Depersonalization disorder is, by far, my most challenging disorder to live with, as I have previously explained in another post. This is partly due to the psychological symptoms – feeling detached and unreal, feeling numb, and feeling as if I am living my life in a cartoon or movie. I am a Simpson – there, I said it. However, there is also the lack of medical understanding behind the disorder. I swear half of the professionals that I have seen have had to turn to Google for answers, just as I did. The blank expression on their face when I speak says it all. They don’t have a clue.
“We’ll try you on antipsychotics, they should help”
“How will they help though? I’m not psychotic”
“Depersonalization is so under-researched and misunderstood, but we have every faith in these”
It is because of this limited understanding that it has taken four years for me to be formally diagnosed with the condition, despite my desperate pleas. In the beginning, when my mind sent me into this ‘alternate world’, all I had wanted was for one medical professional to have the answers, to be able to pinpoint exactly why this is happening to me. And they couldn’t/wouldn’t.
They were like a record on stuck, reciting the two phrases “Oh it’s just anxiety” (just anxiety? really?) or “it’s childhood trauma”, repeatedly. I am now twenty five years old, how is it even possible for my mind to still be in protective mode over the death of my mum at ten? I knew that something wasn’t right, but, before seeing my current psychiatrist, not one therapist chose to listen to or believe me. Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? One therapist even went as far as to say that because I can keep eye contact I can’t be depersonalized. My instant thought at that moment was to grand slam her head on the table, but I refrained from doing so and cut the session short.
Do they even know how challenging this is? How terrified I am? Each night I dread going to bed because I know that, before long, I will be going in to a new day like this. I will spare a little prayer numerous times a day in the hope that it will take this all away, but it never happens. I am told that I need to ‘accept it’, but how do I do that? How do I learn to accept a condition that is severely impacting my everyday life? A condition that is preventing me from forming relationships, socializing, and gaining employment. A condition that never lets up.
Oh, and trying to explain depersonalization to a non- sufferer is about as possible as teaching a dog to recite the alphabet.
“I don’t feel real”
“Everything is in 2D”
“What do you mean?”
Cue the awkward head tilt.
I can understand their confusion though, to an extent, although I am slowly losing patience. It feels as if I am being silenced with medication. I have had four years of therapy, and still I am no further along in my recovery. My days will be spent searching for new resources, for that one person with lived experience whom truly understands what this feels like. I will access support forums, read books, and have even written this blog in the hope that someone will reach out to me and share their own experiences. I am clinging onto my sanity here by the skin of my teeth.
While I am fully aware of how difficult it is to be honest about depersonalization, fearing that you’re losing your mind and will be sectioned indefinitely, you don’t have to suffer in silence. As with any mental illness, find someone you trust. This is too heavy a burden to be carried alone, and I speak from experience. I am lucky in the sense that my brother remains an amazing source of strength and support throughout this. He has joined numerous Facebook groups and will talk to members in the hope of gaining a first hand account and a better understanding. He will wipe away my tears, FaceTime me from work as a ‘grounding’ technique, and buy me flowers when I am feeling low. Thank you, Matthew. Thank you for believing me.