Depersonalization and derealization are often clumped together, but are completely different mental health anomalies. Today, I want to write about depersonalization.
Now, you might be wondering, how can a person with bipolar disorder understand and properly convey how depersonalization feels?
You feel as if you are not really there, but you are there at the same time. Do you get me?
Well, before I was diagnosed as bipolar, I was inaccurately diagnosed to depersonalization disorder. Depersonalization is also a common symptom amongst bipolar patients, and my experience with it was vivid enough to cause a misdiagnosis.
The experience of depersonalization is one of the strangest aspect of mental health I’ve ever experienced, and conveying the experience will require some understanding of self-awareness.
When you meet another person, you are aware of his existence, but at that point, your awareness of your own existence is limited. Because, of course you exists. You’ve always existed. Noticing your own existence is the same as noticing your own breathing. It takes an amount of concentration.
So imagine you are not watching someone else. You are actually watching yourself. It’s like playing a third person video game, where you have control over the body of another character, but you are actually still in control of your own actions. You know you exists as the character, but not as yourself.
Because sometimes, there is a lag. A discrepancy between reaction and reacting.
But it’s a little more than that. You’re sitting in the corner of the room, and you have a depersonalization episode. So instead of looking at the world through your own eyes, you’re looking at yourself, looking at the world, from the corner ceiling opposite of you, like a disembodied floating head.
Yet, the world does not look as coloured or detail as you know it to be. That’s because you’re trying to fill in the gaps in vision. Because you can’t actually see yourself from the opposite corner. Your mind just feels like it’s doing it, so it tries to replace the parts of your world you can’t physically see, making it blurry, and lacking in details.
For example, you’re looking up at the table from the ground, so you can’t see what the table has. Your mind feels in the blank and maybe you see the table as empty. Yet, when you stand up, there are stationeries on the table, and your mind fills in what you can see again.
I know it sounds like just a really bad acid trip, but you’re completely coherent in that period of time, even if you can’t remember everything. After awhile, it gets very disorienting. Because remember, you’re not actually seeing yourself from afar. You just feel like you are seeing yourself. You feel as if you are not really there, but you are there at the same time.
Do you get me?
And I cannot stress this enough, you cannot remember everything. There will be lapses in memories. You might remember having the thought, “I should go to the roof.” But once you are there, you might not remember how you got there. Remember, your mind is somewhere else, and it’s basically feeling in the gaps.
And let me tell you, it can get nauseating. Because sometimes, there is a lag. A discrepancy between reaction and reacting. You see someone tossing something over to you, but your brain takes that extra step in making you feel like you’re seeing it first. Your movements and reactions? Sluggish. Almost dream-like. It absolutely feels like you’re asleep and just walking through Wonderland.
I really, honestly thought I would have more to say about this. But That’s another thing I want to clarify. I have experienced severe dissociation, true. But I do not have a dissociative disorder.
From what I understand, dissociative disorders are multiple mental disorders and conditions that falls under the category of dissociation. They are basically conditions where and when your ability to differentiate between yourself and/or reality is hindered.
The classic ‘split personality’ seen in media also falls under this category, now called ‘dissociative identity disorder’. Now, while this post does its best to explain what dissociation is, if you think you fall under a category of a disorder instead of an experience, do seek medical treatment, as dissociation can be disruptive to life, sometimes even fatally.
Depersonalization is also a common symptom amongst bipolar patients
Aside from that, I really do have nothing left to add. I might make a new post to add-on to the other experiences within the dissociative disorder spectrum, such as a fugue state, but those will be for some other time.