogs

Being in Nature

Walking around with bare feet

Fighting hard against catastrophic thinking

Reading about people who achieved greatness in spite of crippling mental illnesses

Reading life-confirming philosophies

Not going on this site (other than to read the recovery sections)

Trying to accept that suffering will ultimately make you a better person

Dogs

Listening to Nick Drake (musician)

Prayer (even if you are non-religious)

Mediation

HPPD

One other co-morbid condition that I may have is HPPD, which for those of you unfamiliar, is a strictly visual condition following the use of a hallucinogen. I experience visual abnormalities such as: taillights seeming to streak across my visual field, very brief (.5 seconds) positive afterimage at night from brightly lit objects like street signs, and the occasional blue halo around a person when they are standing behind a solid background (like a white wall.)

To be honest, its hard for me to know whether this is minor HPPD, residual problems from the DP/DR, or just me being over-aware of normal visual things. If any of you have HPPD, or experience similar abnormalities and can shed some light on whether they are normal, I would much appreciate it! In any case, it does seem like these abnormalities too are beginning to fade, but its honestly really hard to know.

Departing Words

Before I leave you, there are a few things I want to say.

· Don't let your bad days get you down. There were so many times that I was feeling like crap and I would be convinced that my recovery was an illusion, and that I hadn't really gotten any better since March. This is, of course, was not true, and for those of us well on our way to recovery, we must always keep things in perspective.

· Life is worth living. Your life is all you have, and in the darkest days it might not seem like much. Still, it is up to you to make the most of it. Fight for happiness, fight for fulfillment, and cling to moments of peace where you can find them. They are treasures

· Focus on what matters, which is your health. Fuck the social norms of getting a career, getting married, having kids. These are unnecessary and illusory pressures, and removing yourself from them will only make you feel better. You are your sanity are what matters, and anything keeping you from that is simply holding you back.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I consider all of you my friends. I don't plan on being on this site much or at all, but feel free to contact me at this email address which I have set up solely for the purposes of DP/DR help/ discussion, and though I am busy, I will do my best to help you out.

Peace out, take it easy…
-Brian

EMAIL: [email protected]
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Just to update this thread, it's been about 2.5 months since I posted this and I am 99-100% cured, including the visual stuff. Most times I can't even remember what DP/DR even felt like, and its crazy to think 6 months ago I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day.

Anybody struggling can still reach out to me.

Best wishes
 

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Just to update this thread, it's been about 2.5 months since I posted this and I am 99-100% cured, including the visual stuff. Most times I can't even remember what DP/DR even felt like, and its crazy to think 6 months ago I was experiencing multiple panic attacks a day.

Anybody struggling can still reach out to me.

Best wishes
Did you experience thick brain fog during the months of September forward? Cause I have a really bad one, it's keeping me up when I should be asleep. I'm so scared.
 
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