Story by "Phyllis"
I've been reading through your website on depersonalization--a subject I first learned of only a few days ago, on a forum for people dealing with eating disorders, and the depression and other mental illness that often accompanies or precipitates them.
I'd never heard of "depersonalization" before, but the post I was reading struck a chord with me, and I promptly hopped on Google and looked it up, thus stumbling across your site.
What you say is fascinating, and now makes me wonder if I, too, have been suffering from depersonalization my whole life. I want to preface this by saying that while I've dealt with an eating disorder on and off for some years, as well as depression, ADHD and some PTSD symptoms, I have no other diagnosis. I've never had any sort of psychotic break, nor do I hallucinate, hear voices, or suffer from DID (which I hear was once considered an umbrella under which depersonalization often occurred). But I've always *felt* different.
I remember as a baby, an instance in which I was being wheeled in a stroller around the apartment complex where I lived with my parents, prior to their divorce when I was two. To this day, I can recall the strange sensation of seeing myself and my father from up above, and then coming down ("swooping" down, almost) and seeing from a perspective that suggests I was between the stroller (in back) and his legs. When I mentioned the stroller's print (green gingham) to my mom as an adult, she was shocked that I could recall such a detail.
All through my life I've experienced the strange sense of deja vu at varying intervals. Moments when time seems to slow down, and I am suddenly watching the world from somewhere deeper within myself, and I always know exactly what is going to happen--even predicting, verbatim, what is going to be said. These "episodes" last seconds, sometimes minutes, and as child, they terrified me. Now, I try to shake it off. As a teenager, I often felt like my Self was trying to break free of my body; for example, when I rode the train to school in the mornings, I never felt entirely present, because I, my Self, would feel as though it wanted to escape and be part of the cosmos. I feel like a prisoner in my own body.
As a teenager and in my early twenties (I am now in my late twenties), I did a lot of drinking, and for me it always made me feel more comfortable with who I am. When drunk, the sense of detachment between my Self and my body or my actions felt even more defined, yet more comfortable. Like I no longer worried about it, but accepted it for what it was.
As an adult, I've spent a large chunk of my time pondering existentialist thoughts--which is why I was dumbfounded to read that it is often a symptom of depersonalization. I realize that everyone has these thoughts from time to time (especially during the college years, I'd imagine) but, for me, the sense of emptiness I feel from not knowing, not understanding, not feeling whole, has become preoccupying. I've always felt that I was a soul not meant for this earth, simply because I've never felt that I belong in my body, or that I belong here. I feel like the cosmos made a mistake, and I don't always feel... real. Sometimes, when someone says my name, I actually think to myself, "Hmm. I'm a Heather. How funny."
When I cry, for no matter how devastating a reason, a part of me remains removed, detached; I wonder what I look like while I cry, how I sound. I am completely self-conscious and self-aware... and that is the truth for every aspect of my life. I've often said to my mom, or to my therapist, that I feel like I am too aware of "being." I can't let myself be a part of anything to its full-extent--including life--because I feel like I'm too of being alive, much more so than the people around me, and I can never get carried away with a moment, or a sensation. It's as though my consciousness is not connected to my body; like I am watching my life and controlling myself from a control room in a remote location. It's my job, but I'm not actually a part of it. I'm on the outside, looking in.
I suffer from terrible insomnia, and have for my entire life. My mom says that even as a baby, I wouldn't nap. In fact, at the hospital in which I was born, the doctors and nurses commented to my parents that while all the newborns in the nursery were sleeping or crying, I was wide awake and peaceful-looking, as though I were more interested in observing my new world.
I feel like an observer, like some sort of alien sent to learn about this world, but not to assimilate entirely. (And to assure you that I'm not insane, I don't actually believe I'm an alien... I just can't think of how else to describe what I'm feeling..) I don't know how to connect with this world... and so it is that I've always felt that most comfortable in my own head, because it's easier than trying to figure out how to relate to everyone and everything else.
My nickname is "mermaid," because for my entire life, the ocean has been the greatest source of comfort for me. I feel most grounded there, but sometimes I think it's because the ocean seems so vast, and that's how I feel inside. Like I'm a world inside my cumbersome body, feeling trapped within its confines. I once told my therapist that I had a hard time enjoying life because I always felt as though it weren't big enough, or real enough for me. It's got sharp edges and it's too loud, and cold, and false, and all I want to do is sit by the ocean, or in the mountains, because when I'm in nature, I feel like I'm a part of it and I can pretend that I'm not actually trapped inside myself. (I know how incredibly melodramatic this all sounds, believe me; still, it's how I've always felt.)
To everyone who meets me, I'm an outgoing, intelligent, creative free-spirit; inside, I feel more alone with each new day. Sometimes I think that my eating disorder, though easily attributed to some things in my past, is really just my unconscious way of trying to make my body seem more organic, more a part of me.
In my search to find some sort of understanding, I've started to learn about Buddhism. It helps to a degree, to have something discuss the importance of spirit over body.
Anyway, trying to sum one's life up in an email is an impossible task, and I know that I've left out things that are probably quite relevant. All I want to know is: am I insane, or so I sound like other depersonalization patients? As someone who has always shunned labels, and who has been proud of the fact that my troubles, such as depression and ADHD, were merely garden variety issues, it's strange to even consider that I may be dealing with something a little more out of the ordinary. But I do want to know...
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