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25 Posts
Hello Friends,

At this point a couple of people have asked me to tell my recovery story. I thought it would be an easy thing to come this section of the DP self help board and do that. I was very wrong! No matter.

No one wants to remember DP episodes. Even fully recovered and years old away from my last episode, DP still sends a chill through my bones.

But as "real-time" goes, it is now 2013. My last prolonged period of DP that I can clearly remember as such was in 1990. I was pregnant with my second child and suffered with DP for months both before and after the birth of my son.

My last period of prolonged severe depression, which probably included DP, was 1997. I make this differentiation because there have been times in my life when I've experienced DP symptoms only. And other times, my symptoms were a mixed bag, with DP mixed in with either panic attacks, anxiety, depression or all of the above. Fun, Fun.

My DP started when I was 14 years old and that was 1972. I was smoking pot before high school daily with no effect at all really and then one day BOOM! The curtain came down on my mind. I know that any DP sufferer will know exactly what I mean when I say that, and yet most other people will just say "HUH"?

In my mind, I lost the mind I knew when I got DP. And I lost all hope. I didn't know where "I" had gone. I could not find "me" anymore. And of course, I never found out that DP had a name until much, much later in my life.

That first episode of my DP lasted the longest of any of the later episodes; It was dark in my mind for 9 long tortuous months and I had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. At first I thought it was the pot. So, very, stupidly I re-tried smoking pot two or three days after the first episode and then the DP seemed to grab hold of me like a vice and not let me go. I could write a book on that time period and how I tried to survive being in that first DP state but that is not the point of this particular post.

I felt outside of myself, and outside of the "normal" world. I heard my voice but it didn't seem like mine; I looked at myself in the mirror and I could not connect with my face or my old self. I thought I had gone silently crazy and that no one else knew it. I tried explaining this to my friends and sisters but no one could get it. To them, I looked pretty much fine, although frightened. They told me to "shake it off" etc. I told my doctor who laughed when I said I felt like "I do not know who I am." Months and months dragged by like this and nights were always the worst: from around 4 PM when dusk was falling until whenever. I was in a state of complete mental agony, but I could not really feel anything emotionally except a haunting terror, and I could not let on to others lest they commit me to the "psych ward" for being "crazy". So I spent all my time trying to fly as low under the radar as possible and to act "normal". Yeah right. Therapists were not very common in those days especially in a small town New England like where I lived, and anti-depressants were all but unheard of.

This went on and on for months and then one day it was GONE! I do not even know how to explain it myself. What I know is that my family was on a holiday in a southern Mediterranean country and the light was very different and I knew when I got off the plane something that I felt a little different somehow. We were running all over the place playing "tourist" and looking at beautiful places….and one day we went to a giant architectural monument that was made of white marble and it stood so bright and beautiful in front of a crystal clear blue sky and suddenly I noticed I could feel color and joy again!

I was delirious of course, but always looking over my shoulder too after that and wondering where had my torture gone? And did my torture have a name?

A month after that I was back home and the next "new" "malady" hit me: I became a compulsive overeater and sugar addict seemingly overnight. The mental torture of DP was gone but I could not for the life of me stop downing sugar. That addiction and a separate one to alcohol have also followed me my entire life since my first DP episode and as a result I am a member of more than one twelve step group. I am also very proud of 12 years' sobriety from alcohol. The sugar has been harder to beat however.

Back to DP: When did it come back?

At 18 when I dumbly lit up and smoked another joint my DP came back. Not immediately, but after one week of smoking pot there it was and now I thought I had caused my own torture and I really wanted to die. But of course I did not die be cause here I am today.

That second DP episode last 6 months. And it was slightly easier. I say slightly as I knew it might end one day based on my first episode. I did not know how or when it would end; I just knew it would end. And it did end. And this time, before the final lifting of the curtain on my mind, and feeling the delicious sunlight and joy in my head and heart again, I felt little shimmers of light in the days and weeks before the DP went away. In other words, I learned to know when my DP was trying to lift and go away and that always kept me a little bit hopeful. But I was still tortured too.

After that period of time, my episodes of DP started arriving and departing in my life on a semi-frequent basis. I had many more DP episodes in the following years. Sometimes for a few weeks or even a month or even more. Some of these I tried to push down with food. Others I tried to drink away.

But then came the DP episode during my second month of pregnancy: sheer torture and I could not drink or overeat due to my pregnancy. My hormones were raging to produce and sustain the new life growing inside of me. I felt terrible a guilt at having this DP while I was pregnant (thinking it was my fault) and wondered would the DP harm my child? The DP during my preganancy was as horrific as any I had as a teenager. And it all started when I took a spoonful of Robitussin for a cold. (I can now take guaifenesin, the ingenedient in the type of Robitussin I was taking that night without any problem but during my pregnancy it was a trigger for me.)

After my son was born, I decided to go to therapy. The doctors thought maybe I had postpartum depression but I knew better: I was told to stop breast feeeding so my hormones would straighten out. It did not help.

For me, it was the "terrible terror" for months again (the DP) even though I still did not know "DP" had a name.

After this my immune system began to weaken and I expereinced several auto-immune conditions in succession. Today (2013) I see a wholistic medical doctor for these conditions and this is very interesting to me: some of the things she has prescribed for my auto-immune stuff (like fibromyalgia) have been mentioned here on this site as being good for DP (like fish oil, 5-htp; pregnenelone, and amino acids) altho I would see a doctor rather than self-prescribing. She did this complete blood work on me and we could both see what my body was missing and there was a lot of stuff missing! So in 2013 I am taking a lot of supplements for my general health.

Back to the early 1990's: talk therapy helped somewhat. It helped but it was slow. And also high does of homeopathic remedies helped a bit! (I saw a homeopathic doctor.) My therapist had me do some cognitive exercises for panic attacks and I learned to become extremely calm when my mind was trying to take flight into a full blown DP episode using some of these exercises. CBT therapy helps! I can not remember the name of the book but many such books exist now for panic attack sufferers. This did not stop all DP episodes but it did help to shorten them.

Next, I was then taught a kind of auto-hypnosis that I could use when I was getting an onslaught of DP. Over a period of time (slowly) I learned to tune into a special scenario I invented where I place my body and my mind in a rocket ship sailing slowly AWAY from all the pain and fear and TOWARDS the light and sun. (One can invent any kind of scenario; this just was mine). Again there are many books on this type of creative visualizing/auto hypnosis.

But still I had DP episodes sometimes. I entered twelve step recovery groups and started talking about the "thing" that had always been wrong with me (DP). Some people offered to me they had suffered similar stuff and I sort of believed them and sort of didn't. Smile. I began to see a wholistic doctor and was prescribed many many vitamins and supplements and advised me to eat better and to eat frequesnt snacks to maintain an even blood sugar. This helped somewhat too!

However, finally came the "BIG" depression I mentioned in the beginning of this post….

In 1997, I experienced a clinical "major depression". Although the DP was not really that bad during this depression, I was unable to leave my house, or to think, or to sleep, or to eat as a result of this depression. I was totally incapacitated like this for two weeks. My therapist and I decided I needed to try "real" medication.


Formerly I had been frightened of trying psychotropic medications due to my reaction to marijuana and my DP. But I realized I had to do something. So I tried Effexor and Effexor made me feel even worse! My doctor explained I needed to have "patience" and next I tried Zoloft that worked a little better but gave me terrible side effects in the way of muscles pains. Again, I had to change meds and the third SSRI I tried was Paxil combined with a very small dose of Trazadone and this combination worked! It took about four months in all to straighten out all these meds but in the end, it was worth it!

Since 1997 I have been on those very same meds with NO incidence of either DP or major depression or panic attacks. (I also supplement with a light box in the fall and winter but actually I prefer standing in real sunlight whenever I can). And I have stayed in therapy for all these years with the same person weekly for all these years (22 or so and counting). And I have stayed in my 12 step groups, working the steps, counting days, becoming quite spiritual in my own way, connecting closely with others, working with others, etc. Oh, and I exercise somewhat but nothing hard core.

Of course I have bad days and I have good days. But nothing like the hardcore terror or DP or the total abyss of major depression.

In the last 5 years with my therapist (who I have known since 1992) I have been doing EMDR to help me deal with some of the fear attached to all my memories of DP and my fear that it might return. These fears have been significantly decreased due to this kind work but it was really scary to try out in the beginning. I am really glad I tried it however. And I continue to use it to process my early years on the planet.

Which specific thing removed my DP? All of them? One of them? I am not entirely sure as I think they all helped greatly, but to me the medication was the biggest help of all together with the on-going therapy. And never smoking pot again of course. I would not smoke pot even if you paid me a million dollars. For real.

I am in my "middle age" now and actually I feel pretty fine! Weird, huh? My days are spent pretty much like normal people. People who see me have no idea what my past was like. And that's just fine by me as I do not share my past with everyone. I like to be discreet and pick and choose who I tell.

About five years ago I was surfing the web and I found the word "depersonalization disorder" and I knew instantly that the word was "me". I just saw the word in a google search all of a sudden.

Then, I found the DP community. To my amazement I read my very same symptoms and experiences repeated ad nauseum by people of all ages from all over the world. Imagine the relief I felt. And seeing all the suffering young people made me want to do something.

Most of my life was spent wondering WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME????? But it never occurred to me that others might have the same thing. So, to all of you suffering from DP I have written this post in the hope that these words might give you some small amount of hope. Honestly, if I can make it out of this condition, so can you. I wish I knew exactly what one specific thing would bring each and every person out of the nightmare that is DP but I can only add my little piece of experience here and hope that this will help someone. Keep looking for answers recovery and never give up. And dont be afraid to try new things to recover. I learned to tolerate some uncomforatble feelings in order to recover but feelings are not facts!

Have Hope and Get/Be WELL!

Warmly, Comett

25 Posts
You are welcome. Obviously there are many stories behind this story but I tried to tell a kind of factual and sequential story here. The thing I realized after writing this long post, is that while I did indeed want to die so many times while I experienced DP, I now realize that I actually wanted to live even more, and that I kept looking and looking for years for answers until I found them. I see I was actually very determined to heal, even though I was so thoroughly terrified for so long. Now on a sunny day with the wind blowing and the blue sky I can feel these things completely and I feel such joy at these seemingly simplest things in life. For this I am truly grateful and amazed.

25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ricky 87 and Sunshinita,

You are welcome. I am glad my story is helpful. I am now reading with great interest other recovery stories as I am sure I could have found recovery earlier in my life if I had known what I was actually suffering from, and if I had had the proper kind of help. Do not give up searching for answers and methods to recover. That is the wisdom I have learned from having lived my life with DP off and on for so many years. There really are ways to beat DP!

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