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 
A.D.

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