Where to begin my story of DP which has spanned roughly 35 yrs. I’m 42 and I believe my first episode occurred when I was pre-teen. I remember it vividly. Sitting around with my family playing SORRY in what I recall as a very ordinary night. Suddenly a wave of “unrealness” swept over me and I recall leaving the game in a panic. At that age I had no idea what was happening to me and now I don’t know how other reacted to my unusual behavior.
As I recall it went into a “remission” of sorts. At one point I had a vague memory of this experience but it was something that had gone into hiding.
It all re-surfaced again sometime around the age of 13 or 14. While in school I began to feel DP/DR, although I had no name to put to it. I could only describe to my parents and teachers in vague terms. During middle school and early high school years I was in counseling. Again it seemed to go into a period of remission, but resurfaced again when I entered college.
The rest of my life has been one of going through DP experiences that range from mild to severe. Sometimes triggers of a DP are redundant such as traveling, sudden surprises, and especially during a period on emotional intensity where I get little sleep. It has happened quickly and vanished in minutes. Or it has stayed on with me for days and days at a low level. Sometimes it happens in broad daylight. Other times it comes on during the night. I can have it occur when I’m sitting in a crowded room, or I’m by myself in the house. I wish that I could say it has followed a typical path but I cannot.
It didn’t happen at periods when I’d most expect it such as the death of my parents, or when I took long trips (except for Colorado, read on).
I will tell you the turning point for me which is one of the most important aspects of my story. I will be glad to share details of specific episodes in an email correspondence, but I think it’s most important to tell you of the turning point that I consider to be the part of coming to terms with DP. For 10 days my Dad, my brother and I traveled by car throughout Colorado. I had never been further west than Ohio so I was in a whole new world. I went on this trip with the thought that I could withstand the uncomfortable feelings that might occur and I could take it. I almost didn’t complete the trip. The DP began as we traveled across Kansas. Now, I have nothing against the state of Kansas. I’m sure it’s a great state, but this is where my DP began. Being cooped up in the car for 10+ hours looking out on an unchanging landscape somehow set up the feelings. That sense of unrealness began to get to me. Only distracting myself with a portable stereo and reading kept me from knuckling under.
Throughout the next week I had a constant, low-level feeling of DP. It was bad during the day, but worse at night. I recall sitting in hotel room with my Dad and brother and feeling as if I didn’t know them. Was I traveling with strangers? I felt void of all emotion as if I was dead. All I wanted to do was get through one more night until I could be in a new day. Interestingly, I usually felt fine waking up, but as the day gradually wore on I felt the DP become stronger. At night I didn’t want to go outside of the hotel because it as if a ten ton weight of unrealness would settle on me.
This is a common feeling for me and I wonder if for others. Wide open spaces with no visible boundaries feel overwhelming. Being in a room provided more comfort. But then THAT can begin to get to you. Talk about Catch-22. I finished the trip with them–barely. When I came home I realized DP was still very much a part of my life and nearly ruined an otherwise perfect vacation. I needed to know what this demon was that had been plaguing me all of these years. I typed my symptoms into a newsgroup. I still had no name or idea what was happening to me. Someone in the newsgroup responded that it sounded like DP and he steered me to resources. Note, this was only four years ago after a lifetime of these experiences. I read and read and read some more. You have no idea ( or maybe you do) the profound relief of learning that it WAS a condition, others DID have EXACTLY what I had described. I’ll never forget the feeling of elation that what I experienced had a name and it was being taken seriously by some, not all, of the scientific community.
A second benchmark for me was the book, “Stranger in the Mirror” which I consider to be required reading for anyone with DP. Interestingly, my therapist of many years began reading the book too. He now says his whole attitude about DP being a mere side effect of anxiety has changed. He now believes DP is a condition unto itself.
I can share much more but I don’t want to make this a miniseries. 😉 I will be glad to share other experiences that triggered DP and what I’ve learned helps to control it. But I don’t really have any profound insights because it’s something that we’re all going through individually. I’ve noticed that many people posting here are younger and at 42 I sort of consider myself an old-timer. Ha. But my point is this—I’m 42 and I’ve lived with DP my entire life. At the age of 23 I couldn’t imagine how I would ever survive the hell of it all. But I’m here. I have a successful job, a dating life, and I do things that I never thought I could handle. All I want to say is that if you are in your teens and 20’s and going through some dark days with DP, don’t give up. You can survive and learn to cope with it. Will the DP ever go away? I can’t say for sure and I have serious doubts it will for me. But you will find ways to survive and live on. I would be happy to correspond with others who have DP maybe to listen to other’s stories as well as sharing mine. Thank you to whomever created this site. It’s a lifesaver in ways you can’t imagine.