Q: I need your help overcoming depersonalization and feelings of unreality. I had my first attack of depersonalization about seven months ago. It was 24/7 and I thought I had gone insane. My fiancé helped me through it, but I was in constant fear. It was relentless. I was terrified.
I’ve suffered with anxiety and panic attacks since I was a small child.
I wanted to ask you, two weeks ago after a month-long stomach issue I was feeling very foggy and lightheaded. I wasn’t necessarily nervous but I was so exhausted just from being a caregiver for my grandma and also having my own issues well, I was eating dinner and my mind drifted off and I thought in my head how it felt so much like depersonalization again. Well that’s all it took! I was right back there how I was seven months ago.
I ran out of the kitchen losing all sense of who I was like I was floating. I laid down hoping it would go away and eventually was so scared I fell asleep.
I woke up an hour later with the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced! I had no idea who or where I was. I just had my heart racing out of my chest. I was so dizzy – my head was spinning, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t think.
My hands were shaking but I called my dad and I felt like it wasn’t me talking. My dad said come stay at his house for the night because he also suffers from anxiety and he knew I had been though it before .
The next day it wasn’t too bad but now it’s all I think of and I’m stuck like this.
I wanted to ask – can depersonalization be different experiences each time u have it? Like this time I’m not scared, it’s just like a numb feeling or at least I don’t feel like I’m scared. I still do everyday things like I did before but I’m different somehow.
Before it was just 24/7 of constant terror – this time I feel like a robot or numb. Like I know I’m here, but can’t connect to myself again like I’ve disappeared or something.
I can’t think or put thoughts together and it scares me now because I can’t feel. Last time I had depersonalization I felt fear. This is different – I just feel numb… like I do stuff but I can’t laugh, there is no joy in anything and I’m angry at everything. My temper is so short because I’m so confused and fatigued!
I just want to sleep because I don’t understand what is wrong with me … did I lose my mind? Is this what a nervous breakdown is?! Because the depersonalization I had before felt like fear. Now this is just a numb feeling….
What if I forget everyone, or what if this isn’t anxiety and I have a brain disease?? I don’t want to be stuck like this forever and I panic throughout the day because even though I’m not scared of it, it doesn’t go away.
Do you think I’m insane, or do you think meditation can help me? If I’m crazy then I feel like I’m stuck forever like this…
Please help. Your advice is appreciated. Thank you very much.
Eva’s Response below…
Thank you for getting in touch with me to seek help overcoming depersonalization and feelings of unreality.
I know how difficult it must be to share your story.
I can imagine that it is really traumatic for you to feel disconnected from who you are, but the good news is depersonalization disorder does not signify a health issue as much as it means that your body as a whole just needs some time to recover from chronic stress or anxiety.
The first thing I want to say is that derealization is a common symptom of anxiety. It’s actually more complicated than that: it’s a bit like the brain running low on serotonin, which happens when we can’t get enough sleep. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters in our brains; if we don’t have certain chemicals such as serotonin or dopamine (the “feel good” chemical), then we feel disconnected from ourselves and things around us.
So basically what happens with derealization is you panic for no apparent reason, your heart starts racing, you get really tired, and this pattern makes itself more obvious over time. Eventually the hyperventilation becomes a habit, which means the derealization will be more common.
I want to help people like you avoid feeling isolated or alone through this difficult process. It’s important to note that there are many different “homework” exercises you can try at home, and some will work for you while others won’t work as well. The most important thing is just putting in effort to pay attention to what your body says, know when it’s hungry or tired, and realize that even though depression makes you feel less than human sometimes, it doesn’t mean you aren’t an amazing person with so much potential!
I understand how difficult it must be to feel disconnected from who you are. However, I would recommend that you see a doctor, as some medication in the short term may really you. Medication doesn’t mean you are masking symptoms, it simply helps support your brain chemicals while you heal on every level (physical, mental, spiritual, energetically).
What has worked best for me was taking care of myself, eating well, exercising often, getting enough sleep, meditation , journaling, breathing exercises… Additionally, there are some techniques for overcoming derealization that you can try on your own. My free grounding meditation, at least twice a day, will see you reconnect with yourself. It may take some time before you see results – the key is to keep trying!
One of the most important things to remember when overcoming depersonalization and feelings of unreality is that your body needs time to heal . If you’re like me and had a panic disorder with agoraphobia, then an anxiety attack is terrifying because it feels like your mind is taking over. When this happens there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The only thing that will help is to relax, let it go and do your best not to fight against what’s happening because that’ll only make the experience more traumatic.
Also remember you’re not alone through this difficult time. And even if no one in your life understands what you’re going through, I understand and so do so many other people who are experiencing this exact same thing. No matter how scared or hopeless you might feel, there are always steps you can take towards overcoming derealization and overcoming anxiety for good!