Island, I'm really glad you posted this. I've experienced depersonalization and de-realization numerous times in my life. This is a self diagnosis, because for various reasons, I tend to avoid doctors and therapists. During the episodes, reality testing remains intact, meaning that ones sense of realness is not lost, merely their sensing of it. It's as if one were suddenly transported to the moon: the gravity there is much weaker, but still present. Reality and self are present, but distant; this is my personal experience of it, at least.

I am quite wherry of pathological labels, because they can lead one down a dangerous road, I'll explain why I think so in a bit. What I've come to realize about these "altered states", is that I am experiencing them for a reason, and that it may in fact be blessing, rather than curse. My experience with psychologists is that they often don't realize the depth of complexity of the mind, that the world we see is *never* viewed objectively, that what we experience is based on an internal narrative that selectively edits what we perceive from moment to moment. Yet, sometimes, some of us experience trauma that unhinges our internal narratives from the external ones, such as what our parents and teachers told us, or what we hear on TV. We are told how reality is, when we have seen the other side of it. This may lead us to doubt our sense of reality, and eventually reality itself, and even our own self awareness and egos. Eventually we doubt everything, and it seems as though nothing should be here, including ourselves.

It is true that many enlightened individuals have described their shift into enlightenment in similar terms. Unfortunately, there is one difference; they were guided into an intentional state of being, by their own will, and by the wisdom of their teachers. Those of us who experience dp and dr, have stumbled into it unexpectedly, and this can be extremely frightening for those who are unprepared for it. If detachment from the self is unintentional, it can never be enlightenment. That is why I think that dp and dr are in fact pathological states, but are, none the less, states we can learn a great deal from.

Dwelling on a person's dp or dr as though it were pathological, or the wrong state of mind to be in, can be dangerous. The primary reason why I delved into this state of mind, aside from childhood trauma, was because my entire family is obsessed with emotional, intellectual and perceptual invalidation. Neither validation nor invalidation will help those that find themselves in the abyss that is dp and dr. All one can do is listen, to attempt to understand the depth of their internal alienation, and have patience. When all is perceived as ridiculous and impossible, then any advice will fall on deaf ears.

I experienced these states of crisis when I was eighteen, I had recently been dumped by my girlfriend of two years, after she cheated on me, had gone cold turkey after a year of being addicted to crystal meth, and seemed to have no purpose in life. I had yet to uncover my memories of being sexually abused, and had no idea that I was experiencing PTSD. I am now thirty, and I am finding that even though I still experience mild dp/dr, that not only can I cope with it, I can derive strength, and deep insights from it. Life and reality are indeed rather absurd. I'm beginning discover levity in my detachment. This world just seems down right ridiculous. I have learned to let go of trying to make sense of it all. Of the world. Of myself. Of my trauma. None of this has to make intellectual sense, and I am ok with that, now. I have finally learned to show myself compassion for my inability to make everything make sense, and to fit everything into a logical narrative. This has deepened my sense of compassion towards others. I am sensing my world not just through my left, logical, rational brain, but I sense it through my emotions, and my whole body. Not needing explanations is a wonderful state of mind to be in.

As a student of the sciences, a poet and an activist, the most empowering and relieving of all realizations I have ever come to, is that I can effect the world within, and without. That my internal world brings fourth the external, and the external one need not hinder my mental health. This is how I got into university after almost failing high school, how I traveled around the world, and ended up working with orangutans in Borneo, and aboriginal peoples in southern Chile. This is how I found peace of mind, even though the pain still returns from time to time. This is what dp/dr taught me: that this is my mind, and my body, and that I can cultivate positive cause and effect in order to change the world that I live in. No priest, nor psychologist, nor atheist, or scientist, nobody, can or ever will take that away from me.

Good luck connecting those dots, Island.

Edited by BigV (10/27/09 07:01 AM)