Story by "Tyler"


I was visiting a friend when DP first paid me a visit. 

To begin with, two or three nights before 'the incident' I had dropped 'e' for the first and last time in my life. No discomfort was brought on by it, but ever since my thoughts on life and how humans interact with one another have been altered.

Anyhow, a few nights after taking ecstasy, we smoked pot while watching TV. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then suddenly I felt paranoia like never before. Massive undirected and irrational fear. I looked down at my left hand and felt as if it wasn't mine. It looked entirely foreign and I no longer felt any connection to the human form. Everything had lost its context. My thinking took to thoughts of existence, reality, identity and sanity at an amazing pace. I felt overwhelmed with dizziness. My entire reaction was kept internal however. My friend didn't know anything was out of the ordinary until I described it the following day. At the time, we passed it off as being bad weed, possibly laced with PCP (which is known for causing dissociative thoughts). Regardless of what caused it, what I experienced was a panic attack. I felt like normal for the next two or three weeks. I hadn't even spent any time thinking about the initial episode. It was entirely out of mind. Then the second attack occurred. 

I had been in a great mood that day. Then on the way home from work my thoughts again turned to existence for some reason. This second panic attack was worse than the initial one because I wasn't under the influence of any drug. I didn't have anything immediately obvious to blame it on. I thought the loony switch had been thrown and there was no coming back this time. What I experienced was almost identical to the first encounter. For the weeks that followed I felt bizarre. I felt slightly dizzy all the time and everything seemed to have a 'surreal tint' and felt 'too fantastic'. It felt like life had become an exclusive club which had decided to give me the boot. Familiar things including family members felt distant. I had constant fear that at any given moment I wouldn't be able to understand language or be able to recognize people as people anymore. Fear that I would instantly unlearn everything and find out that the 'real' had been 'unreal' all along. I was overly aware of my every movement, as if I had become a third party to myself and to life. I began running a commentary on my normal day to day thoughts. I would actually have to remind myself that I was real and the life I was experiencing was mine. It was the worst feeling I had ever felt. 'Feeling' doesn't describe it accurately. It encapsulated me - thoughts, feelings, perception. I had become the embodiment of fear. My appetite disappeared which lead to the loss of at least ten pounds over just a couple weeks. I started sleeping for as long as possible as to avoid my newly created unreality. I went to see my doctor about what had been going on in my head, but had a tough time adequately describing it. He figured I had developed panic disorder and gave me a prescription for rivotrill. I kept feeling dizzy and unreal and the random panic attacks continued.

It wasn't until I did some online research of panic disorder that I came across depersonaliztion/derealization. I learned that they're at times tied to panic. It was such a relief because up until that discovery I was very afraid that my mind had been lost and I would eventually find myself shaking with my arms around my knees scared of everything and convinced I didn't exist. I would keep thinking to myself, 'well this must be how people go crazy'. That's exactly how it felt. If the fear of experiencing 'unreality' wasn't bad enough, the fear of going crazy was much worse. So why do I think DP found its way to me? I attribute it to a few things. First, I had graduated from university six or seven months before and had been really depressed about not having been able to land a job. Second, I had been living at home with my parents post-school in more or less total isolation from my friends who lived in another city. Third, at the time I had been reading extremely analytical books by Noam Chomsky and other authors on topics such as human nature, language, power, social structure, etc. Fourth, dropping e had a profound affect on me. It really affected my awareness of the human condition (I don't really know how to describe it). Fifth, I had been diagnosed a couple years beforehand with a mild case of social anxiety disorder, so I have a tendency to over-analyze everything. Basically I believe it was the combination of these factors that just put too much stress on me at once, causing the bottom to fall out of my mind. This all took place within the last couple of months. 

I still experience mild DP/DR, but I've been successful at beginning to recognize irrational thoughts and to not allow them to surface. I think it's key to keep a sense of humor in spite of how serious it feels. What has helped me is to joke to myself about how goofy I'm allowing my thoughts to be which usually calms me down and prevents a barrage of rampant panic-inducing thoughts. Laughter is truly the best medicine. Remind yourself that nothing bad is going to happen. Also, I've learned to not allow myself to become a recluse. Get out there and spend time with your friends and family. And don't sit still for too long, it'll only give your subconscious an opportunity to play tricks on you. And finally, talking about what you're experiencing, regardless of how ridiculous it may sound to others is absolutely essential and is the first step to feeling better. Anyhow, that's my story, Tyler


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