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Charlotte’s Web: Real Person, Real Pain, Very Real Hope (Part 3)

What is Derealization?

“But tonight, even though I feel unreal and everything feels really strange to me, I’ve had sort of a ‘numb’ feeling. It’s like I don’t even care what happens anymore, like if the world’s fake then so be it.”

Those are the words of Charlotte. We met the 22-year-old chipur reader two days ago. She emailed me Sunday in great distress, and she’s allowed me to share our communication with you.

Charlotte’s having a very difficult time with panic attacks, derealization (dr), depersonalization (dp), generalized anxiety, and anxiety-induced depression. I shared her emails in Part 1, and offered my thoughts on each in Part 2. Just click on the links to catch-up. Part 1 Part 2

In this last in the series, I’ll present some super-neat insights.

Derealization and Depersonalization

Anyone who’s experienced dr or dp know their terror. I have personal experience with both, and am so grateful they’ve been in my rear-view mirror for many years.

I’ve written extensively on dr/dp here on chipur. In fact, click here for the first in the series, Derealization & Depersonalization: Perceived Madness.

In short, dr/dp are dissociative states. Without getting into buckets of psychobabble, let’s just say dissociation is a sense of detachment from one’s environment (dr) and/or self (dp).

Now, there is a phenomenon known as depersonalization disorder. However, I don’t believe Charlotte has it (though I’m sure she feels as though she does). See, in Charlotte’s case (as with my history), dr/dp are manifestations, rather than root disorders.

What does that mean? Well, it’s my belief Charlotte’s dr/dp are occurring as a result of her intense and snowballing panic, anxiety, and high stress level.

And the significance of that statement is, attempting to treat the dr/dp is likely going to bring Charlotte more anxiety and stress. For example, she’s taking 20 mg of fluoxetine (Prozac). And I believe she expects it to put an end to her dr/dp. Hmmm, what do you think?

The view from this side of the fence says it’s not the answer. But addressing the foundations of her panic, anxiety, and stress will have a profoundly positive impact.

Reading my dr/dp series is vitally important. Remember, the links are above. But let me share this…

Though they’re horrifying, dr/dp are our mind’s way of providing some answers. Here’s how it goes. Our acute panic, anxiety, and stress have snowballed to the point where we’re on ultra-high alert. As a result, we find ourselves in the midst of an emotionally void and hypervigilant state.

According to a very wise man, neuroscientist Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, we have but two alternatives to account for what’s happened: “The world just isn’t real,” presenting in the form of derealization; and “I’m not real,” presenting in the form of depersonalization.

Doesn’t just knowing that dr and dp are our mind’s way of trying to help us by filling in some blanks give them a softer, gentler feel?

Grace & Repair

Years ago I was cleaning out my wallet and found a folded index card with my chicken-scratchings on it. I opened it, and softly smiled as I read the words of M. Scott Peck from his classic, The Road Less Traveled. Here they are…

The symptoms and the illness are not the same thing. The illness exists long before the symptoms. Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cures.

The fact that they are unwanted makes them all the more a phenomenon of grace – a gift of God, a message from the unconscious, if you will to initiate self-examination and repair.

Click here to read an article I wrote about the wallet incident, and Dr. Peck’s words.

A Personal Note to Charlotte (…anyone)

Dear Charlotte…

I want you to know that I understand you’re in the midst of hell. Believe me, I’ve been there. As an anxiety veteran, and counselor, I’m telling you you’re not delusional, insane, or any of the things you may believe just now.

Your mind and body are in full-alert mode because of a perceived threat. Yes, those knots will have to be untangled – and they can be.

In the meantime, you’re being asked to hold yourself together during an immensely difficult time. And you can do it, as many of us have. Re-read Dr. Peck’s words just above and take them to heart.

You’re young, bright, and caring. Take it from someone who thought his life was over, you have a lovely future waiting for you.

chipur's Bill White

Bill

There you have it, chipur readers – Charlotte’s Web. Our web, don’t you think? And I know from personal experience, it can be untangled.

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