I just wanted to start with, that I am not a health professional, everything I write is from my own personal experience and things I have learned. Also, depersonalization and dissociation seem to have mixed/ different meanings to everyone I have spoken to, so again I only talk about my experience/symptoms here.
What is depersonalization?
Essentially it’s our brain’s coping mechanism. It’s there to ‘protect’ us. When we go through traumas there’s so much stress, anxiety, fear in the situation that our mind tries to find ways to protect us, and that might be through dissociating.
“Depersonalization is a combination of physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts which lead you to feel so disengaged from your surroundings that you wonder whether or not you’re actually in your body.”- anxietycoach.com
Whatever description I’ve found online, as a teenager I was just glad that finally after years of dealing with it, I was not the only one. I wasn’t going crazy! It was a very common symptom of anxiety, panic attacks and traumas.
I have experienced the ‘not feeling here’ kind of feeling (best way I could describe it) since being a little kid. It was different than anxiety. But nevertheless, it still wasn’t pleasant. It made me feel so distant to everything, everyone including myself. Honestly, it was extremely scary to feel like that, all day, almost every day and not being able to make it better or even explain it to anyone else.
To this day I have bounds of it, though it is nothing compared to how it used to be. It’s still not my favourite thing to experience. I do seem to be a lot more aware of the times I experience it though; PMS, tiredness, ill or getting ill or due to a lot of anxiety that lasts a long time. I think just being able to acknowledge that gives me the reassurance that no matter how uncomfortable it feels I KNOW it will pass.
What works i.e how do I get rid of it?!
One thing I have learned for sure is that the more I try to resist it, the stronger, more uncomfortable it gets. So this past year I have really invested my time in mindfulness, meditation and yoga and guess what!? IT WORKS! – So, whatever you do, do not resist it! Stay with the uncomfortableness, remind yourself that at this moment you are safe, that this is just a temporary sensations, that it WILL pass!
Essentially dissociation and depersonalization happen when we are in our heads, a lot. For many people that have experienced traumas, our head can be our ‘safe’ place. Once we are able to connect with our body, ground ourselves and disconnect from our minds the dissociation/depersonalisation is able to pass quicker.
It’s really good to have some grounding techniques that you know will help you to bring you to this moment. For me, thing, that usually works when the dissociation is pretty mild and hasn’t lasted long is to come back/focus on my breath. What helps, even more, is connecting with my body, so I will leave a little grounding technique which I recently got from my therapist. I’ve been using it and it almost seemed ‘too simple’ to help at first, but honestly it’s been really useful- Connecting with feet on the ground – feeling the contact of the soles of your feet with shoes/socks/ground it’s always good. Take your awareness down into you feet – wiggle your toes. You need to get connected with your body/the environment around you if you start to feel ungrounded.
I’ve recently been experiencing a lot more of depersonalization and dissociation, even now as I am writing this. It almost makes me feel more empowered because I’m letting the sensations be there while I just do my own thing. Also, I needed to write this to remind myself that it’s okay to feel those sensations. I’m okay. They will pass because they always do!
I hope this helps someone who’s been struggling with this too. If you have any grounding techniques that have really helped you, please feel free to share them.