An honest blog sharing the ups and downs of my personal mental health journey

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Have You Heard Of Derealisation?

No, it's not a new rapper about to drop the hottest mixtape of 2018. It is in fact a disorder that makes you have an almost out of body experience, or the feeling of being detached from reality.

People can experience it very suddenly and briefly or suffer with it nearly all of the time (to those people, you are solid because it's a naaaasty beast to deal with).

I'm going to sum up my derealisation experience fairly swiftly by saying it's weird as SH*T. 

I'll tell you about it, at the risk of me sounding a little bit...'mad'.

I've experienced derealisation a few times now and it normally lasts anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours.

The only way I can sum up (but quite accurately) describe the sensation of derealisation is like being in a dream. 

I've had to sit and quite literally pinch myself multiple times because I'm not sure if I'm dreaming or if I'm awake. It feels like you're looking down on yourself and your brain is preeeetty certain it's real...but something is telling you very strongly that it can't be. So, you kind of have to just wait and find out which one it is. Pretty inconvenient to say the least. 

Funny story - I had it in the bath the other day and I automatically assumed I was dreaming but that I'd wet myself or something stupid (hence why I was surrounded by water). In actual fact...I was just in the bloody bath, like I'd planned. No urine in sight, you'll be pleased to know. 

...Now you see why it's so weird. No imaginary unicorns and fairies floating about but thinking maybe you've p*ssed yourself. Not very glamorous. 

So, I didn't know derealisation (which is also very closely linked to dissociation and depersonalisation disorder) was even a thing until I mentioned it to my psychiatrist a few months ago. I was quite nervous trying to describe what I'd been experiencing because when you explain it, it sounds ridiculous. Especially when your opening line is about potentially wetting yourself. 

But, to my amazement when I told him about it he quite matter of factly told me exactly what it was and how common it is to experience it. (Really common, apparently - some studies suggest that everyone can have it in passing at some point in their life. Get your nappies ready,'s coming for you too). 

The reality is, as it's so common it's not usually anything to be concerned about unless it's really persistent. I've done a bit of research about derealisation and it looks like what I've experienced is an extremely mild version of something which is actually really quite horrible to live with. Some people can suffer with derealisation and depersonalisation so badly that it makes them completely lose touch of who they are and what they're doing. Some symptoms of derealisation can include identity shifting, feeling completely separated from your emotions and limbs, dissociative amnesia and even feeling like you're a robot (I imagine that one sounds much better on paper than it actually is). 

Some studies also suggest derealisation can be linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (which makes sense for me), borderline personality disorder or PTSD. If you have experienced a traumatic event, have PTSD or experience high levels of stress your mind can use derealisation as a coping mechanism, which in itself is pretty confusing. It can also be a very common side effect of some medication or coming off some medication too quickly. 

So basically, if like me you have experienced derealisation and have wondered what the hell it is or why it's happening, that could be why. 

Derealisation, like mental health in general, seems to be pretty misunderstood and not spoken about enough. 

The good news is if you suffer from derealisation there are treatments out there that can help, including certain medications and talking therapies. I've also found mindfulness and visualisation works well if it comes on suddenly and you're trying to work out what the bloody hell is going on - just focusing on your breathing can make a real difference and help you focus on being present.

Don't be worried about speaking t0 someone if you are experiencing, or have experienced, derealisation. It's very common, it's treatable, and if anything it makes a good ice breaker story if you're experiencing an awkward silence with distant family members over your turkey this Christmas. Just try not to wet yourself and you'll be fine. Or do, if they're really that boring.

Here's a couple of links to websites that explain a bit more about derealisation: 


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