What It Feels Like To Have Derealization Anxiety

I Was In A Dissociative State For 6 Months, Medication Saved My Life

I was terrified to take anything for my mental illness. Yet once I agreed to receive help, I realized how positive medication's impact can be.

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I've suffered from anxiety since early childhood. I didn't have any specific fears, but more of a constant sense of panic that lingered in the back of my mind. The first time I experienced derealization, I didn't know how to feel. Derealization (DR) is a lesser-known side effect of anxiety. Although it is typically accompanied by depersonalization, I've never experienced that. According to anxietycanada.com, derealization is:

  • distorted perception of time, space, and size of things around you
  • Feeling unreality from the world around you, as if in a dream of trance
  • Feeling like everything is foggy or fuzzy
  • Sense of being disconnected from those around you as if you're trapped in a bubble
  • Thoughts of "going crazy" or being very ill.

As someone who has been diagnosed with this, I can confirm that all of these feelings can be experienced when in a state of derealization. When I first had a DR episode, I was playing laser tag with my friends. One moment I was running through the dark tunnels and enjoying myself, the next thing I knew I felt like I needed to faint. I lowered myself to the ground and became enveloped in a sense of terror — the world around me seemed unfamiliar. I knew where I was, but I also felt like I had never been there before. The best way I could explain it was like a reverse deja-vu.

When I was seventeen, I experienced DR again. This time, it stuck around for longer than a few days. While some days were better than others, every morning I woke up a bedroom that I knew was mine, but didn't feel like it. I felt like I was truly going insane. My therapist, bless her heart, wasn't equipped to deal with the severity of my mental illness, and only gave me breathing exercises to help calm me down.

I remember one night, sobbing in my bedroom because I felt like my grip on reality was slipping, and that the world around me was unraveling, I wished that I would just die. Although I never had developed a plan to end my life, I was beginning to believe that my state of anxiety and disconnection was permanent and that the only relief would be death. I didn't necessarily want to kill myself, I just wanted to escape from the awful feeling of unfamiliarity that plagued me every day.

I was extremely reluctant to go on medication.

The idea of a pill directly affecting my brain terrified me. I was afraid that an anti-depressant would take away my personality, take away emotions, and turn me into a shell of who I was before my mental illness took over. I looked at alternate routes for weeks but eventually realized that the source of my anxiety and derealization was a chemical imbalance.

Around this time, I decided that medication was the last resort. On top of my anxiety, I was also diagnosed with OCD. My psychiatrist asked me if I had ever experienced any trauma. I told him that I hadn't. According to him, most cases of severe derealization result from life-altering trauma. To my memory, I had never experienced anything like that, so my case was quite an anomaly. Despite this, he went ahead and prescribed me sertraline, a generic form of Zoloft that is known to help with anxiety and OCD.

The first two weeks of taking Zoloft was a rollercoaster. I experienced almost all of the side-effects one can expect. Muscle tremors, brain fog, vivid dreams, low sex drive. I also lost the ability to cry for around two months. My DR worsened at first, but slowly, it lessened and lessened, and finally, I realized that it was completely gone.

Many people speak ill of SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Zoloft, which I can respect, but I have nothing negative to say. Since starting my medication, my anxiety and OCD have become aspects of my life that I have complete control over. Medication can't (and shouldn't) completely erase the existence of your disorder — it should just help you regain control over them.

I hope this finds anyone struggling with derealization. One of the hardest things about dealing with this illness was the fact that there are limited resources for it. If there's one thing I'd like to say to someone who is suffering from DR, it would be that you're real, the world around you is real, and that there's hope. I am living proof that there's hope.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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20 Signs You're In A Toxic Relationship As Told By 'Sherlock Holmes'

Having Trouble In Paradise?

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No relationship is perfect. For the most part, a good relationship makes you feel euphoric, loved, respected, safe, and free. There are seven fundamental elements, including good communication, respect, trust, acceptance, compatibility, affection, and patience needed for a healthy relationship.

Good communication allows people to talk openly, without fear of being judged. Respect helps maintain equality in the relationship. Additionally, it promotes compassion and sympathy between two people. Trust lets a couple count on each other and feel safe.

In return, you build credibility and consistency with each other as your relationship becomes more and more transparent. Acceptance makes people appreciate their partners and accept them for who they are, faults and all. However, this does not extend to abuse in any form.

Compatibility brings people together and strengthens their emotional bond. Affection causes two partners to feel special, wanted, and acknowledged. Patience allows people to feel free. Pushing someone to do something they do not want to do allows causes that person to feel pressured and become they are not.

Mixed together, these seven elements create a strong, healthy long-lasting relationship.

Therefore, a toxic relationship lacks many, if all, of these elements. As a result, a toxic relationship typically makes you feel exhausted, broken, and miserable.

However, toxic connections ring multiple alarms. Sadly, many people never hear them.

Here are some of "alarms" to help you recognize a toxic relationship:

1. You are filled with insecurity. 

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You are questioning whether anyone likes you. Your partner actively tries to cut you off from your support network of friends and families. Also, nobody wants to hang out with you when you are with your partner.

2. The relationship has become boring. 

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You are lonely when you are with your partner. You no longer enjoy his/her company.

3. The atmosphere is loaded with negative energy. 

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Your partner sees himself/herself as having a much higher "mate value" than you. They think you are lucky to have them, but not vise versa.

4. Constantly complaining, making ultimatums, and yelling out commands, your partner drains your energy. 

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Your partner is all take and no give. (S)he is demanding and never takes "no" for an answer.

5. Nothing is ever your partner's fault. 

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Your partner is ALWAYS right and NEVER wrong. When you argue, one or both of you always get defensive. You can never acknowledge that the other person has some valid points. When you argue, you just blame each other rather than accepting some blame.

6. Your partners always want to control what you are doing. 

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(S)he never wants to do anything you want, making you think of several friends whom you would rather be in a relationship with.

7. You always seek acceptance from your partner. 

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You constantly are doing thing to "impress" your partner. Yet, (s)he never seems interested or proud of you when you experience success.

8. ​​​You are giving more into the relationship than what you are getting. 

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You feel like you are the only one that makes an effort in the relationship, causing the relationship to seem one-sided and like a rollercoaster.

9. The atmosphere is hostile. 

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You are too scared to confide in your partner. If you were to reveal something you are sensitive about, you are not sure how they would react.

10. Your partner causes you to lower your standards. 

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You feel nauseated about who you have become while with your partner. You can identify ways your partner has negatively influenced you. As a result, (s)he has involved you in unethical activities, causing you to feel ashamed of what you have done.

11. Your partner never treats you with respect. 

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(S)he doesn't listen to you. As a result, you do not feel able to get your partner's attention when you want to talk about something important.

12. You receive no support form your partner. 

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When your partner is listening, (s)he never takes into consideration what you are saying or feeling. Your partner is dismissive of your interests and projects. (S)he judges the things you do by how important (s)he perceives them to be, rather than how important they are to you.

13. You are always on your guard as your relationship presents constant challenges. 

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Your partner gets mad at you when you disagree with him/her. When you and your partner disagree, (s)he insists you do things his/her way or leave. It is their way or the highway.

14. Your partner diminishes your self-worth. 

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(S)he does not see you as a priority. As a result, (s)he makes jokes about leaving you or teases you about what his/her "second" or "next" partner will be like.

15. You are afraid of your partner seeing you in public with other people. 

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You dread coming home after work or school because of how much stress your partner causes you. As a result, you often spend time at Starbucks to procrastinate coming home to your partner.

16. You believe you would be nothing without your partner. 

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Despite thinking about how disrespectful, cold, untrustful, and inconsistent your partner is, you feel compelled to tell him/her how wonderful (s)he is.

17. You feel like you have betrayed your own morals and values. 

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You have changed for the worst. You feel worse about yourself as a person than when you first started the relationship. You are less confident and can see fewer positive qualities about yourself.

18. You are constantly corrected and judged. 

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Your partner implies that you are stupid or that they are "the smart one" in the relationship. (S)he tries to dissuade you from trying something new because you probably would not understand it.

19. Your partner manipulates you with gifts and compliments.  

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Your partner uses "love bombing" to gain your trust and love. (S)he regularly does something, such as giving compliments, flattery, or promises. Moreover, these actions are what you use to justify the relationship and your partner's "love" for you.

20. There is no trust in your relationship.

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Your partner always checks your phone and asks where you are going or hanging out with. As a result, you feel as though you must get their permission before you do anything. At the same time, you can not trust anything your partner says or does, causing you to constantly wonder what they are doing behind your back.

If any of this sounds familiar, it is time to make some changes.

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