I have had DP for most (if not all) of my life. I can say for certain that I have had it since about the age of 11 but probably had symptoms prior to that age. I am now a month shy of 33. At the age of 13-14 I remember trying to explain to a friend how I felt. I made a little drawing of a figure representing my physical self and a smaller figure hovering above the body which represented my consciousness or soul. I would make several of those drawings in the course of 20 years but no one-not even professionals-knew what to make of it. Then several months ago in an abnormal psychology class I read 3 sentences which changed everything. Depersonalization Disorder! It has a name! The professor didn’t even mention it in the class so I was forced to ask him afterwards. He told me that he doesn’t bother to cover it since its very uncommon. Well, as we all know here, its probably more common than we realize. I’ve read every story on this site. Considering all the stories and my own history, I theorize that DP is directly related to stress and mental self defense although I think it can be triggered and definitely exacerbated by drug use. My parents divorced when I was 4. I was molested at 5 and told my genitals were now dirty by my mother. I was neglected for most of my childhood and teen years. I developed anxiety during elementary school and an eating disorder by age 11 that lasted until 19 (although I still have body issues). I began drinking and being sexually active by 14. Drug use at 15 which include copious amounts of marijuana and LSD. Once I was slipped PCP on a joint and had such a reaction I thought I had left my body. I thought I was going to die. A similar out of body reaction occurred in 2000 after smoking a joint. Who knows if it was laced…once again the room shrank, lights faded, everything became black and I saw a silhouetted figure I swear was death. Now I have a sensitivity to light (fluorescent office light is the WORST) and to sounds. I am very jumpy and am prone to sudden pangs of anxiety which seem to be in reaction to “whoa! I’m alive! This is my life! What am I doing?” I have developed a fear of driving. I am a person who has driven across the US 4 times. It is humiliating and crushing to have had this happen. It seems ridiculous and irrational. But the last 2 times I have driven I suddenly felt like I was leaving my body, that I was out of control, that I would pass out or just blank out. I had to hit my legs and scream as loud as I could to stay present. The fear of dying in an automobile is very real to me. Which brings up another very common symptom-cutting or self-mutilation. I began to cut at age 13. The last time I did it I was 24 yrs old. As an older adult I have hit my legs or face or hit my head against the wall. Sometimes the temptation is still there but I will scream into a pillow or hit the floor with a pillow. That helps. Another interesting thing I have noticed is that the symptoms of DP seem to disappear when I am acting. For sure I have extreme stage-fright before and extreme self-consciousness after-but during a scene or when I am in character its as if I come back into myself. Its like being at the eye doctor when they ask you to tell them when the two figures become one. I have learned how to compensate as best I can but I always feel like a liar or actor in my own life. I am a very emotional person but feel as if I’m not genuine in my emotional involvement with friends, lovers or family. Like I’m the great pretender except that I’m not pretending. I watch my life take place like a spectator. Oh look! That’s me graduating! That’s me getting married! It all seems like someone else most of the time. There have been times when I wasn’t completed absorbed by my existence and consciousness-and they were so perfectly beautiful and peaceful I felt like life really was worth living. Unfortunately I was diagnosed-albeit MIS-diagnosed-with Bipolar Disorder. At the time it made sense-and for a whole year my every mood and move was scrutinized until I didn’t know who I was and how I was supposed to act. These days there are so many categories of BP that potentially everyone could be labeled. Its really scary. My background is in the arts: photography, film, and acting. I realize though (after years of self-debilitating criticism and personal failure) that I can use my talents and personal experience with DP and depression to help others. I am now on track to study Drama Therapy. I still would like to make films which explore mental illnesses, but with more understanding and knowledge that will come from a degree. I wish all of you the best in dealing with your own symptoms. We are not alone. And we are not crazy. Its no surprise that most of us are educated, intelligent and probably more sensitive than most people. Most people don’t question life, existence and death like we do. They “just do it”. It really is one of the things that makes us special. Recommended reading: The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout The Stranger in the Mirror by Steinberg and Schnall Nausea by Sartre.

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