"Everything is distorted; I am distorted" - Derealisation and depersonalisation
“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)
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