Well, I’ve had DP for about two years now, so I figured it was about time I shared my story. Who knows, it may even help me a bit.
Unlike many other people, my DP did not start as a result of using drugs. In fact I’ve never even tried any illegal drugs. It began about 6 months after my granddad died, which I would assume would seem quite strange to some people. After all, death happens to everyone right? Well, the thing is I lived with my granddad (and mum and gran) and to be honest, he felt like a second dad to me. He was always the one who stuck up for me, the one who gave me treats, the one who actually treated me as an equal instead of a silly little girl. Then he took a stroke. And of course it wasn’t just a normal stroke, where the person is partially paralysed. Instead, it was his mind that was ruined and he could no longer talk or think coherently. The man I knew as my grandad, my beloved grandad had gone and all that was left in his place…..well, it felt as if he was some kind of imposter, a complete stranger. It destroyed all of us. Constantly having to look after him was exhausting, constantly trying to work out what he was saying was heartbreaking. Then, slowly, began to die in front of our eyes. He gradually became worse, until I wasn’t allowed to see him anymore (he was confined to his bedroom, and the door was kept tightly shut, though to be honest I didn’t want to see what he was like. What I had already witnessed was hard enough). Then, when the time came for him to pass on, I was sent to my Dad’s. He died the next day. And it completely ruined me. I was completely numb. Because I was 300 miles away when it happened, I couldn’t quite believe it had happened, in my mind he was still at home where he had always been. And to be honest, that was when my problems started. I didn’t let my emotions out at my dad’s, I didn’t let all of my grief out. I couldn’t. For one thing, I’m not that close to my dad, so he didn’t really know what to do, and obviously, though he was upset, he hadn’t seen my grandad in about 3 or 4 years so it didn’t hit him as hard. I missed out on the grief that the rest of my family were sharing. I didn’t see them properly until the day of the funeral. And that, I can safely say was one of the worst experiences of my life.
And it was from there that my problems started. Luckily it was during the school holidays it happened, so I didn’t have to face any of my friends. But I still felt numb. Then, school resumed and I thought I was back to normal. Well, I tried to convince myself I was back to normal. Unfortunately, six months later, I discovered otherwise.
I had a cold of some description so I was feeling extremely run down (it was October so it’s pretty normal to have that kind of thing with the weather changing and stuff) and then it happened: my first DP experience. I still remember it clearly. I was sitting in Maths by myself as my friend was off and I was looking at the clock and suddenly, I felt completely unconnected from my body. It was such a strange experience and it literally terrified me. I sat there for the last ten minutes of the lesson wondering what the hell had happened to me.
And after that, gradually the DP became worse. It would always happen in classes where I was by myself, which was probably partly to do with the anxiety I had developed too. I would be sitting there one minute, feeling fine and the next minute…well, as DP sufferers know, it’s impossible to describe. A way I’ve come to describing it recently is that it’s like watching yourself on tape or hearing yourself on an answering machine. You know for certain it’s you, you know that you said and did those things but it just doesn’t feel like you. It feels like someone else has taken over your body, doing the things you normally would do while you watch on in the back of your mind, just a mere spectator to what’s happening around you.
Of course I was completely terrified. I thought I was going crazy and so never told anyone what was happening for two months, I just kept acting as normal though I was screaming in terror on the inside, wondering what was happening to me, what was happening to my body. I honestly started wondering if I had a brain tumour or something. Bright lights seemed to make it worse, as did situations where I was anxious. I would start sweating heavily, feeling my breath become shorter and shorter as I worried about whether or not I was going to collapse in front of everyone, or worse go completely crazy, completely lose control.
Then one night, in my bed I broke down and decided to tell someone what was happening to me. The DP was severe that night, I felt as if I was constantly switching consciousness, if that makes any sense. As if I was switching from DP to normality every two seconds. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced and so I ran downstairs to tell my mum and gran, deciding that I didn’t care anymore if everyone would think I was going mad. I just needed help. And to give them their due, they did. They arranged an emergency appointment for me at the doctors, when I couldn’t go to school because the DP was so bad and my gran accompanied me when I went. This was when the Doctor told me that I basically had a mental health problem, because I hadn’t completely grieved for my grandad, all my emotions were coming out in a physical way instead. Well, as physical as anxiety can get. As I had only just turned 16 at the time, she said I was too young for anti-depressants which she would prescribe in any other situation instead, I would get a councillor. I felt so so relieved when she told me that. As if I would see a councillor and hey presto my problems would be cured.
Of course, it doesn’t work like that, does it? My DP was still there constantly, I completely lost my concentration and so failing all my Prelims when usually I’m a pretty good student. I became depressed, lethargic, having nights where I would just sit and cry for hours on end and have no idea why. I became ever more withdrawn than normal, though I somehow still managed to keep my friends (none of whom bar one had any idea of what was going on). I would consider ending my life and how I would do it. After all, I felt so detached from life anyway I didn’t see what difference not living would make. I felt completely dead instead. I had no emotions whatsoever. Whenever I felt “happy” it was just for a nanosecond then I would realise I wasn’t truly happy at all, I was just covering over the nothingness inside of me. I felt my whole personality became forced. It wasn’t the true me, perhaps it never had been. I felt everything from the way I laughed to the way I responded to situations was just part of a façade I had been forced to put on against the world. Sometimes I felt I was screaming for attention but no one noticed. I even cried in class a couple of times because I was that scared (one of the few emotions I could feel, and I did constantly) and not one person noticed. Not even the teacher. Sometimes I would stare at myself in the mirror and not know who I was staring at. My face would become completely unfamiliar, like a stranger’s and it scared me to feel that way.
Eventually I did go and see a councillor but by the time I got it I had already been to hell and back and was learning how to cope with my problems, I had even learned that my “DMT’s” (distancing myself things as I called them) was actually a mixture between depersonalization and sometimes derealisation so it was no big surprise when the councillor told me that’s what I had. I had tried different anxiety techniques, I had tried writing all my emotions down onto a piece of paper on the really bad nights, hell I had even contacted the Samaritans. But eventually I had learned through experience that the main thing was to keep myself busy. If I was by myself in class and sitting listening to the teacher, I would doodle to keep myself focused. I would concentrate on my breathing, I would try and concentrate on what the teacher was actually saying (and we all know how difficult that is!) as I knew the second I started thinking about who I really am and what was happening to me it would start all over again. So my time with the councillor was too little, too late as everything she had told me I had learned for myself through the internet and books from the library. But nevertheless I guess it benefited me in the way that I actually spoke to someone about my problems instead of bottling it up as I have down all my life. Some of my problems that I’m still not willing to write down as it upsets me too much to admit it.
So, basically my life returned to normal, well as normal as I could be even though I still had anxiety and DP though no one believed me or knew about it. I had managed to get it under control though, I eventually refused to let it ruin my life. My mantra became “You will not break me!”, though it has became close to breaking me, so many times.
However, things are never that easy are they? My life was ticking over nicely apart from “manic” nights every 4-6 weeks until I started Uni last September. And it nearly killed me. It might still. I only managed 5 weeks before I deferred my entry as I thought I was going completely crazy again, though this time it wasn’t my anxiety as such, it was a deep dark depression that I have never experienced before. And it terrified me even more that the anxiety did. I don’t know what was so bad about uni, I still don’t but I just couldn’t handle it. Maybe I had too much independence. When I was there all I did was cry or feel like crying. I considered running away so I didn’t have to go back to uni. I considered killing myself much more seriously than I had ever contemplated it before just so I could escape my life. I came as close as having a packet of pills in my hand but then I couldn’t bring myself to do it. After all, what if I woke back up? I couldn’t cope. I stopped going to lectures and seminars and just going down this extremely deserted forest path and sit and smoke and cry (I realise how dangerous that was now, anything could have happened to me, but to be honest I didn’t care). Uni nearly did break me. I lost all interest in everything. I didn’t care about my family I never saw my friends I didn’t want to do anything. Just fall asleep and never wake up again. Or at least wake up with someone else’s fabulous life.
Luckily I came to my senses and deferred my entry until February so I could try and pull myself together (my family were NOT happy but that’s another story) and now all I’m hoping is that when I go back to that place I’ll know what to expect and so it can’t drag me down. Though, I had another severe DP attack when I was up the street today which is worrying as I’ve not had one in a while. I think it’s maybe because Christmas is getting closer. Hopefully I’ll be okay, :-/ But hey, I guess we can just take each day as it comes.
Peace be with you.