Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mental Breakdown: Onset of Depersonalization/Derealization

In December of 1990 I was doing well in school, making plans for college, and working about thirty hours a week at Walmart. We lived in Compton, just moving there from Gladstil (where I had gone to school since kindergarten) in June of 1990. School in Compton was great. I had wished that I had gone to school there far longer than just my senior year. I actually had a few friends, who were fairly popular in the school system, but much nicer and more accepting than the bunch at Gladstil. I had been working at Walmart as a stockman and a layaway associate. I developed a friendship with our school counselor, who advised me on various degree programs. I was taking some fairly sophisticated courses, well, your usual college prep courses, anyway. I managed to get out of school around one o'clock and even have one study hall during the day.

I was very interested in Medicine, a worthy vocation and education it would provide. In particular, I was planning on applying to an accelerated program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Instead of the usual four year undergraduate degree and the four year medical curriculum, they would be combined into six total years of training, with about a month off each year. Wow, I would be an MD at the age of 23, and could be earning the average physician salary at 26. Plus, I would be doing something challenging and worthwhile. Restoring and rejuvenating the human body, and psyche. I really wanted to help people and be a benefit to society, and this was the perfect way to do it.

My grades were really good, A's mostly. Socially, I felt more comfortable than I ever had at Gladstil. It seems like I was more accepted. This was just the fresh beginning I needed. It seemed like things were finally going my way.

Everything I had become and worked for came to a catastrophic halt on December 14, 1990. It's really hard to explain what happened. It's so dark, vague, cloudy and surreal. We moved from Compton to Clovil (just 3 miles from Gladstil and 9 miles from Compton) around the last week in November, or it could have been the first few days of December. For me, it was a desolate maneuver, spooky. My mother's sister's children, who had lived with us for about four years were all between the ages of four and ten. There was six of them in all. The move affected me the most. I didn't have to switch schools; I wouldn't have, anyway. Especially Clovil, in the middle of my senior year; hell no! So, I drove the nine miles to school everyday. Clovil was a rundown town, lots of thugs and the like, you know. Not that I think I'm any better. The town just looked dismal, lacking in life and any fervor whatsoever. The trees were all barren of their leaves. I just could not see the dormant life that lay within.

This was analogous to the way I had felt inside for quite some time. It was very confusing for me. On the inside, my mind felt fragmented. On the outside, I wore my Gladstil school jacket, lived in Clovil, and went to high school in Compton. And I worked at Malden. Boy, if that were the only problem. Problem was, I was gnawing away at my mind, little by little. Whittling at my sanity. I asked a bunch of philosophical questions, trying to answer them, trying to make some sense of the world. I was confused about social structures, and how we humans really perceive each other, and how we portray ourselves to different people. It just depended on who was looking at us, or who we were looking at.

I began to question how people, other humans could be so cruel and malevolent towards each other, and impassive. Like they couldn't care less if you were an inanimate rock in their path. They would just kick you out of the way. Or pretend like you weren't even there; so high and mighty these people were. Quite a lot of people, especially the people in my grade, and the ones directly below and directly above. But most of all, those that were in my grade at Gladstil High School. Such snobbish and pretentious pigs they were. They were interested in themselves and only themselves.

On December 14, 1990, around six thirty in the evening, I was getting ready to go to the annual Walmart Christmas party. It was supposed to be held where the old store used to be. It was dark, the sun had set about forty minutes earlier. Cloud and rain saturated the atmosphere. It was unusually cold for the date. Once I got to Madison, I tried to locate the place where the party was to be held. For some reason, I couldn't find it. I can't remember if it was because I really couldn't find the physical location or they had changed locations last minute and I wasn't notified. Never the less, I couldn't find it so I left for home.

On my way home, I began to think about how little my biological mother really cared about me. How little she expressed any care at all, and at how other kids, and their hundred dollar picture packages, showboated for everyone to see. Prestige. That's all it was. I began to think of those in my grade, who had belittled me in various ways throughout my life. Them and their little fucking cliques. I hated them. I didn't want to be anything like them. But when you are from a small rural community that's pretty much all you know. I projected this feeling to the world. I didn't want to be anything like the world (at least my world) as it was. When these kids grew up, would they be the same? To my mind, they would. Well, I thought, if they will be like that then, then what about the ones who are adults and passed the adolescent phase? Were they arrogant asses and bitches, and stuck up, pretentious pricks when they were in high school, too? Were they still that way? Maybe not, I decided, but there was still that element of possibility that lay within. I couldn't deal with it. I also projected something else. Something else that would metaphorically and perhaps literally take me far from this very world. If I was so different from them, then what about God? The very God I worshiped before then couldn't be the same God that THEY worshiped. Their God would have thought He or She was too good for me, for sure. That is, even if their God was what they thought IT was.

And for some reason, I have no idea why, I began thinking about a common philosophical or scientific question (depends on how you classify the question). Here is the hypothetical question: If a tree in a forest or woods, or any where for that matter, falls and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound? I know. Ludicrous, you say. How could a question like that precipitate a mental breakdown? Well, at the time, I didn't have the science education that I now possess. But I don't think it would have really mattered then. My brain was already fucked. I projected this question into another frame: If I don't see someone or perceive them, how do I know they really exist? Yeah, I know.

Some how, my brain linked the two situations (the existence or reality situation and the feeling unwanted by the world) and went into some sort of lock down. I beat my fists against the steering wheel, tears flooding my eyes and then streaming their way down my face. "Why God! Why! Why me! Why me!" At the same time I felt a moderate burning and numbing sensation on the top of my head. It felt like it was on fire. In retrospect, it was like my life force was leaving my body via this route.

And all at once, I metaphorically entered the dream-time. Physically, I felt unreal, like I was in a dream, not fully awake but here, some how. I was scared for a while, then a degree of apathy settled in. It seemed like I was looking through a fog; it was everywhere, obscuring my view of the real world. I saw through a glass, or a scanner darkly.

When I got home, I told my mom and step dad that "something had happened to me" and that "I didn't feel right". I don't know why she couldn't see that I was in trouble, that I was hurting, broken. I think I had a few more days of school after that weekend before the Christmas break. I did go those first few days, even though I felt dead, the living dead, a zombie I was. I was determined though. I knew I was supposed to do this, even though I was only going through the motions. It was like my body was being controlled by another mind, not my own. Like I was a walking robot, an automaton. My lights were dim, nobody home. Wasn't quite sure. Didn't know where I was.

This continued in a severe state for about 6 months. I missed quite a lot of school, and nearly flunked out. I went from straight A's to D's. I think the only reason I graduated was because I was such a good student before "the mental breakdown" and the school system felt pity for me. Needless to say, severe depression accompanied this change of mental status. I lost somewhere between twenty and thirty pounds over the course of the first three months. Now why didn't my mother see that? Probably she was too busy whoring around. She and my step dad had just separated a month after the breakdown, and she was going through some hormonal "I just gotta have a man" stage. So fucking weak. She couldn't even see that if her only blood child thought he could have killed himself he most likely would have. However, I didn't have the cognition for it. It was like I was a baby just born, but left in some isolated area where no contact with life of what ever kind could take place. I had to learn everything on my own. Everything was new and strange to me. I was even afraid to drive my car at one point, having to relearn, or reacquaint myself.

I would look in the mirror and find what I saw totally unfamiliar, in fact, the concept of I, was even unfamiliar. It was like I had dissociated with this world, living on two planes of existence. I felt alien here.

For some reason, I must have presented myself socially acceptable on the outside, except for being withdrawn, depressed, and apathetic. But I didn't act out. Mom finally took me to see a counselor and a psychiatrist. The shrink asked me if the change I felt was on the outside or the inside. Well, I told her it seemed like it was the outside, but I knew it was the inside. In retrospect, I guess that kept me from the psychosis defining diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I've had these feelings of unreality and dream state before, on just a few occasions. They cleared up in a day or less, and didn't hit me near as strong as this one had. So I was unable to correlate those at the time, and thus the counselors and doctors were unaware of this. I eventually stopped going to counciling because nobody could really help me. I don't remember anyone actually putting a name to what I have, or knowing any one who had similar symptoms. Of course, over the years, I have learned that it is a combination of a two disorders that often occur together known as depersonalization and derealization

ADDENDUM:  4/20/2017

There are a few things I neglected to mention in the preceding paragraphs. In the weeks before the Depersonalization breakdown of 12/14/1990 I was experiencing what I believe to be information overload. I was anxious and upset that I couldn't identify which type of grass was in your yard, what were the common and species names for all the flora I could see. I wanted to know specifics of everything; animate and inanimate. That only served to highten my already overloaded state of mind.
I've since been diagnosed with ASD - high functioning and now my life makes total sense. It doesn't make it easier, but I've had problems throughout my life that fit the autism bracket so accurately. I just don't know what to do with that now...

ADDENDUM: 7/10/1018

I regret not mentioning the following when I first made this post. Since there seems to be some interest in this post I feel the need to add the following:

Almost immediately after the dp/dr breakdown on 12/14/1990 I began a process of deconstructing everything I knew. If nothing was real then knowledge as I obtained it couldn't be reliable. I began losing my skills that I had developed in my young life. It's taken a life time to rebuild some of those, to make it epistemologically possible to learn even new things. Please help those who suffer from depersonalization/derealization.


Thinker said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I've been through the same thing except that it was catalyzed by a drug. I even had the same "burning" sensation which I find very interesting.

How are you going now?

Anonymous said...

I've never been the same after my first attack in 1998. I thought the feeling would go away but it literally took a year and daily forcing myself out into the world as if to re learn it. But I still

Anonymous said...

And even after learning the "world" again , getting a job, wife and raising a family, last week I suffered a panic attack at red lobster and am all dreamy again. I hope it doesn't take too long to snap out or back "in". I have a ton of responsibility now. When in 98 I was still living at home. Even my frikn car seems different. It does suck.. but I've came out of it before. It just took time and ridding my life of stress full situations. And slowly each day going out one store at a time, and just being around what is "normal" . To finally come back . Also . I found that the more I focus on " oh no" my emotions are numb or oh no everything seems dreamy it gets worse. Keep stimulating your mind steps. Not too much. Each day the hardest part is actually doing this practice.

Ryan Lewis said...

It takes some time...but none of you are going insane, scary phobias are too common during this time. Am I going crazy thoughts seem like they have become your reality...the cure is in doing daily exposure and never returning to what caused this.

Anonymous said...

Its still hard to believe that something this horrible exist. Its been five, surreal months for me. Did you recover?

MDK said...

It has been such a long and gradual change that I "believe" I am recovered, as far as the primary symptoms. I'm still left with skepticism about reality and other minds, however, I believe that is merely a function of my philosophical nature.

What worked for me was doing the things I did prior to the onset of dp/dr. Even though it didn't "feel" real, it was psychologically important to hold on to. It was what helped me the most.

Wishing you all the best...