Hello, my name is Nicola, I?m 23 and I live in the South East of England.
My story begins on the evening of Friday 13th December 2002 (unlucky for some!). Me and a group of friends had travelled down to South Africa a few weeks earlier to see the total eclipse of the sun. I always knew the trip was going to be life changing however I had always assumed it would be the spiritual impact of witnessing the eclipse. We had gone to a week long psy-trance festival in honour of it. The day of the eclipse was completely overcast, we didn?t see a thing ? I was gutted! We spent the rest of the trip taking every drug we could get our hands on: mushrooms, cannabis, pills, speed etc. The second week was spent in Cape Town. Coke was incredibly cheap so we bought loads of it ? more than we possibly needed. On the last night, Friday, we knew the coke had to go up our noses or down the toilet; we weren?t risking taking any home.
My body was already physically in a bad way from everything I had consumed over the past 2 weeks, however I continued anyway. Then suddenly everything looked off, like everything around me had instantly moved away from me while my inner thoughts had just deepened inside. I panicked (to say the least). My first thought was that I was having some kind of overdose and was about to die. I panicked some more. I couldn?t breathe and my heart was beating thro my ribs at an insatiable rate. The panic was overwhelming yet I refused to be taken to the hospital, I?d heard too many nightmare stories about South African hospitals. Soon, dying was the least of my worries. A large vacuum made it self present in the back of my mind which was trying to suck all my thoughts and my very being away into oblivion. I was leaving my physical body; it was going to be left vegetablised while my mind went into a black hole. People around me seemed like they were made of plastacine as these waves of suction pulled at my mind. Everyone around me must have thought I?d already lost it as I struggled to repeat the names of my mum, dad and brother over and over again thinking that if I didn?t keep them in my mind I?d forget who they were. This lasted for 3 if not 4 hours before the hell relinquished. I was never the same again.
For about a month afterwards I had a constant anxiety that something was wrong, it lived in me like a bee buzzing constantly in my ear hole. It was a switch in my mind which if pressed would have made me disappear into that oblivion I had fought against. However it was only a threat so I tried to ignore it and get on with my life.
One morning late in January 2003 I went into work as normal. I sat at my desk and tried to concentrate. However when I looked up from my computer screen to my horror I barely recognised the office. I tried desperately to ignore it, made excuses that it was tiredness but it didn?t leave me. My head was stuck in a mist that I could not get out of. I was certain I had permanently damaged my brain and was going mad.
Over the next few months it gradually got worse and worse, it felt like my mind disconnected to my surroundings and worse still, to myself. Every woken moment I was concentrating on forgetting about it ? obviously this made things worse! I had inner ear test, thyroid tests, heart arrhythmia tests, I was put on beta blockers which made things worse. Soon if I wasn?t having a panic attack I felt like I was about to. I couldn?t get my thoughts to escape my head. I self monitored everything. I would bring on panic attacks just by thinking I was having trouble breathing, then I?d hyperventilate and would have trouble breathing. I was signed off work indefinitely with acute anxiety. Work was impossible as I couldn?t be in the same place for longer than a few hours at a time, I had to keep trying to find things to distract myself from my own thoughts.
All the time I was getting increasingly closer to that oblivion, I was fighting with all my strength to hold on to my mind but I was fighting a losing battle. I started barely recognising the thoughts that ran through my head or the face that looked back at me from the mirror. I started to wonder whether I had actually died in South Africa and my spiritual self was having trouble letting go of this world. Maybe I had died and this was hell. Or perhaps I had unknowingly been given acid and this was a bad trip, after all my whole world looked as if it could start warping and distorting at any moment.
On certain occasions when I felt that I was too close to the edge to handle, when I could actually shake oblivion?s hand, I would rush down to my doctor, knowing deep down he wouldn?t be able to help me, but what else could I do, I had to run somewhere? I knew my problem was within me and it didn?t matter how fast I ran, or in which direction I would never get away from it. I felt completely helpless. I was speedily assigned a counsellor at the local mental health institute, but that shone no light either.
I wasn?t living anymore; I was only surviving each second at a time. I held onto my mind with every ounce of energy that entered my body, wondering how further away from myself I could get and how close I would possibly get to oblivion without falling in. I couldn?t see any light at the end of the tunnel, in fact it just got darker and darker. I could barely comprehend my own existence. My counsellor diagnosed me with major depression on top of my acute anxiety.
In July 2003, after 8 months of constantly, living in the realm of hell (even in my dreams), I was put on tricyclic anti-depressants.
I consider myself as spiritually minded and had tried herbal remedies with absolutely no joy, yoga - which only helped while I was actually doing it but at no other time, acupressure ? no joy, and acupuncture, which I?ll go off on a bit of a tangent about and tell you why it freaked me out completely!
I was left in a tiny room for 30 minutes with needles stuck in my forehead, arms and shins (it was here that I think I realised that I suffered slightly with claustrophobia!) My thoughts started racing with negativity and all of a sudden every needle in my body stood up vertically from their previous 45 degree angle and started wobbling!! I was as still as a statue! :? I was convinced they were opening the gateways in my meridians and some dark force was entering my body thro those gateways. I wanted to get up, pull out every needle from my body and run off in panic however I couldn?t, in fear that it would somehow damage my energy flow even more! I stuck it out for the entire 30 minutes. My way home was probably one of the closest times after the initial experience that I came to ?that? oblivion and I swear I could physically feel my consciousness being shifted further and further away from where it should be. I never went back for more acupuncture and now continue to be fully aware of my dislike for situations that I can?t get out of.
So anyway, back to the issue, I resigned myself to prescribed medication. Best thing I ever did!! And lucky for me they worked. One day about a month after I had started taking them, I was driving home from some attempt to distract myself, when I suddenly snapped out of a chain of thought and realised that for about 1 minute I had been thinking about what I was going to eat that evening. To me that was a major break through. I had actually escaped my living hell, only for 1 minute, however during that 1 minute I was ?normal,? thinking about a normal thing! After that, the lone minutes of normality kept popping up! I was over the moon! I could see a torch shining in my darkness and I have never been more thankful in my entire life. The next few weeks saw the periods of normality get more frequent and greater in length, up to 5, 10 minutes every hour. I could see the end of the tunnel and my improvement accelerated as I ran desperately to the opening.
After a while I returned to work. I was lucky that my employer allowed me back on a part time basis, 12 hours a week at first, and every month gradually increasing. 6 months later and my normality lasted for about 50 minutes every hour and I was working full time again (and I needed to as my credit cards took a severe battering from having to supplement my wage while I was off which I?m still fighting to pay off now!)
Today, almost 3 years from the initial experience I?m still taking the medication. As well as my mild claustrophobia, I?ve also been discovered to suffer very slightly with OCD, which gets a hundred times worse if I ever try to cut down my dosage. And the anxiety about my own health, my breathing, whether my heart?s working properly, etc, I?ve almost accepted. It doesn?t consume my thoughts like it used to so it?s bearable. And the disconnectedness, the depersonalization and derealization which I diagnosed myself as my doctor or counsellor wouldn?t, only affects me for about a minute every week, which is great.
Next year in March, myself and my new boyfriend (well not new, we?ve been together for 18 months however new since the beginning of this story) are going to Turkey to hopefully see the total eclipse of the sun there. I made it my ambition to see an eclipse after being unable to in South Africa, and I?m hoping this time will provide the spiritual impact I was after 3 years ago. Perhaps this time it will be the letting go and the release of everything that?s happened since then. In fact as a direct result of writing this I?ve worked out that the eclipse in Turkey will be precisely 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 4 days and 3 hours since the eclipse in South Africa ? ok so it would have been more of a sign if it had been 3 days instead of 4
, and is perhaps somehow interlinked with the mathematical occurrence of eclipses anyway, however thought it was worth a mention!!
Anyway until then I just wanted to share my story as part of the process. And I want to wish all of you the very best in finding the end to your own depersonalised stories.