“You have been trapped in the glass room for so long that your head is foggy, like the time when alcohol took you into oblivion. Your hand looks shrunken and your shoes look enlarged. The world from the glass room looks like it belongs to a classic black and white movie, almost fake. It seems like you are one of the characters in the movie and people with blurry, distorted faces and hoarse voices. A sigh that escapes your dry lips is slow, almost as if your brain needed that time to process the surroundings to escape the numbness. Your eyes are fixed on your contorted reflection, on the glass, that looks more unsettling than yesterday.”
This, reader, is derealization and depersonalization.
Derealization is a mental condition where an individual feels detached from their surroundings. While in depersonalization, an individual feels detached from themselves, as if they are watching themselves as an outsider. They aren’t just limited to feeling like being in a dream or numbness. They can be severe and can interfere with your daily life. There are various causes of derealization and depersonalization, ranging from trauma to depression and anxiety.
Describing episodes of derealization and depersonalization is difficult. It can cause individuals to be occupied with checking what is real and what is not. Here are a few symptoms:
Majority of my day goes by sitting behind a glass observing my distorted surroundings or myself. Even as I am writing this, I feel like I am observing myself from the back and I know exactly how I look from behind. I have always felt like I am observing everything from a third person point of view, almost like an alien spying on the human world and every activity. My memories lack emotion and seem unreal. It feels like my memories aren’t mine and it is something from a movie, book, or imagination. During my episodes, time usually goes slow, voices seem hollow and my vision is foggy. I know I am going through an episode, but there is no way out of it. After the episode, I forget whatever I did during the episode.
I have taken this concern to my mental health professionals. They assumed stress as the main reason behind this and would probably change my medicines to help me out. My psychologist suggested stimulating my brain by using five senses to help me out of my episode. Stimulation can range from bubble bath, music to coloring a book. She suggested I engage in physical activities and continue with the techniques she taught me during CBT.
One of the best techniques to help derealization and depersonalization is mindfulness, which basically just means to be aware of your present and stimulate your brain. Here are few mindfulness techniques for when you have your episode:
Remember to keep your eyes moving and your brain working. Don’t continuously zone out on a single thought. Occupy your 5 senses! I usually carry stress toys, gum/candy and small perfumes. They help me stimulate my senses.
Meditation, therapy and medications are other options you have. Remember that these episodes can last for a few minutes and even months! Visit a professional if it lasts too long and/or interferes with your daily life.
Remember that you are not alone and these episodes won’t last forever.
Healing isn’t linear.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depersonalization-derealization-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352911 (learn more)
https://cimhs.com/ (therapy for depression)
https://ticktalkto.com/ (therapy with certified professionals)
In this article, Nataliya Davis will be highlighting some important aspects of how to improve your mental health, explaining how to set aside some time to really think about the things that are important to us. Therefore making room for those things. Prioritizing our mental health should always be one of our main concerns day-to-day, and in general life too. Making the necessary changes in order to improve your mental health is so important, even if it's scary. Even when you are unsure Where the changes will lead you. Outside of any obligation you may have, making sure you are okay is the most important, because it's so easy to forget!
I'm in a completely different mental space now, because I was committed to making those changes. Which I'll highlight a little later in this article! I'm glad I did so, but it didn't happen so easily, I finally made those adjustments after months of hesitation! Hesitation is normal. Not being sure whether or not you're making the right decision is natural. Let's go over some mental health blockers.
Some things that could be affecting how you feel right now are:
Improving your mental health can also include doing things that bring you joy! Some of those things include starting new hobbies or getting back into old hobbies like:
I am also aware that doing things that we enjoy to do to improve our mental health can be just as hard as cutting off a friend, or quitting a job. We all live busy lives, and sometimes it's hard just to get in the regular things that we want to do to have fun, or pursue passions.
Over the last 4 years of my life it's been a rollercoaster to evolve, and improve on my mental health, it's something that you will always have to work on! It's just a matter of making sure you never stop doing it! I've had to quit 3 jobs, I started my own small business and have slowly gotten back into my passions and joys, such as reading and writing which were some of my favorite things to do years prior! Although it wasn't easy slowly getting back to those things were some of the best decisions I've ever made.
What made it a gradual process to do these things were, being in a relationship, working full time and being exhausted. In addition to that having family and friendship stress! I had to reevaluate what I needed as a person, to get back to myself, outside of everything around me! If you have a lingering thought about doing something, even if you are unsure about it in the moment - write it down! Keep lists of goals you want to accomplish to improve your quality of life! Whether it's just one or two things, it's good to start somewhere! It's okay to start small too!
I have always said this in relation to making sure you are okay, "your mental well being is something you will always have to deal with for the rest of your life. It's apart of you. This is your body, and your mind. Things people say and do, Relationships with people, and jobs, will come and go." You will have to maintain your mental health forever, and you will never regret making the necessary changes to keep it in tact. So, if something doesn't feel right or safe let it go. If it's mentally and physically draining you sit and access the resources you have to make those changes. If you know there are things out there you can do that are going to make you happy, take those small steps at a time to pursue it! You will thank yourself in the longrun!
TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of self harm and substance abuse.
I know. Once you find a coping skill that works for you, it can be hard to move away from it. However, some of the coping skills you think are healthy might do more harm than good.
You might be wondering: What exactly makes a coping skill unhealthy? Well, a coping skill can be unhealthy in several ways. If the skill has one or more of these factors, it can be deemed maladaptive (or unhealthy):
The question still stands: If some coping mechanisms are so bad, why are we attracted to them? Once again, there are numerous reasons for this. In a simple explanation, people turn to defective ways to cope, rather than beneficial mechanisms, because it provides both instant results and short-term “help”. These coping skills only temporarily mask the difficult emotions, while adaptive coping skills take longer to learn and get used to through practice. Healthy coping skills will help tremendously in the long run while also equipping you with the ability to handle stress, whereas unhealthy coping skills will only postpone the problem for a later time.
Some common examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms are, but aren’t limited to substance abuse (ex. Excessive drug or alcohol usage), self mutilation/sabotage, and acts of violence (ex. Harming others).
If you struggle, or have struggled with bad coping mechanisms - similar to the ones listed or different - chances are you have been seeking out alternatives in an attempt to free yourself of them. Alternatives such as these include finding other ways to feel the ‘sensation’, such as snapping a rubber band against your wrist to resist the urge to cut yourself, trying different ways to feel ‘intoxicated’ without actually consuming drugs or alcohol, and taking your anger out on a pillow instead of a wall or another person.
While these alternatives don’t cause direct harm, that doesn’t mean they are healthy. Things such as these can be potentially helpful with the process of moving away from negative coping mechanisms, however they’re not something you should stick with for longer than necessary.
Why are these coping skills unhealthy, exactly? Well, even though you’re not actively harming yourself, that is still the implication of acts such as these, is it not?
Though it keeps you from enduring serious harm, what will you do if these sensations are not enough? Or if you can’t use these methods? These are rhetorical questions since the answers are quite obvious: you will more than likely fall back onto those original coping mechanisms; anything to feel those sensations.
That’s why it’s best to distance yourself from the concept of them entirely. Ideally, you shouldn’t be inflicting harm upon yourself, getting violent, or feeling high. Instead, you should be focused on practicing healthy ways to relieve those intense emotions.
If you have suffered from these maladaptive habits, you have probably found yourself saying: “I can’t stop.”
Though it may seem so, this is not a fact. You can stop, but it’s going to be a hard hill to climb. This doesn’t mean you should jump straight to the conclusion that you will never overcome what you’re going through.
The best way to start removing these addictions from your habits is by ridding yourself of those things that tempt you. Remove all sharp objects that can trigger your urges, like razor blades, knives and pencil sharpeners away from your presence. If you can’t hide certain things, avoid directing your attention onto them. If you can’t do that, either, there are additional resources to support you - crisis lines, rehabilitation centres, support groups - anything you can think of. If you have someone to help you, make sure to keep open communication with them about your urges and emotions. By doing this, they can help you to the best of their abilities.
There are additional steps you can take to shift your focus away from those sensations, rather than focusing on different ways to feel them. I know from experience that taking care of yourself can be difficult, and becoming clean isn’t so easy -especially when it feels like nothing or nobody can help you. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and recognizing your unhealthy habits is the starting point of your marathon towards it.
Some of the best coping mechanisms I’ve developed over time are writing and drawing. These help me express my emotions adequately. There are various healthy coping skills out there.
I wish you the best of luck on your recovery journey, and I hope you’ll take what I said to heart. Practice self-nurturing! There are plenty of sources to help you, even if you don't have access to a therapist or direct help from professionals. There are several websites to both encourage and assist with your well-being and recovery, including helplines, hotlines, therapy aids, and us - Teenagers With Experience.
There will always be people who care, something to get clean for. Even if it seems like you’re always stuck in the dark, there will always be some light.
I am sure many teens, myself included, have a lot of pent up emotions that are not always easily understood or easy to express to others. In addition, many teens have so many everchanging personal goals and thoughts that are worth keeping and never forgetting. As an adolescent, so many emotions and thoughts run through our minds that are worth looking back on for self-reflection. The way one can relieve themselves of their emotional troubles, without the pressure that comes with speaking to another person, is through journaling.
As someone who finds it quite difficult to trust others with personal information, due to the fear of being judged, journaling has proven to be a very therapeutic way for me to relieve myself of stress. Each day, I like to keep a routine of journaling throughout the day, whether it be about random thoughts or ideas, or a dream I’d had the previous night. I like to also incorporate memories in any way I can, by writing with intent so that when I look back on my entries, I will have a clear view into my past. I have been doing this on and off since I was a little girl, and have just started back again as quarantine began. The feeling of looking back on your memories and your troubles back when you were in middle school or high school is especially heartwarming, as you get to see how much you’ve grown and overcome throughout your life.
Bullet-journaling, or just writing your thoughts out, can be an incredible outlet for teenagers, as there are endless ideas and goals that we are bound to lose track of. In addition, recording your own ideas and goals can make them more likely to actually be put into action, and be given clarity as to how it will be accomplished. This process can be made even more fun by personalizing your notebook, or giving it theme and structure. I recommend dedicating sections and pages to different aspects of your mind like a daily mood tracker, a bucket-list, or a collection of favorite songs from a given point in your life.
Personally, I believe that journaling is a key way to organize your thoughts and emotions, especially if sometimes you feel that your emotions are constantly fluctuating. Ultimately, everything is worth it once you are able to look back on all the progress you’ve made as a person in terms of your emotional state and life accomplishments.
Overall, there are infinite sources that can give someone the emotional relief they need, like drawing, singing, or watching sad movies, all of which are extremely helpful to different people. I encourage you all to explore that for yourself and prioritize it, because especially in these times of uncertainty, your mental health must come first.