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Depersonalisation & Derealisation

I'm not going to talk about dissociative disorders in general, only how my own applies to me and my understanding of it from what I've learned through therapy. I'm by no means an expert and I can only really talk from my own experiences and learning, so what I have to say is not going to be true for everyone. If you think you may be struggling with issues related to dissociation, I would recommend seeking help from your GP or other professionals, though there are also some excellent self-help resources that you can access if you aren't comfortable opening up to someone.

Depersonalisation (DP) and Derealisation (DR) are two separate dissociative disorders. I've been told that they often present together, but you can have one without the other. In the simplest terms, they are both defined by experiencing feelings of detachment and as though things aren't real. What distinguishes them is that for DP, this could relate to your emotions, your memories, physical sensations...basically any 'internal' experience, whereas DR is defined by a sense of detachment with regards to the world around you - for example, people and places.

Both apply for me, though it is the DP that causes me my most significant issues.

When it was first suggested to me that I may have DPDR I dismissed the idea. I knew I had issues but it couldn't be a Personality Disorder (PD), surely? I work with people with PD, I see how it affects their daily lives, I couldn't be in the same category as them could I? When we talk about PD diagnoses with the psychologists at work, we are always reminded that for it to be a diagnosis, and not just personality traits, the symptoms must fit the 'Three P's': Persistent; Problematic; and Pervasive. I have a job, I manage my finances, I have friends...I function in daily life, many people with PD struggle with these things due to the Three P's. But when I stopped and thought about it, it began to make sense.

Persistent: something that continues to occur or be present over a prolonged period. I've had these 'symptoms' since my memories began, so that box was checked.

Problematic: something that presents a problem. It had to be a problem for me to have ended up sitting across from a psychiatrist and psychologist right?

Pervasive: something that permeates throughout something and appears ever present, often in a negative way. The 'symptoms' have always been daily occurrences, and the more I thought about it the more I saw how my daily life was affected by them, I just hadn't noticed until they had begun to escalate with my deteriorating mental health.

I realised that yes, I have and job and friends - but barely. I enjoy my work, I find it fulfilling, but there are certain tasks or people that I avoid because they trigger these unwanted responses that I now recognise as DPDR symptoms. I have friends, but I struggle to relate to them and I often find myself at a distance because I feel outside of them and unable to interpret their presentation towards me. All the reasons I had used to convince myself I didn't have DPDR were superficial.

Once I had accepted that there was probably something to this diagnosis, I started to look in to it more and read up on the research around it. My psychologist suggested a book to me that a colleague had recommended to him, so I purchased it and took a look. Something clicked in to place. Someone had managed to put in to words feelings that I had always struggled to articulate, it was like someone had plucked the thoughts right out of my head and put them down on paper. I was excited, all the anxiety I had around the diagnosis disappeared for a little while and I just felt relieved to finally feel understood. It made me feel less 'crazy' and the diagnosis didn't seem so scary anymore, because here was something I could work on. Maybe I would never be 'fixed', but at least I could understand and try to get 'better'.

It took a while to come to terms with, as did my PTSD diagnosis, but it has helped in the long run. I'm still working on things, and there are some days that feel less manageable than others, but I'm starting to balance the scales.

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