Story by "RJ"
I turned 50 last year, and I have only now discovered that this condition I have been battling since I was 20 is DP. I would like to tell my story. I think my story may contain many things that could be helpful. I have tried many, many things over all these years. Before I launch into the story, let me just say that it was very difficult for about the first 4-5 years, but since then it has been manageable and even positive. I have had many good years, and I feel I have used this condition to my advantage, or to say another way, I have worked on self development as a result of the condition. It plagues me from time to time, but I can work with it. And one thing that interests me is that the symptoms of depersonalization seem to be the very characteristics that are sought in many spiritual disciplines. I shall elaborate as my story is told.
I remember as a child going to the dentist and taking nitric oxide (gas) as a means to numb my mouth. I was fascinated by the extreme journey I would take while under this influence. In its own way, I think was kin to depersonalization or other hallucinogenic drugs. But the effect always wore off right away with no lasting residue.
I was 15 when I first smoked pot. The first time or 2 didn't affect me, but then wow! It was like an acid trip. (I never took acid, but based on descriptions it seemed that way). When I would reach for a door knob, I didn't know where to grab. When I walked it was as if my feet were going into holes. Time seemed to lose its measurability. Still, at this age I seemed to have recovered from these experiences.
I was a nervous kid with a very low self-esteem. I didn't know who "I" was. I always tried to fit in and reinvent myself depending on my peers or the situation. Because of this I was influenced easily. I had no good adult guidance, so the only thing I had to follow was this ever changing, weak, and vulnerable "self", trying its best to navigate life. So alcohol and pot became very common for me in high school. I had a group to "hang" with, and the chemicals allowed me to escape this nervous and vulnerable person I was.
I had some experiences even in high school I recall as being the same as depersonalization. They were rare, but I actually enjoyed them because they were an escape from this nervous self that I was. I felt I could fit in better under influence of drugs, or this shift in perception. I must say however, that pot often gave me a paranoid feeling, so I often mixed it with alcohol.
When I went to college I lived in a dorm where drug use was rampant. I smoked pot frequently. I remember getting to the point that my memory and focus were just not there. Somebody would tell a joke and I couldn't even understand it. I'd forget simple things, and I even forgot a girls name on a date when I had to introduce her to a friend. This should have been sufficient warming to stop, but it was my identity then, and so I could not.
In the second year of college I began with the same lifestyle (and of course there was plenty of that over the summer). But I began to feel stoned even when I was not. I was very confused. Still, my identity, friends, and who I thought I was revolved around pot and alcohol. So I decided to transfer to a new school and have a fresh start. That was the plan.
Not long after I arrived at this new school I ran into yet more drugs and alcohol. I did this a couple times, and then noticed extreme spaciness. I wasn't yet connected to any people or groups, so I made a firm commitment to stop and allow myself to heal. And that truly was the end of drugs and most alcohol for me. However the "stoned" awareness I felt didn't go away. I became very worried, and then I became depressed. I had to reduce my class load as my mind could not handle the workload. I went to the campus doctor but that was no help. I didn't have any idea where to go. In those days support systems just weren't around like now. I remember contemplating suicide, but I still had this inner core that was very strong and knew what was going on. It's just that there was this huge fog between "me" and the world. It was a hard time.
The next summer I traveled a bit and was very confused. I was supposed to be a camp consular, but there was no way I could function in a camp setting and pretend to be "normal". I remember starting the day with a fairly clear mind, but with much anxiety. As the day went on the anxiety built. It seemed at some point my mind would "flip". The anxiety was gone, bit the fog and disorientation took its place. I didn't know which I wanted to live under; they were both unpleasant in their own way.
Late that summer I felt like I was at the end. I didn't know what to do, or how to explain it to anyone. I felt like giving up (but wasn't suicidal, just more of a defeated feeling). The next day I was visiting a friend. I noticed a pamphlet on his table for TM (meditation). I read this and it talked about this technique giving you more mental clarity, focus, peace, and all the qualities I was seeking. "Wow, this is it", I thought. I proceeded to take the TM class and started reading information about TM and meditation. I felt like someone through me a life vest.
My 3rd and 4th year of college was better. I think partly due to the fact that I had hope and something to work toward. But I do think the technique did give me some clarity. I had good friends and more confidence. Classes went better too. But still I went in and out of these fog periods. So my goal was to take the advanced TM Sidhi program, or what they call yogic flying.
I left that town the spring of my senior year and had an internship with a company in a new town I had never been in. Suddenly the symptoms got worse. I think because it was 8-5, and all new rules and a new setting. It was the first time I was plugged into a setting like this with no place to feel I could decompress. But by summer I was enrolled in the TM sidhi program.
I went through this program and did manage to do the flying (which is really hopping as a result uncontrolled energy - in my opinion). The first experience was awesome, and I remember feeling very light and ethereal. But reality set in. These experiences caused the depersonalization to intensify. When I went to the instructors for help, I was met with what seemed like robots all spewing the same jargon - "you are relieving stress, the most important thing for you to do is continue". And continue I did, but the condition worsened still. I was getting muscle spasms throughout my body. Sometimes a large muscle like my thigh would just pulse for an hour. My blood pressure was about 80/40. I could sleep in a chair within minutes. My world was vastly distorted. I had clear periods, but the fog was overwhelming. Certainly this was affecting my job, and after a few months I was asked to leave.
I was still practicing the TM sidhi program, because I had bet everything on it working. Also the teachers assured me that I had to keep up the practice and I would get through this. Finally one day I asked one of the teachers about other techniques I was reading about. She was certain that this was the one and only true path. When she said that, a switch went off for me. "That’s it" I said to myself. I'm done with this garbage. I will seek alternatives. And once I did this the doors opened widely. There is a wealth of methods, techniques, healing arts, and so on all waiting for me. My world looked better once again. I had hope.
I decided to live in a yoga ashram for a period of time to really get some help. They specialized in treatment of various types, and I had some intense support for what I was dealing with. I was there a couple months, and at one point one of the professionals said something that once again woke me up. He said (in effect) "Getting better is not going back to where you were, but accepting were you are and creating your world from that". So I didn't need to have regret, or depression, or guilt, or pity. I needed to take charge of where I was at, and let that become my reality, or point to work from.
I left the ashram with a sense of being renewed, and began a life of a professional in the city. I landed a good job and was much more able to function than before. The fog would come and go, but I would just allow it without feeding it with mental labeling which only made it worse. I was practicing yoga and a different form of meditation. I was also open to so many other types of spirituality, and I really grew from what each had to offer.
I've had many good years since those difficult years. The feeling still comes and goes. Sometimes I will have long periods - perhaps weeks or months with no major depersonalization. Then I will get periods it is with me daily for days with breaks of clearness. As I write this my mind has reflected so much on the past that it has triggered some level of this as well.
But I would like to end with some of the helpful things I have found along the way. I feel I have been a spiritual seeker for 30 years now, as well as seeking help for this condition. People are very unique and that any suggestions may or may not be helpful. Depersonalization seems to affect a rather small group. Until I recently stumbled into the diagnosis of this condition, I thought I was the only one on the planet with this. So it could be that others with this condition may have a similar makeup, and thus, may more likely respond to helpful suggestions.
I think the first thing I would say is that I believe it would be helpful to work some type of spiritual discipline on a daily basis. There are many techniques such as yoga breath awareness, postures, and mindfulness that are helpful. There are techniques such as Thi Chi that work to regulate the energy field. There are relaxation methods as well as affirmations, visualizations, and a host of methods. The idea is to get awareness of the mind so you run it, and it doesn't run you. Then when you experience depersonalization, it is just a temporary mental state but doesn't become more because of all the mental labeling you give it. Then it will pass, and these methods control the body so it is more in balance.
There are other practical things I think are helpful. A good diet is helpful. I have found that sugar can sometimes trigger the condition. You can look into the yin/yang diet. Yin foods (with a sugar content) will stimulate mental activity, while yang foods (salt, meat, cheese) will let you be more grounded. For me a sunny day will make me feel better, and consistent rest is helpful. I stay away from alcohol, even a small amount can be a trigger for me. A small amount of coffee I think is good. Too much and I can feel some shakiness or what might feel like anxiety. I try to keep in somewhat decent physical shape. And when there is emotional stuff, I try and just ride the wave, knowing it will pass and it is not who I am.
So this has been quite a journey. And as I look at it now, I see it fitting into a bigger picture - the picture of life, or ones own spiritual awakening. This is really why we are here. Most people are totally consumed by the drama of life. But I think battling a condition like this forces one to think (or be) outside the "drama of life" box. This is powerful because now you see life as an opportunity for awakening, rather than stuck in a meaningless struggle. As you live your life, the events that happen (and your perception of them) become fuel for your progress. The world is one big mirror showing you what needs to be healed (healing having to do with the removal of personal issues). As they come up, and you have cultivated enough awareness, you then look at them and can dismiss them, rather than react to them (keeping them alive). This allows the issue to die, and once you have removed the issue you are closer to your divine self. And depersonalization, or not, this program can be worked making the most of life’s journey. I recommend reading a book by Eckhart Tolle called "The Power of Now". Blessing to all, and may healing become the journey of our planet. I will check into this forum under the name “survivor” to share stories and information: http://www.depersonalization-home.com/forum/
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