Story by A.D.


My DP first began about 10 years ago, when I was 14. I have never used an
illicit substance – no pot, LSD, Speed, etc. Not even a sniff. So the onset
of my symptoms still remains a bit of a mystery…..I remember the first time
I has a DP experience. It was like having an overwhelming sense of deja vu,
like everything that was happening had happened at some stage before, and if
I could only concentrate, I’d be able to predict exactly was what about to
happen. It always seemed just beyond my reach to pre-empt what someone was
about to say or do. I also had the compelling feeling that I was actually
just in a dream. My peripheral vision disappeared, and I couldn’t hear or
see very well. I had a pulsing in my head, and mixed feelings of euphoria,
intoxication and terror. This felt disjointed and static, and very
unsettling. It also became difficult to process what was happening around me
and maintain a sense of where and who I was. This was my first DP attack,
and I thought I was going insane.
Over time, I got more used to the sensation, and found that, while it was
like nothing else I had ever experienced, it would eventually pass, and all
I needed to do was try to stay calm. Sometimes, I couldn’t really control
what I said and did, and thinking it was pretty much just a dream, I
occasionally made an idiot of myself! However, there were times when the DP
experience itself wasn’t an entirely negative sensation. Sometimes it felt
like a rush, and there were instances when I was bored or tired that I’d
wish a wave would sweep over me. This only lasted a little while though, and
eventually, as I’d feel the attack begin, I was be crippled by a wave of
severe anxiety, and dread at the prospect of what was about to happen.
I recognise that back when I first began to depersonalize, there were a few
circumstances that would occasionally precipitate an attack. Blinking fluro
lights would often set me off, as would standing in a hot, steamy shower.
There were also times when an attack would come on totally unexpectedly, and
one DP experience would generally ensure that more were set to follow soon
after (up to 5 –6 in the space of about 3 hours).
My symptoms have changed since I’ve gotten older, as has the actual
experience of DP. Now, about 90% of the time, I can feel the sensation begin
to creep over me, like a tingling that begins at the back of my head, and a
heat that begins to emanate from my forehead. Luckily I can snap myself out
of it before the experience becomes ‘full-blown’. However, there are times
when I’m caught unawares, and this is usually when the experience is the
most negative. In these circumstances, I’ll often experience some type of
dissociative amnesia, and forget all of the events during the attack; what
I’d said, where I’d been during the experience, etc. It also made it
difficult to recall general information from around that time – where I’d
been throughout that day, who I’d seen and spoken to before and after, etc.
My most recent experience happened I was at work, and speaking to a client
on the telephone. I had a completely unexpected attack, and whilst I was
aware that I was beginning to depersonalize, I didn’t have the presence of
mind to end the conversation. Next thing I know, the phone is down, and I
forget who I was speaking to, what it was in relation to, etc. The most
frightening part was that this client called back a few days later seeking
clarification on some things we’d discussed – and I had no idea what he was
talking about (and he seemed to be quite confused as well). Now, there are
also times when I’ll get a random thought in my head, about a person or an
event, and I’ll begin to ‘remember’ things that, logically, I know never
happened. If I continue on the train of thought, I seem to delve into an
area of my consciousness that instigates the DP experience.
My DP experiences are fewer and further between now, but the severity has
increased. So, when an attack does occur, it takes a lot more effort to
overcome it. However, after reading accounts of others, I can see that my
experience is by no means as severe as most, and I’m very lucky to at least
have some control over my symptoms. I am also lucky to have become a
qualified psychologist, and while I am only at the beginning of my career, I
have been able to help other people understand what they are experiencing,
and how to manage their DP more effectively. This is an amazingly common
disorder, and the range of severity means that people with mild symptoms are
generally unaware that they even have it (they just get ‘a little light
headed’ sometimes), while people with severe symptoms are convinced they are
schizophrenic and ‘going crazy’. That’s why we all need to share our
stories, so we understand that we are not alone.
Grief’s, where they wound in solitude, they wound more deeply." Seneca, 50


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