Think Before You Think.
This blog will address cognitive problems related to Depersonalization, Existential Thoughts, Anxiety, and Panic Attacks. It will discuss typical reason as to why these problems occur, what you are doing to cause them, and provide suggestions as to how you may be able to make them stop.
Numerous entries posted on the DP self help forum have mentioned "Existential Thoughts", "Schizophrenia", and general "what if" questions. Depression likely follows suit for many of these individuals - if not official diagnosis then at least some symptoms which are alike to depression - but why? The problem, whether you want to hear it or not, is YOU. You are your own worst enemy when it comes to any of the previously mentioned problems. Evidence of this comes in the form of "What if" questions. The kind that you ask yourself about. Most of you will agree that the "What if" questions don't end up solving anything, but rather, provide more unanswered questions which equate to a massive panic attack or depersonalization episode.
I am a "what if" 'er myself. I know what you are going through. Every morning I wake up, my thoughts seem to race at a 1,600 kilometres an hour (1000 miles an hour to you American folks). I question whether or not I am still sleep, even after an hour of getting up. When my mind races and I experience nonsensical fleeting thoughts, I believe that I am losing my mind or going crazy. I tell myself that I have experienced this all before, that nothing bad will happen, that everything will be fine within half an hour. I am always right. It always does get better, but in the heat of the moment I cannot believe the overwhelming empirical evidence supporting my own claim. This makes sense, however, as at the moment I am experiencing anxiety symptoms that are possibly leading up to a panic attack. My mind doesn't want to rationalize, it wants to fight, flight, freeze, or collapse. My mind engages flight mode, and thus, I am no longer within my body. I am a depersonalized version of myself, nothing feels real, nothing exists. Fundamentally, I am now "saved" as I no longer need to experience these disastrous consequences.
..Wait, what? What disastrous consequences? Exactly. There aren't any. All the disasters are created by my mind, there are not real, they are not something I can "escape" from. Or are they? My brain provides an escape the only way it knows how: a separation. Because these problems do not actually exist, and are created from my mind in "what if" scenerios, my brain doesn't have much of a choice, but to relinquish the mind into a state of unreality. This is why I believe many say that depersonalization is a "defense mechanism". This is also why I believe that many people don't understand that it is a defense mechanism, as these "what if" questions don't seem to be all that dangerous in the first place.The only way for the mind to save itself from the thoughts you are poisoning it with is to relieve you to a state of depersonalization. This is how I believe depersonalization operates as a defense mechanism.
Okay, so what do you do about it? I am no clinical psychologist, nor will I ever be, so I cannot tell you, I can offer my own advice and share with you some of the methods that have worked for me. i can share with you why I believe these methods don't always work 100% of the time, and why.
What Works: Get out of bed, and stop thinking about it.
The worst part of my day is upon waking. I lay in bed, and I think. I question whether or not I have had a "false awakening". I question whether the reason everything seems fine is because I have become Schizophrenic. I question why I feel so stressed out at the moment. I question why my thoughts are racing, and now none of them are making sense. I question the reason why the room seems to spin. I question everything.
Not only do I question everything, I attempt to provide answers to these questions. Answers I could never find. I end up spending hours in bed, only to look at myself at disgust in the time that I have wasted, but at the same time fearing that if I do leave bed that the thoughts are going to get worse. I deliberate staying in bed for the rest of the day because I feel comfort here. I feel this way because I am full of motivation to solve the "problems" I am currently having. My mind races, and races. I can feel the anxiety build and everything appears to slip away from me. I get too scared to move, too scared to face life outside of this room because I believe that I will be further attacked with these malevolent thoughts.
The time I spend doing this, is equal to the time that I have wasted in the morning. My brain doesn't need "answers" to questions that don't need to be answered. I made the questions up on my own. They came from no other source than my own anxious tendencies. If I would have risen from bed 5 minutes after waking, I may experience some anxiety (most likely because getting out of bed after 5 minutes is unorthodox), but the anxiety will begin to subside, not strengthen. Furthermore, if I spend the next hour after getting out of bed to get dressed, make breakfast, possibly watch TV or visit this forum, the anxiety will dissipate to the point where it no longer affects me.
In this second scenario my mind has no time to fester on the negative thoughts I am pouring into my brain, therefore, it has no reason to induce anxiety, panic or depersonalization to counteract my negativity. Although in scenario one I am afraid to leave the bed, it is only because I falsely believe that continuing to dig this hole will somehow reach the light on the other side; it's a justification of effort (proudly continuing to do something you have spent time on, only to justify that the time you have spent is not a waste of time).
What's the answer to this problematic behaviour? Stop letting yourself be controlled by your own poisonous thoughts. They exist only to wreak havoc. You have an anxious mind when left alone, this is most likely due to your highly inquisitive nature, although useful for philosophical reasoning, it is not helpful in this case. The answer is not necessarily "distract yourself", but realize that you are an inquisitive being, and these questions that you naturally want to ask should be asked somewhere else, they should be used for the better. Go invent a new TV, or organize your day more efficiently. Don't question whether or not you are a brain in a vat. As the title says: THINK before you think.
The strategies work some days but not others =(.
I do not have a solid answer for this, as I am still searching for one myself. Sometimes I will be completely fine, understanding what I am doing, that my behaviour is wrong, and then changing it. Some days though, I seem to forget all of these.. I don't want to say coping mechanisms.. as I don't believe this is "coping".. Strategies, that's a better word. I forget the strategies that I use to begin an efficient anxiety free day (or to continue an anxiety free day should anxiety arise later on). I spiral back into the long hours in bed and it takes me a while to get back out of the funk.
Experiencing a realistic stressor:
I believe that I fall back into my old habits when a realistic stressor occurs because laying in bed is the place I used to go to when I would try to solve my "problems" (the existential kind).
Some days are just worse than others:
For anybody enjoying this read and finding it helpful, I hate to say this, but honestly, some days the coping mechanisms that you once had available are just not there today. It could be nutrition, it could be lack of exercise, lack of sun.. etc. I would recommend on these days that you try as hard as you can to get yourself going, but do not shame yourself if you are not able to. Remember, all your problems begin with you, shaming yourself for having an off day is not going to help your case. Reflect (not catastrophize) on possible reasons the relapse could have occurred. it will be helpful to set a time limit on this, so that you do not spend your day obsessing over it. Honestly, you many not ever know the reason why a relapse occurred, and you have to be okay with that idea. Use this as an opportunity for success tomorrow.
If you enjoyed the read, please comment. I hope to write more blogs in the future (though no guarantees as I begin school January 6th). I am not one for proofreading, but I will briefly overlook what I wrote. I, may, have, used, comma splices. I'm famous, for, that. TOO BAD! Hahaha.
Jan 07 2014 08:12 PM
Thank you so much for this blog entry. It's exactly what I needed to read.
Feb 16 2014 03:18 PM
Ha, feel for you man, love you! Peace, have a great day.
(a trick if you fear of forgetting things and it's like 1-5 am and you need to remember to just function and know it won't go away fully, just write it down (ipod/phone or paper if you have a little light, and then forget it, after awhile, you'll stop re-reading your things (if you don't force yourself onto reading them), also, this is only if you have the motivation to forget or if you don't want to go from the same paths every time and have déjà vu thoughts and feel like being less than before... one of my ''close to 25'' tricks with multiple possible outcomes)
I don't know why, but this concept helped me, if you don't want anymore concepts, stop reading, but it's in the middle of this: ------;tmrhdlmhfmexistentialdepressionbksghgkjrd--------
if you read the word, this site ain't that bad, I disagree with some ''it is that'' or ''TINA thinkings'', but I've let a happy cry onto some statements:
I want YOU to designate a time where you would write blogs every now and then, if it helps you (like every two or three Thursdays or Fridays or Mondays, the third Tuesday of every month... you'll figure it out!)
Sorry, would have written down more, I have 7 hours now to answer 112 questions about a 200 pages book, distractions right? xD I'm in big doodoo, exam tomorrow...
Mar 07 2014 06:26 AM
I enjoyed this thanks alot. Can you elaborate on the existential thoughts you have? i am having them really bad. I am in a consistant panic attack. I dunno how i know things. Or what i am doing here. I am frightened of my own conciousness. It used to be normal to be alive but now it feels like i need to figure it out in order to function. I am crying and crying. Do you think i can ever overcome this? i had it before and it was gone for the year. Now it is back with stressors. I feel weird to be in an reality. Life feels like some sort of thing. I am outside of it and i am truly terrified. Any advice would be appreciated.