My Experience with Depersonalization(dp) and Derealization(dr)
Depersonalization: a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself.
Derealization: a feeling that one’s surroundings are not real, especially as a symptom of mental disturbance.
The two disorders usually occur together.
How my dp/dr began
The first time I experienced Depersonalization was at a restaurant. It was just like any other ordinary day, hanging out with friends, having a nice time. When we were talking, all the sudden my vision changed, everything looked two-dimensional. Not knowing what was happening I began to panic and rushed out of the restaurant and tried to get some fresh air, but this feeling of being unreal did not stop! I Headed back home in a hurry and took a nap. When I woke up, everything felt normal again. It was mandatory for me to Google what had happened. I found out what I had experienced was an anxiety attack.
Few days passed, I had been stressing a lot about my exam results for a week or two before the anxiety attack. When I heard my results were out, the same feeling of “un-realness” was back and this time it would not stop and I experienced 15 minutes of hell which felt like an eternity, this time it was a panic attack. Its difficult to explain how scary feeling depersonalized is, the closest thing to depersonalization is a bad trip on marijuana that does not stop.
How it changed my lifestyle
Waking up to this feeling every morning is just the worst. Staying in my room made me feel better and safe, so I isolated myself. I would constantly give the silliest of excuses to anyone who wanted to meet me. By doing so I developed social anxiety. Asking me to leave my house was like asking me to go sky diving. I constantly turned to Google looking for help, in the process I would read comments such as “ Depersonalization lasts for 10–20 years” ,which just made my anxiety sky rocket.
Staying in my room all the time, being paranoid about any small sensation, thinking it could be some disease and self diagnosing myself using Google. Being this way just made my anxiety worse. I woke up one day to see static in my vision. You guessed right, I thought I was turning blind. This static is something called visual snow, just another symptom of anxiety.
I stayed in my room everyday, thinking it would just stop one day. I was wrong, it had been 2 months since I left my house, I was surely ready to stay at home for longer.
The third month of dp/dr I received a call from my cousin brother and he was quite annoyed about the way I was behaving and gave me a butt kicking over the phone. Thats when I did feel I was being selfish as I was ignoring my parents, my friends and just keeping to myself. This was when I FINALLY decided to do something about it, rather than just sitting at home waiting for some miracle to happen.
How I changed my lifestyle
First step for me was to change my views on dp/dr. I kept referring to it as a “problem” or “disorder”. So, I started to visualize dp/dr as a different perspective of life, one which not everyone gets to experience. This phase was acceptance, accepting that this is something totally normal and the more you worry the longer it lasts. If you treat dp/dr as something positive, that’s when the anxiety reduces.
Secondly, I quit having caffeine and alcohol (10 months since I last drank alcohol and 3 months since I had any caffeine). I resumed exercise, maintained a healthy diet. Exercise is what helped me through this, If you are experiencing dp/dr, I highly recommend you start maintaining a healthy life style.
Third, this was the most difficult step for me, getting back to socializing or going to any other place apart from the gym. I couldn't sit in a restaurant for more than 10–15 mins. Always excused myself from the table to go out for a walk for 15 mins , contemplating whether I should go home or try giving it another shot. I always chose to go back home.
It was difficult to go out and stay there, but I kept trying. It was really hard for my friends to understand why I was acting this way, but they were always supportive. So one fine day I told myself “No matter how bad the anxiety gets, you WILL NOT GO HOME”. That’s what happened, the anxiety did increase when I was at the restaurant, but I stayed. I stayed till all of us decided to leave. That just gave me a huge boost in confidence.
Finally, DON’T GOOGLE ! I think Google is easily anxiety’s worst enemy. That moment when you have a slight twitch and you Google it and the results say multiple sclerosis. It’s not going to help reduce your stress in any way possible. Listen to music, sing even if you cant. Do anything other than thinking about dp/dr.
5 months have passed since dp/dr began. It was much better than what it used to be. But I still had mild visual snow and the “un-real” feeling. I went through my daily activities to check what I had been doing that might have been stressful. Clearly it was gaming and a bad sleep cycle, I would sleep at 4am and wake up at 1pm. Finish my work in the evening and start gaming again from 9pm to 4am. This was clearly bad for me, I cut down gaming to just an hour a day. Started reading more, going out more, anything that made me stay away from the computer, I did it.
Today I can tell you that I am almost back to normal (90% recovered). Its been a struggle, but definitely better than not doing anything about it.