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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder

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Hi, I hope you're all doing well in your practice.
I've been suffering from what is called Depersonalization/Derealization disorder ever since I was 8 years old (I am now 22). I believe most of you are familiar with the disconcerning symptoms of this mental state. On the last few years I have come to realize that this condition is due to having traumatic existencial thoughts from a very early age, as well as insight into the weirdness of the experience being so taken for granted as normal for everyone around me. I used to panic about the fact I existed and the thought of death on a daily basis since I was about 5-7 years old. I could not express these thoughts to my parents as I lacked the vocabulary to do so. I also had some strong "alice in wonderland"-type experiences when I was probably about 7, I used to hear concepts or words such as "chair" repeating and increasing in size larger than reality itself, like a fractal. Both the image of a "chair" would repeat, as well as the sound of the words. My father used to take me to my room, turn off the lights and any stimuli which could make it worse. 

I've grown interested in mind investigation through meditation recently, and have meditated daily for 40 days now. Through psychedelic use on the last few years, I've gained insight that has both helped me tremendously (in the way of seeing past the game), and terrified me absurdly, sending me into a strong panic attack while completely sober, months after use, by remembering insights into reality that are probably delusional, but seemed very real to the mind. My goal with the practice is of facing this head on, as terrifying as it is. This is much easier said than done. 

I suspect this extreme feeling of unreality and no-self, which is extremely dentrimental to daily life, is rooted on a spiritual crises of some sort, and I have come here because you folks seem to know what you are doing, at least better than most, in the way of investigation on consciousness. 

I aprecciate the attention you have given me this far, and will listen with an open heart to any advice you might have for me.

RE: Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
Answer
9/26/19 9:55 PM as a reply to Jp A.
Hi JP, I'm a bit of a noob round here so don't take anything I say too seriously. I used to have some similar dissasociative states when I was around the same age, e.g. thinking about a word like "the" and suddenly realizing it doesn't have any meaning. Also some floating experiences in bed and weird feeilngs of my heading being impossibly large. Freaked me out and set off on many many years of anxiety, panic attacks etc. Also tried LSD once and whilst opening up the "doors of perception" also totally freaked me out and compounded fear and anxiety for many years after. Tried meditating as a teenager but sort of brought those kind of problems into too sharp relief and didn't know how to handle it (no guidance). Fast forward 25 years, very depressed and started meditating again using MCTB and learning about insight meditation. Suddenly it all started to make sense. Basically all those weird experiences are "normal" once you start to peer inside the gaps between sensations, thoughts and emotions. Anything is possible and nothing has any intrinsic meaning. Just reading about other people having similar experiences and knowing you are on a well trodden path makes a world of difference. In practice there's a balance between getting enough insight and not going so fast you go crazy. I mean you will go crazy, just hopefully slowly enough you can handle it. You start to see that sanity is just an artificial mental construction associated with growing up. Look at babies & toddlers - if they were adults you would say they were totally insane. And now you get the chance to reverse the process under controlled conditions. I would highly recognize Daniel's MCTB book to get you started. JUST READ THE DISCLAIMER about whether you are ready to start the process. I mean in some sense you are on the train but you also get to control the speed, at least at the start and then later it doesn't really matter once you realize how much bigger the whole thing is than you. I went through some very powerful anxiety attacks during meditation but once you get to observe it under controlled conditions and ride it out it starts to lose its sting. Eventually it gets kind of funny, like oh here comes 120 rpm hearbeat again and drenched in sweat for like no reason whatsoever apart from pure existential panic but existence can never die. After going through a few death-like experiences during meditation the thought of the real thing starts to lose its sting. Good luck and I hope someone more experienced and knowledgable chimes in.

RE: Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
Answer
9/27/19 3:45 AM as a reply to Jp A.
Jp A:
been suffering from what is called Depersonalization/Derealization disorder ever since I was 8 years old (I am now 22). I used to hear concepts or words such as "chair" repeating and increasing in size larger than reality itself, like a fractal. Both the image of a "chair" would repeat, as well as the sound of the words. My father used to take me to my room, turn off the lights and any stimuli which could make it worse. 

I suspect this extreme feeling of unreality and no-self, which is extremely dentrimental to daily life, is rooted on a spiritual crises of some sort, and I have come here because you folks seem to know what you are doing, at least better than most, in the way of investigation on consciousness. 

I aprecciate the attention you have given me this far, and will listen with an open heart to any advice you might have for me.

Hi Jp A,

My name is Ben Meijer, Im a therapist treating DP/DR.

Summary:
1. DP/DR can be treated and resolved.
2. DP/DR can be a stage of existential crisis AND
3. DP/DR can cause awakening.
4. DP/DR can be a stage of awakening.

More details:

1. DP/DR can be cured.Phase 1 - treat all traumas, panic, fears like fear of dying, going crazy. Phase 2. re-merge body and mind/emotions. Phase 3. Strengthen "self" and move from control to surrendering to life.
2. DP/DR can be a byproduct of an existential crisis. Some traums lead to existential crisis.
3. DP/DR rarely leads to more awakening. I have some clients that ...
4. DP/DR can be achieved as a snag in the awakening proces brought on by meditation. I have some clients like this.
You may want to read the MCTB documentation on the dark night of the soul, as well as Kim Katami's Awakening regarding the awakening proces.

Hope this helps.

Kind Regards,
Ben Meijer.

RE: Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
Answer
9/27/19 11:11 AM as a reply to Jp A.

RE: Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
Answer
9/27/19 2:44 PM as a reply to Jp A.
Hi JP,

I'm not sure if I should participate in this thread since my name is also JP, but I've got a couple suggestions:

- Don't try to assume that more insight will directly help with DP/DR.  My suggestion would be to instead shift goals from insight to building your capacity for emotional regulation and expand your window of tolerance.

- If you want to find a therapist to work with, I'd suggest looking for someone who does EMDR or Somatic Experiencing.  DP/DR is often associated with past trauma, and even if they're not, they're likely to be more qualified than a regular talk therapist to help you with stuff like the intense anxiety.

- Stay as grounded as you can in your regular life.  Eat regular healthy food, don't drink too much caffeine, make sure you keep sleeping, keep exercising or start exercising, maintain whatever regular habits you have with stuff like school, employment, and social activities.

- Try to regularly see friends or supportive people. 

- Don't try for really excessive amounts of practice time or try to practice all the time in a super goal-oriented fashion.  

- Consider switching your practice up to metta.

- You may want to read the r/streamentry Guide to Health, Balance, and Difficult Territory.