Hi, I’m Seth. I’m 29 and I believe I have had DP since I was around 10. I first heard the term five years ago, attempting to find a name for what I was feeling. At first I though I was schizophrenic, dysphoric, bipolar…but none of these totally encompassed my symptoms. I came across the term ‘dissasociative disorder’ while looking at a DSM-IV manual (a psychologist’s handbook) and it seemed to somewhat describe what was going on with me, until I did some research on the Internet. The word ‘depersonalization’ hit me…as soon as I read the description, I knew I had found what I was looking for!
Once I had a name for my disorder, I took it to various psychologists and all said they’d never heard of it, and all questioned the validity of my source – the Internet – which could not possibly be right. I was always told I had general anxiety disorder. Boy, do I WISH that’s all I had…I could handle that! DP is something that terrorizes you from day to night, every waking and conscious moment you live. At least with DP, I can sometimes talk myself out of feeling the way I do, I can rationalize being alive, having senses, experiencing the things in life, and thank God, sometimes I actually forget about it, or I have moments of clarity. Those moments are precious, but few and far between.
How did it start? I remember as a child, about 9 or so, thinking about the different parts of my body, and how all of them put together made ‘me’. I thought about it a lot. Then one day I was sitting in the car, and I believe I had my first DP episode. I remember feeling as if I had just been born – everything and everybody was scary and strange to me, as if I was having a distorted dream about reality. The music on the radio sounded weird, my parents and sister looked weird. My mind went into an infinite loop, trying to comprehend how “I” could be “me”. How can I be me, How can I be me???? I asked myself over and over. I didn’t panic, I was just scared. It lasted a few years, but in my adolescence it significantly weakened and all but forgot about it.
When I was about 16, I started messing around with pot. I was always scared to get high, but one day at a friends house I did it and never felt the same. During my ‘high’, I had a resurgence of my DP, which came back in full force. I was young and stupid, and continued to do pot, and almost every time I had a DP episode, and it started to become frightening. When I was 18, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I was walking to the subway station, and fell on the floor screaming at myself. I then got over it, and continued on with my day. It didn’t happen again for another five years, and then five years after that…which was a few days ago. Things that set me off are eerily similar to other posters…fluorescent lights and open spaces (especially being outside), taking a shower, and some confined spaces. Strangely enough driving doesn’t present as much a problem as for others, and my DP is all but gone in the morning as I wake up, and gets progressively worse throughout the day.
I have tried various SSRIs (Paxil, Serzone) but all have made the DP worse. What has worked for me is Klonopin (Clonazepam) and/or Xanax, both of which are benzopdiazepines. It helps with the anxiety caused by the DP, but not the DP itself (even thought I’ve been told otherwise, I believe the DP causes the anxiety, and not vice versa). I don’t like taking it, but I force myself to so that I can survive. And that what I do day to day – survive. I have to for my wife and kids. I have my good and bad periods, sometimes even good years, but when the bad ones come, it feels as if it will never end.