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I am writing about Depersonalization Disorder, why it is unknown, and why it is surprisingly common. The word depersonalization conjures images of repetitious, robotic tasks, armies of drones laboring over some massive project of no personal import, wage slavery. It is thought of as something done to people, not that happens to them. Depersonalization as a psycho/neurological disorder is something quite different, best characterized as soul-loss; a loss of the sense of the 'I' underlying experience, of subjective self awareness, a prison of 'no-self', experienced not as an expansive self merging with the universe but as a ghostly captive observer in an automated body, operating in an unreal world. It is accompanied by a host of perceptual changes including two dimensional vision and muffled hearing; eye floaters, universal but filtered out by normal consciousness, become a constant and intrusive visual veil. The internal loss of subjectivity is not obvious from the outside, and sufferers are forced to use analogical language which is easily misconstrued as existential or philosophical speculation. Usually caused by emotional abuse in childhood coupled with a later trauma, it is commonly triggered by cannabis, especially edibles. Unlike all other mental illness in its instantaneous onset, stubborn entrenchment once present, and neurological features, depersonalization disorder, abbreviated DP, is an orphan syndrome in our society. Known in Indian culture as Kundalini syndrome, and in Buddhist practice as "falling into the pit of the void," DP is a recognized 'wrong turn' that can occur in meditation, and that Zen instructors are warned to steer students away from. I became depersonalized on October 15th 2010, and the main focus of my subsequent life has been adjusting to and healing this source of immense suffering. No physical or emotional pain I had experienced before was comparable to the dissolution of self and loss of continuity of Patrick as a person. I am writing about DP because it happens to many thousands of people, it is actually one of the more common psychological disorders, and yet is almost unheard of in popular culture. It is so disabling to its sufferers and so distinctive in its symptoms that this confuses me, the lack of awareness also leads to a lack of research; existing treatments are of limited efficacy, although some anti-epileptics are of help, which is not surprising considering the neurological features of DP. Psychotherapy is not of much use for the core symptoms. I will give an insider perspective on DP and its causes, reasons for its ironic lack of publicity, and how it illuminates the nature and construction of the self, so much that I am now actually grateful it happened to me.
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