How I've Dealt With Depersonalisation - Derealisation
The reason I started this blog was to share my experience with depersonalisation/derealisation (dp/dr) for others going through it and needing some reassurance that everything is going to be ok. This post is for those experiencing dp/dr and anxiety, so if that’s you, I hope this can help you.
When I first started to experience this feeling of unreality, I was terrified. I thought I was going crazy. It felt like my mind had shut down and everything around me didn’t feel real. Depersonalisation/derealisation is a mental state where you feel detached from your surroundings and I often described it as feeling ‘spaced out’. It comes from being constantly worried about your own problems, where your anxiety just gets too much for your mind, it can no longer cope with all this information. It shuts down as a natural way to protect itself, almost as if it’s trying to say, “Hey, I’m pretty tired with all of this worrying, I need some rest”. It is temporary! If you are experiencing dp/dr, you will not feel like this forever. Your mind just needs some time to relax and have a break from all the stress and anxiety. It will recover by itself, so you just need to let it be and carry on will your life. Easier said than done right, but I’m going to share with you some things I have learnt, that have helped me get to where I am today, feeling happy and much more relaxed, still experiencing dp/dr but at a much lower level.
Learning about dp/dr and anxiety
This is what got rid of the fear around what I was experiencing. Once I understood why I was feeling so spaced out and all the other anxious feelings, I started to relax and the constant ruminating thoughts and questioning every little symptom stopped. I learnt that everything I was feeling was just anxiety and that the dp/dr was just a temporary feeling that will pass on its own if you just let it be. Constantly checking in and focusing on it day after day stopped because I had an understanding of everything I was feeling and I wasn’t afraid of it. I knew it would eventually go away so I didn’t have to be anxious about it and be fighting it all of the time. It’s like fire fighting with fire. Worrying and stressing about it will only make it worse and keep you in it, so learning about it and having a firm understanding of it all will get you going to recover, where you no longer are afraid of it.
Accepting it and letting it be – Not being afraid of it
Once I had an understanding of dp/dr and the anxiety around it, I began to accept all of the feelings I had and just allowed it to be. The book ‘At Last A Life’ by Paul David which I have referred to in my first blog post, really made me understand all of the feelings I had, and how it eventually passes by just doing nothing. Paul suggests that you need to stop trying to get better and just allow yourself to feel everything without resisting and stressing about them. I had to train myself to look at the dp/dr differently and not be afraid of it. This did take time and practice, but through looking at it as something that won’t hurt or change me made it a lot easier to just let it be. Also knowing that it would eventually pass, as the mind just needed rest, doing nothing about it and giving up the fight against it that kept me in the loop of anxiety, has brought me to where I am today, nearly free of anxiety and dp/dr. I have noticed through doing all of these things has made the dp/dr a lot less intense and my anxiety towards it has pretty much disappeared. I’m sure in no time, the dp/dr will completely fade but I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter how long it takes. I just have to allow it to be and allow as much time as my mind and body needs to recover.
Living alongside it, doing as much normal things as possible
Living alongside dp/dr and not letting it control how you live, will lead you to recovery. This can be very hard, as for me, I quit my job and deferred my university degree as the dp/dr was so intense, I couldn’t do a lot. It really affected my cognitive ability and made me incredibly depressed. However, after taking time off, taking it easy and giving myself time to understand and accept everything that was happening, I could begin to do a lot of the things that I used to do. It is ok to take your time to get back on your feet and start doing normal things again, especially with dp/dr because it affects everything from your social life, to your ability to work. When I was in the depths of it, it was so hard to function normally and even do the simplest of tasks. But I had to keep myself busy and not focus on the dp/dr 24/7, otherwise I would just stay in that anxiety cycle with the constant thoughts of worrying when this feeling would go away. I would do simple things like going for a walk with my dog, doing puzzles, cook and socialise as much as I could, even when I didn’t feel like it. Having this time to just do whatever I could, really helped clear my mind to the point where I could process what was going on. After I started to gain more clarity to learn and accept the dp/dr, I began to do more and more things that I used to do. Even though I didn’t have a job or study to do, I took up hobbies and went out as much as I could, no matter how I felt. You need to have something to focus on and for me, this blog has been a life saver. It’s given me purpose and a task I can constantly work on, that stimulates my mind. If you have dp/dr and have nothing to focus on, I highly recommend you find something you might enjoy, whether that be a class, a hobby, joining a club or getting a job (not too stressful one). This will allow you to practice living along beside dp/dr, giving your mind a rest from the constant worry. Also a routine is great! Have things to do every day at the same time, to give your day some structure. Try to exercise a few times a week and get outdoors and explore new places.
This is an excerpt from At Last a Life, where David explains the mindset he developed to live beside dp/dr. I thought it gives a good insight into how he changed his thinking to allow him to let it be.
“So, go towards these feelings and don’t try to deny their presence. Allow yourself to feel the way that you do. Some people falsely believe that if they do this, they will somehow lose grip of themselves and that they must hold everything together, yet the opposite is true.
Again, I will use my own true experience to explain what I did and where I went wrong:
I once walked around thinking deeply about how I felt. I was constantly worrying and questioning why I was getting worse and not better. I just kept going around in circles trying to figure a way out of this prison. I tried to keep a grip on myself when talking with others, acting a part throughout the day in an attempt to make sure that nobody noticed how I was feeling. I felt angry and frustrated about how I felt, wondering when this thing would go away. I was also full of self-pity, crying myself to sleep at times.
Can you see how much extra stress and pressure I was putting myself under each day? Even a healthy body would have struggled to cope, never mind a body that suffered with anxiety. It makes total sense to me now why I got worse and not better over the years. I was thrashing my body daily, constantly trying to do something about it. Eventually, I just gave up and said, “It’s time to accept that I have anxiety and however I feel, I feel.” This is something I had never done before. I had never accepted how I felt, not for one minute. If I could begin to learn to let go and give free reign to my feelings, then I had no need to worry daily about how I was feeling and had no need to fight or try to push feelings away. I had taken a step back and trusted in my own body’s healing system. My body could not begin to recover until I began to give up this daily war that I had created with myself, and this is when the statement “You will never get better until you stop trying” made so much sense to me. It was once my daily aim to ‘get rid’ of how I was feeling. Again if my body could speak, it would have said “Paul please step out of the way. Leave me alone and let me heal myself, you are making things far worse.
What I am trying to say is let anxiety be a part of your day and stop worrying/obsessing about it. Say it’s okay to feel like this for the time being. I am not saying you have to like it, just learn to live alongside it. Also give your body and mind as much space as it needs to heal itself. Too many people are far too impatient and want instant success. I wanted instant success for 10 years and never found it, so I was very willing to give myself time to recover. I had been through so much; it made sense that it was going to take time. To start with, I just aimed for progress and was happy with that. I never demanded or expected anything, which on reflection, helped me so much. Remember, your body takes time to adjust and each day that you no longer fight how you feel and just go with it, you give your body another day to recover and repair itself. A broken leg will not heal in a day and neither will your nerves, but for the first time you will have started to give them a rest they so crave.
Think about this: if fighting worked you would be cured by now so why not try the opposite? I blindly thought I had to get rid of my anxiety symptoms at all costs before I could have a life. The truth was I could have a life with anxiety; it truly was okay to feel this way.”
This book is fantastic if you have dp/dr or anxiety! I would highly recommend reading it if you want to know exactly why you are feeling the way you do and want to recover. This book will show you how this feeling will go away. It’s temporary, and no matter how long you have been experiencing this feeling, you can recover!
I hope this can help you and please feel free to email me if you have any questions or just want to chat!
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