The Mighty Logo

6 Things to Remember If You Struggle With Depersonalization or Derealization

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Depersonalization (DP) and derealization (DR) disorders can cause a lot of misery. You feel disconnected from yourself and the world. It can make you feel numb and block access to emotions such as love and happiness. It makes you feel scared and hyper-alert all the time.

One of the other ways in which DP/DR can affect us is by making us feel depressed, sad and despondent. It’s not uncommon to feel this way when you’re exhausted from fighting these DP feelings and symptoms. You feel all that energy you spent fighting DP was of no use. The DP’s still here, same as before, and doesn’t seem to be going away.

This can sometimes leave us with a sense of hopelessness. What can we do when we find ourselves in this situation?

When I was going through depersonalization and derealization, I often found myself going through a mild depression along with it. I wanted to know when I’d get out of depersonalization. I wanted some kind of reassurance that there was an end to all of this. I’d get breaks here and there and the intensity of my DP symptoms would decrease from time to time, but those unpleasant feelings always came back. I didn’t realize at that time that this was a setback and that it was part of the DP recovery process.

Instead of enjoying the break, I’d mull over whether the DP feelings were going to come back or not, dreading their return. Over the years, I’ve slowly managed to break free from DP/DR. I have shared my story before, but I want to share a few key things that have kept me going during those dark times. I hope it does the same for you as well.

1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Instead Be a Good Parent to Yourself

You are already exhausted. Your DP/DR may be sustained by the constant stress and exhaustion that you feel. Stop trying to fight and resist these DP feelings. Instead, practice acceptance. If you are unable to accept DP and find this practice difficult, that’s OK. A lot of us do. You are going against what your instincts are telling you to do. They’re telling you to fight and run away from these scary and unpleasant feelings. So, it will take some time to understand what acceptance really means and how to put it into practice. Also, your inability to accept these feelings may be because of a lack of an underlying safety structure.

During this time, don’t treat yourself harshly if you fail to accept DP. Instead, treat yourself the way a good parent would treat their child: with love, affection, and caring. My video on re-parenting yourself can help you in accomplishing this.

2. You Know What? It’s OK to Feel Sad

The sadness you may be feeling right now is valid. Don’t try to push it down. Don’t try to not feel sad. It’s coming up for a reason. Give it a place in your heart.

Your heart has the capacity to handle such despair and misery. Also, sadness is what precedes acceptance. You might be aware of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.

The same progression applies to depersonalization as well. You move through denial and anger quickly. You then start bargaining with DP. Fighting is part of this bargain, where you are trying to negotiate with DP by resisting it and trying to control it.

Later, you feel that such efforts are in vain. You realize you can’t control DP/DR. That’s when you start to feel sad and hopeless. But the good news is that this is the stage that precedes acceptance.

Once you start on the path of acceptance, it is a slow, steady road to recovery.

3. The Dark Night of the Soul Will Pass

In theology, people speak of the process of going through the dark night of the soul. This is when a person goes through a lot of pain in their life. Prior to that, they may have been fine and may have even led a happy life. But suddenly through some tragedy, or slowly over a period of time, they find themselves in great misery and distress.

Many have walked this path before you and many have come through it.

Such dark nights are not permanent. They always give in to the light. You probably can’t see it right now. You may even feel trapped in this phase, but all that is required of you during this phase is that you keep moving forward. You keep walking. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

It’s OK to feel pain and heartache because of your condition, but do not fight your sadness, don’t block it and don’t be sad about your sadness (yes, that can happen, too). Instead, let it work its way through you and keep moving forward.

How does this play out in real life? For example, if you feel like food brings you comfort during these sad times, it’s OK to eat to your heart’s desire, but don’t make that into a habit as that makes your sadness into a habit. This means the sadness can get stuck in a loop. Similarly, if you feel overwhelmed by DP feelings so much that it makes you stay indoors, then stay indoors. If that makes you feel sad that you are losing out on life, then accept that sadness. But try the next day or the next week to venture out.

Know that sadness is an emotion. I like to think of emotions as “energy in motion.” They are always moving through us. Some heavy emotions, such as sadness, hopelessness and depression, may be moving through us like how a glacier cuts through a mountain: slow and gradual. Still, they are nonetheless moving. Let them move through you.

4. Cry It Out

During these times, if you feel burdened and want to cry, then by all means go ahead. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Crying is a natural form of release for the body and mind. For some, it may feel like they are unable to cry despite feeling heavy with sadness. This happened to me. I remember watching emotional movies to get the emotional ball rolling. Sometimes, you just need a trigger to get it started. Listening to a sad, beautiful piece of music works, too.

5. Faith Can Help

During my DP/DR when I felt depressed and hopeless, I discovered that faith helped me more than anything. This can be faith in a higher power or God. It can be a faith that the universe cares about you and won’t forsake you. Or it can even be faith in the healing power of the body and mind.

Many times, my faith was the thin string that I was holding on to when I felt like I had no other support.

Some of us can actually lose our faith during a DP experience. We may feel betrayed by God or whatever we used to have immense faith in before the experience. We may think, “Why is it that I have to suffer this much? There is no reason for this!” These are valid reactions.

It’s easy to have faith in something when everything is going your way, but the real challenge is to hold on to your faith when the road gets bumpy.

6. Trust That You Will Recover

No matter how severe you feel your DP is, you will recover. Here’s the difficult part of that recovery: you won’t know when or how long DP/DR will stay with you. This is the hardest part of recovery. You have to trust that you will recover. That trust is a key ingredient in your recovery.

Know that DP will not always hover over you like a dark cloud. As you are moving through the DP process, you’ll get your life back, one small portion at a time.

Don’t try to get rid of DP/DR. It will leave on its own when you no longer need to dissociate. For now, accept the DP/DR along with the depression that it may bring up.

If you keep accepting the depersonalization and derealization feelings without fighting and resisting them and continue engaging with your life, then recovery is bound to happen.

The healing process takes time. You can’t see these changes day to day. If you try to do this, you may feel depressed about your condition. Zoom out and see how far you’ve come over a few weeks or months.

Don’t worry. You are still here, safe and sound. None of your scary fears have come true. There may still be a long way to go, but don’t fret about it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep walking. A thousand-mile journey takes a million little steps.

And finally, remember: nothing is permanent in this world, not even your suffering.

This story was originally published on A Coach Called Life.


Getty image by bojan89

Originally published: August 10, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home