Why Depersonalization Is My Physical Demon of Terror


Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

When some abstract idea manifests, it embodies or becomes something else, something tangible. As unreal as disassociation may seem, it is the most tangible thing to hold onto these days.

Do not misunderstand; there is no comfort in disassociating. None. There is only fear and humiliation. For me, disassociation is depersonalization. It is derealization. But mostly, it is the physical representation of “insanity.”

It’s like my eyes forget how to see. Everything is so far and too close all at the same time. The loneliness makes me claustrophobic. Please come back, come back, come back… You are not far enough, come back.

It’s like my tongue forgets how to speak. I want to communicate. I want to know who stole my eyes. I want to know why I can’t reach. I want to know why, why, why. When my tongue doesn’t move, my vocal cords compensate. The screams are deafening and disturbingly familiar. It’s how I beg you to help me, save me, make it stop, just kill me.

It’s like I lose all control over my body. I tell my arms to stop flailing, my feet to stop kicking. They don’t listen. They will not listen. I soon become aware that I can’t feel anything. I soon become very aware.

It’s like I lose control over my mind. Suddenly, there is no rational escape. There is nothing, not even numbness. And that is not OK. I scratch my skin. And then some more. And more and more. Nothing. I tear my hair out. Nothing. I punch the walls, the furniture, myself. Nothing.

It’s like time is frozen. It’s like time has literally stopped, like I am stuck in this moment — this reality — forever. Forever never seemed capable of being so far away. Until right then.

I never really understood how much breath it takes to scream as loud as you can until it’s happening and I can’t stop it. The tiny bit of oxygen I am allowed to cling to is literally being forced out of my lungs into my throat and out of my mouth. I keep forgetting to remind myself to breathe. I just collapse and claw at my throat with wide eyes until the screaming turns into gasping and the gasping turns into grunting and the grunting turns into nothing — a very desperate nothing.

Eventually, my body gives one last fight for breath, but I choke on it and vomit instead. After hours of this, my body finally surrenders. I ball up and rock myself with the earthquake that is my sobbing. I squeeze my eyes tightly and refuse to see. I try so hard to plug my ears because even the silence is too loud. All I can taste is blood and still, I feel nothing.

Depression is not just mental sadness. It is a physical demon of terror that possesses you and comes readily equipped for battle.

How do I make it go away? I don’t. I learn to adapt. Recently, I haven’t been so good at adapting. I see a bump. My first instinct is to pick it. Immediately. As soon as my fingertips touch my skin, there is nothing. I see myself scratching, pinching, squeezing, but I can’t feel a thing. And I slip and slip and slip until… until nothing.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

If you or a loved one is affected by body-focused repetitive behaviors, you can find resources at The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

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Photo by Hailey Kean on Unsplash


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