Every since I was a child, I asked a million questions in search for immediate answers. I liked to learn and I needed an answer for everything. I was inquisitive and annoying (according to my parents), so much so, that on one of my birthdays my aunt bought me a book called “A Million and One Answers”, hoping that it would help to answer some of the questions no one else could.
In retrospect, I was a very anxious child. I liked to read a lot, because those stories gave me a chance to escape into my own world, where characters became heroes and stories became my distraction. I spent most of my high school days extremely depressed, experiencing what I now know to be major depressive disorder. When I felt a certain way, besides the pain of actually feeling what I felt, another pain came from the unknown. Why? What am I feeling? I didn’t know. I couldn’t put my feelings into words and that was devastating for me.
When I first experienced depersonalization, I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t have answers and I needed them. I was in grade nine the first time I had an episode. I remember I stayed late at school that day because I was volunteering for an open house. I was in the middle of talking to friends when all of the sudden I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt dizzy, but not physically, like an internal dizzy. The rest was a blur. I only remember my mom picking me up and the look on her face; she thought I had been drugged by the way I was acting. I went to bed and woke up the next day completely fine.
The next time I had an episode was a few years later on a family vacation. We were eating dinner and the same thing happened. The walk back to the hotel was a complete blur and my family was so concerned; so was I.
For the past couple of years, depersonalization has constantly been a part of my life. It’s not just episodes anymore, it’s present everyday. I’ve become used to it showing up everyday. We’ve almost become friends, but not good friends. More of like the brief wave, simple acknowledgement, and get on with your day kind of friend. I acknowledge that it’s there, but I try not to pay much attention to it. It’s hard.
Sometimes I feel everything and other times, I feel nothing at all
From my experience, not too many people know what depersonalization is. For myself, it’s very familiar and not in a good way. I could be having a conversation with someone and suddenly I feel detached from myself. My memory gets jumbled and whatever comes out of my mouth sounds unrecognizable, like it’s not me who is talking. Looking back on memories, from the day before or years before, it feels like those memories are not mine. Like I am watching a movie play out in front of me and that person in the movie, well it’s not me, it’s someone else. Things seem unreal and fake. My perception of what I see is blurred and it makes it really difficult to ever truly be in the moment.
The most important thing, though, is that I am not alone. I find peace in the fact that I am not the only person out there who deals with this. I have depersonalization and I am not ashamed of that.
Depersonalization occurs when you persistently or repeatedly have the feeling that you’re observing yourself from outside your body or you have a sense that things around you aren’t real, or both – Mayo Clinic
Depersonalization is marked by periods of feeling disconnected or detached from one’s body and thoughts (depersonalization). The disorder is sometimes described as feeling like you are observing yourself from outside your body or like being in a dream – WebMD
About Samantha MacDougall
I have dealt with mental illness my entire life and enjoy sharing my story with others! You can find me on Instagram @AnxiouslyAwesome where I fight stigma and share my stories and battles with mental illness. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and depersonalization and I fully believe that talking about mental health helps to fight the stigma surrounding it! You are not alone in your struggles.