When I was born nearly 48 years ago I suffered from a birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). Due to a malformed diaphragm my stomach and intestines went up into my chest cavity and displaced my heart and lungs to the left hand side. I was a dark blue when I was delivered because I couldn’t breathe and I had to be resuscitated.
24 hours later emergency surgery was performed and my internal organs were placed where they needed to go. I was apart from my mother from the instant I was born and for the next two weeks. My first experience with human existence and reality was pain, fear and isolation.
I don’t remember much about my childhood except that one day when I came home from school (I was eight years old at the time) I saw my mother being taken out of the house on a stretcher and put into a van. Nobody told me what was going on. My parents were strict Christian Scientists and they didn’t believe in doctors or sickness. I was told very early that everything was an illusion and that I couldn’t trust my five senses. I was always afraid and I probably didn’t ask anybody anything about what was going on.
A few days later I came home from school and my dad and my uncle from England were there in the house. My dad said “mom isn’t coming home” and then got up and left. I remember him walking past me as I sat on the floor. I felt one of the first chills of unreality race down my back. Nobody ever talked about mom and I felt very alone and scared. My dad didn’t’ t talk to me or my older sisters and brother about anything, really. He was very cold and isolated and didn’t care about us.
I’ve suffered panic attacks from eight years old until today and I have felt unreal on and off for all of my life. I remember asking my father and brother “Am I really here”? when I was 10 years old. They sneered and walked away. All my life I’ve been trying to explain to non-DPs the misery and unreality I’ve felt periodically throughout my life. My father went to prison a few years ago for sexually abusing two of his grandkids. After he got out of prison he told me that he had psychologically abused me when I was a child.
When I got panic attacks as a little child and up to this day the world instantly became unbearably terrifying. I would look at objects: my bedside lamp, the walls, the door and they had no meaning. I didn’t know who I was or where I was or why or where anything could ever be. Life was an impossibility. All I knew was a rapidly mounting terror feed-back in my “head”. I would be forced to run down the “unreal” stairs in a blind panic and rush outside into the night. My dad never knew what I was going through and wouldn’t have cared anyway.
Many times I would be standing barefoot in the snow at night during winter in my underwear trying to connect with something that was “me”. The expanse of the Universe, infinity, eternity constantly tormented me. Where is anything? What possible meaning could anything have even if it were real? “I’m” just an unknown thing experiencing fear and pain in a forgotten, yet non-existent place and time. I tried to explain my torment to people and they’d reply “if you’re not real then how come you have a body”? Circular and confusing misery and depression. I tried to explain that my “Reality Shield” was broken. They didn’t get it. I’d get glimpses of all of eternity and it drove me close to insanity. It strikes randomly. Do I get to go to heaven for having suffered so much? I only tried marijuana a few times in high school because every time I tried it it would trigger a panic attack. Life sometimes doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes this DP stuff goes away and I’m left angry and exhausted that I’ve been treated this way. I have had wonderful moments in my life but this constant dwelling and pondering has reduced the quality of my life. I’m getting older and that fact is depressing to me. I wake up every morning with a knot in my stomach. I suffer from having the emotional maturity of an 8 year old while inhabiting a 48 year old body that is starting to ache more and more as it ages. My wife left me and took the children. We’ve been separated for two years. She is a non-DP and never understood my torment.
Five years ago my reality shield broke for good and I spent the next several years in a permanent low grade panic attack. I’ve tried psychiatrists, drugs, holistic medicine, exercise, diet. What’s the answer? I sometimes get awful DP sensations from falling asleep after getting home from work and then waking up half an hour later. Total existential nausea. I’m very grateful that this website “exists”. I’ve been looking all my life for someone who understood this misery. I want to become “real” and I want to write to all of you.