How I overcame depersonalisation

Tarmo's story  

For all my life I had considered myself a happy person. I came from an idyllic family, I had friends, passionate hobbies and even girls were always interested in me. It wasn't until I was 24 years old that I realised that all my life I had been worrying a lot. I came to this realisation because I noticed that I had started feeling anxious and depressed which was very surprising to me. I felt there was nothing wrong with my life but still something really wasn't in its place. Music has always been a very important channel for me to express myself and to release strong emotions. I was scared to realise that I had come to a point in my life where music was actually the only thing that prevented me from sinking. I was in a relationship with a wonderful girl and all I could feel was confusion and anxiety. I had great friends whom I felt I couldn't get a real contact with. My parents felt really distant to me and I felt that I couldn't be myself with them. Everywhere I went I felt I was wearing a mask. I didn't want to fake anything but I couldn't do anything about it.

It felt impossible to explain how I was feeling to anyone. My girlfriend was the first one I spoke to and all I could say was that I felt “kind of foggy”. I kept living on wishing it would go away but at the same time I observed myself constantly. I had a constant “is it still there?” question in my mind; “it” referring to the unknown monster or the shadow that was preventing me from living a happy life. I came to the conclusion that it had to be my relationship that was poisoning my mind so I ended it, or actually my girlfriend ended it for me because I didn't have the courage to say the words myself. So I continued observing my feelings and waiting for the salvation to come but, instead, I found myself sinking even deeper. It was free-falling now and I was terrified to lose the last sign of life inside myself: enjoying making and listening to music. I quit all the bands I was in because I only got anxious trying to play. I just couldn't enjoy it any more. What used to be my driving force now had become an enemy. Even looking at the guitar made me feel I couldn't breathe.

What scared me even more was this new feeling of unreality. The foggy feeling I mentioned earlier had multiplied, turning into 24/7 unreality where I felt I was not present in the moment at all. It was like I was outside myself all the time, watching a movie. I observed myself talking to people and nobody seemed to notice anything weird about me, but I felt that it wasn't me talking - although I was able to control the words that came out of my mouth. At this point explaining this to anyone felt impossible. It was just the new world I was forced into.

I finally made the effort to get some help and I started going to talk-therapy once a week. I learned there how important it actually was for me to open myself up. This was a totally new skill for me and I started a long journey inside myself. Therapy was helping but the confusion about the feelings of unreality remained. I tried to explain how I felt to my therapist but no matter how professional she was in helping me open other knots, she couldn't really give me any explanation to why I felt so weird. So I continued worrying and observing – and waiting for the day that I'd get rid of this awful feeling. It was in my mind all day and sometimes I felt that I was going to lose my mind any minute. I was living in constant fear and I started believing that this was going to be me for the rest of my life.

Every now and then I sought some help from the internet, but most anxiety/depression forums were so uninspiring and depressing that I avoided getting too much into them. However, one day I started googling answers for the feelings of unreality and I found my way to Paul's site. For me this was a remarkable moment. For the first time someone explained to me what my feelings of unreality were about and I even got a name to the cage of my mind: ‘Depersonalisation'. And what was even more amazing was that Paul actually noted it was OK to feel this way; that it was just the body's natural response to a constant stress. It all made sense to me and I could do nothing but read the words again and again. At this point my mind was already so distracted and depressed that concentrating on reading any kind of text was extremely difficult so it took a while until I was able to fully adopt Paul's ideas. This new knowledge gave my heart a lot of peace, although it seemed that I constantly forgot everything I had learned so I had to re-read Paul's words over and over again.

Time went on and I felt I was progressing but I felt that my depression was already so deep that this information alone couldn't get me back on my feet. So I decided to give a chance to one more anti-depression pill (I had tried a few and they had done nothing for me) and this time I found a suitable one. I want to emphasize that I'm not pro-medicine in any way, but in my case this one particular medicine helped me to get to the level where I was able to start working with myself. I ate the pills for a year and then I realized that if I really wanted to get to the root of problems I had to get rid of them, because the medication was preventing me from getting in touch with my real feelings but at the same time it was soothing the way. I lowered the dose gradually and got “clean” and this was when the real healing started for me. I also found a great new therapist who I felt really connected to and talk therapy has been vital to me. At the same time I kept Paul's advice with me all the time and eventually it became automatic.

After about two years from first stumbling to Paul's site, I could honestly say that I was not depressed nor depersonalised any more. The new reality came gradually and there were lots of up and downs along the way. For example I had to force myself to get to work no matter how anxious I felt about even the thought of it. To my great surprise the daily routine at work began helping after a while (previously I had thought that I need to fix myself first and then get to work). My first real sign of healing was when I found myself playing guitar and enjoying it without even thinking about it. The last thing to go was depersonalisation. One day I just realised it hadn't been there for a while. It may sound weird that I hadn't even noticed it go but there's a simple explanation: I hadn't been paying any attention to it any more. I had started living my life instead of worrying about it. At this point I also realized that this experience had made me know myself better than ever before and I now appreciate the difficult road I was forced to pave - to the point that I wouldn't trade it to anything. Honestly.

I'm writing this text because I want everyone who's struggling with a locked up mind to know that there is a way out no matter how bad you are feeling at the moment. It won't happen overnight, but I can assure you that it will be worth the time and the effort. I was a total wreck and I'm now living a full enjoyable life. I KNOW that so can you.

Tarmo