Depersonalization & Derealization


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Please help me. It's 5.15 a.m. and I am afraid to sleep. On May 11th I had my first DPDR episode, which was a totally new and terrifying experience for me. I have C-PTSD, Depression, OCD, social anxiety, general anxiety, and hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is that moment when you are just between sleep and wakefulness--sometimes you feel like you're falling and will jerk your legs to stop yourself? That's the simplest explanation; however, hypnagogia can evolve into hallucinations (auditory and visual). As I am falling asleep, I jolt up because I am in danger. I may think I'm back with my ex-husband, or I've seen gruesome things that scare the hell out of me. I have been involved with therapists and shrinks for 22 years. I am not bi-polar, BP, schizophrenic, or psychotic. It's all been ruled out. With the hypnagogia came insomnia. Before May 11, I went to sleep around 4 a.m. and woke up at 1 p.m.

It's bloody light outside and I can hear the birds. Every day since May 11, I have experienced episodic DPDR. I video chatted with both my therapists, GP, and shrink. They all agree it's DPDR. I started EMDR in the last year and in April my EMDR therapist was having me deal with the beginning of my relationship with my ex-husband. I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to "remember" or "go back" with all five senses. My EMDR therapist thinks I re-traumatized myself but also believes that the decade anniversary of my divorce and one-year anniversary of my little kitty getting sick and dying last August has brought all this on.

I work from home as a freelance editor. But, I can't work with DPDR. My brain is foggy and my short-term memory is shot. Even when I come out of a DPDR episode, I still don't have the mental acumen I used to have. I totally forget what I am talking about mid-sentence. My DPDR starts around 3 p.m. every day and "ends" between 8 and 11 p.m. So I am sleeping during the hours when I am actually in my body and not afraid. I know people suffer from DPDR chronically for weeks, months, and years. I am blessed to have it episodically, but I can't "live" normally. There is no way I will leave the house. I can't edit properly because my brain doesn't work. I've been blessed with my intellect--but my brain fails me now. I mistype, misspeak, and can't focus. All that I have gone through---I've always had my brain. I can't depend on that now.

I am so overwhelmed. I'm sorry I'm rambling. Sleeping pills don't work. I tried them all. Literally. I dread each day because an hour or so after I wake up I derealize and then depersonalize. Around 4 or 5 p.m., the DPDR gets really bad. It's like I am not tethered to reality. I can't grasp my sense of self...that is the best way to describe it. I am terrified for this hour. I "go away." A voice in my head (not an auditory hallucination or external voice) tells me to lay my head down and not engage. Usually, this happens when I am talking about something that is upsetting to me. It sounds so bloody cliche. I "go away" when I talk about the past. My brain just is closed. Sometimes I have flashbacks and other times I feel like I am high. My head is floaty. My voice is sedated. I have combed the internet for information and there is very little. I am only the second person my shrink has ever seen who has this disorder. Time stretches on for hours when I am in DPDR. I feel like I am high, but not in a good way. Yes, I use medical marijuana to sleep and for my panic attacks, which are full-body seizures at their worst. I could count on my two hands how many times I did pot as a teenager and in college. But, it changed my life with its ability to quell my panic attacks and give me a break from my constant, relentless, cruel inner monologue.

I know that marijuana can lead to DPDR; however, I am 44 and I have been vaping medical marijuana for three and a half years now. If I don't vape marijuana, the hypnagogia is untenable. Please, I'm sorry, I just don't want to hear that marijuana is causing this problem. It's not. Not in my case. I am very in tune with my body. I never reacted badly to vaping--I am a silly, happy, person with medical marijuana. I also use a lot of medical-grade CBD. So much of what I find online is young adults talking about how they can live with DPDR--they can function. I cannot. I can't talk or think correctly. I am terrified. Even though I know it's all "not real," it sure feels that way. My eyes see my keyboard and my brain is telling me that it's not a keyboard--it's not right,..there is something wrong. It's not real. My voice is not my own.

How do I deal? I have a workbook, I do art therapy and grounding techniques, but I could not be cognizant to even fake normality when I am in any stage of DPDR. I literally feel like I am losing my mind. Every day, four to eight hours are spent in DPDR. Wasted time. This is not a way to live. What can I do? How do I cope? How do I sleep and face each day filled with hours of terror? I lived like that for so long with my ex-husband. That experience, plus growing up in a domestically abusive household, brought me to a suicide attempt in 2014.

I have this incredible husband and I just want to live in the present with him. He is 25 years my senior. So, he's 69. He is a professional musician, but COVID hit the entertainment business with a vengeance. He is so good to me, but he took care of his first wife 24/7 for almost ten years because she had progressive, aggressive MS. He should not have to suffer this again. I have my Faith, but I am angry as hell with God. I never asked "why me" until my mother had breast cancer (cancer-free, thanks be to God and good doctors) when my little kitty lost one and then the other eye and her jaw locked shut. I spoon-fed her until the end. And, now. I am asking "why me?"

I feel so desperate and in such despair...any advice would be helpful. I know I write that, but previously I said I don't want to hear how marijuana is causing DPDR. It's about trauma for me. Unresolved trauma and living in a necessary fight-or-flight response for almost seven years. ECT. Counseling. EMDR. Help...I feel like my life as I knew it is over.


Sorry that this is turning your life a bit upside down.

Very often, the counter for dissociation is grounding (in the same way that breathing effectively counters anxiety). Have you practiced grounding with a therapist? If not, definitely put that on the agenda.


I feel your pain on this one. I had (and still do at times) a horrible time with this. The problem is, as well, that lack of sleep exacerbated the problem. it was like a vicious circle. In between sleep and awakeness I suffer from annihilation anxiety and I don't even know how to describe the feeling. I would also get paralyzed.

What i did to help ease the problem was I worked on creating a safe space for myself so that when I started to fall asleep, I was directing how I wanted to feel. I would go through a big process of imagining a space for myself to be, people could or could not be invited, I could be anywhere I wanted to be. Sometimes on an island. Other times a dark cave. Any place I thought would help me psychologically feel safe.

For me this worked. It was quite a bit of work to do and surprisingly my safe place changed every night, depending on what had happened during the day. Best wishes to you @Bridgette . I hope you are able to find peace.


hello brigette. welcome to the forum. sorry for what brings you here, but glad you are here.

side question
are you getting out and about on your own? the reason i ask is because working from home invites unnatural levels of isolation and isolation is the meanest trigger in my own repertoire for dissociation and all its gnarly cousins of many names. breaking isolation is critical for managing my own symptoms. as wonderful as my darling hubby is, he doesn't really count as an isolation breaker because he is always there. after a while, he becomes part of my isolation.

just wondering. . .

i mostly wanted to welcome you aboard.


Disassociation is something that can be learned to be worked around, 6 ways from Sunday.

It’s a bit jarring, in the beginning of a jag, but it won’t even slow you down once you’ve mastered it. It’s like learning to be functional drunk, or sick, or in any other way not on your A-game. Just takes a bit o’ practice.

The ptsd cup explanation <<< can help