The Horror of Derealization and Depersonalization | A Reader’s Perspective


The power of sharing and connection are undeniable. And that’s why I love running guests posts. Absorb Chipur reader Magda’s perspective on derealization and depersonalization.

Derealization and Depersonalization | A Peculiar Pattern

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
…from “The Hollow Men”   T.S. Eliot

It all started back in the skinned knee memories of childhood. It started out in the plains area where the cornfields came together with the prairie like the borders of a quilt. It started with a child’s question – something seemingly innocuous enough. The question was, “Is any of this real?”

Since posing that question, I have flimsily existed between the borders of two realities. One where I felt I must seek out painful isolation to be safe, and another where I navigate with my white knuckles through feelings of unreality and alienation.

I didn’t know they had a name until I was into my twenties. The phenomena are known as derealization and depersonalization. They’re alterations in thought, disruptions in time and space, and horrifyingly taxing on the mind and spirit.

Derealization is the stunning conviction that makes you question the reality of the world. Depersonalization is the event of interpreting the self as unreal. They can and may occur together, as in my case – and they can disappear or dig into you with teeth as time marches forward. So far they have been dogging my heels since I was eight.

I have my faith, but faith does not answer all doubts. I have learned to interpret signals of fear in places where there is no threat present. My home is both my refuge and my jail. I have both the ache and horror of watching other people’s lives fill with cheer, love, hope, and all positive affirmations while I waste away by the day.

I am the opposite of a productive mind. I am the product of an inside out mind that has turned against itself and left to atrophy in a constant environment of pure negativity.

The small kernel of good news is that I am not alone in this. Out there in other states and other countries, day in and day out, people feel like they are losing the battle with reality and their own intellectual stability.

Derealizaiton and depersonalization are insiduous. You develop a knack for functioning in an altered state. It’s something that is even more terrifying to try to describe as you realize the weight of the opponent against whom you struggle.

“What do you mean ‘not real’?” people ask me. There are no words pieced together by the hands of the English language or crafted by the swinging German hammer – or implemented into any other language of mankind that facilitates what you experience. You only realize you have it when you have it. And by the time you have it, you simply just want it gone.

It is a burden you want to spin around and send in the opposite direction. It operates like a demon, turning all that should be good into evil and fear, and all that should be negative into savagely commonplace occurrences.

The good news is that people have risen out of this. They have been expelled from the shadows that once hid them and the fear that overtook them. The illness has an ebb and flow. Stretched to the point of breaking, the human soul has never been so pensive nor beautiful as it is when it is tested by the fire of derealization and depersonalization.

Just as gold must be tested through the roaring furnace so we, too, must pass through our misery. But misery is not always renewed. Sometimes it is replaced with strength.

Thank you, Magda (from Alabama, incidentally). Strong stuff, and I appreciate your openness and spirit of participation.

Again, the power of sharing and connection are undeniable. Here on Chipur it’s about mood and anxiety disorder sharing, learning, and healing. Any insight we can gain into derealization and depersonalization – manifestations of mood and anxiety woes – is hugely important.

If you’d like to learn more about derealization and depersonalization, check-out my three-part series “Derealization and Depersonalization: Perceived Madness.” Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

Would you like to read more Chipur articles? Type a topic of interest in the search box, or select a subject in Chipur’s “Choose a Topic!” feature. Both are top right.

  • Patricia Miller December 25, 2012, 10:46 am

    Fantastic summary of the experience. I’m sorry you have suffered, and so encouraged that you remain focused on triumph in the face of such pain and struggle. You are in my heart as you go through this. I truly do understand the struggle and the challenge. Thank you for sharing so eloquently. Patricia

    • chipur December 25, 2012, 1:56 pm

      Didn’t she do a great job?! I love this piece. I’m always so happy to present guest posts – they’re all about sharing and learning from each other. Thanks for your comment, Patricia…

  • Jennifer Martz November 13, 2014, 8:59 pm

    I love this. I’ve had DP for the past three years, and it’s the most difficult experience I have ever gone through… that I’m still going through…

    • Chipur November 14, 2014, 9:15 am

      Hi Jennifer!

      Sure appreciate your Chipur visit and participation. Glad you were able to connect with what Magda had to say. As someone who endured derealization and depersonalization for mucho years, I can tell you I feel your pain. I can also tell you they’re a thing of the past – and the same can apply to you. This is not a matter of some sort of independently diagnosed monster that can’t be stomped-out. Both are manifestations of mood and/or anxiety woes – symptoms. So when you notch-down the mood/anxiety stuff, the dissociative symptoms hit the highway. Oh, and be sure to read my three part series on derealization and depersonalization – links in the article above.

      Again, thanks so much for stopping-by and contributing, Jennifer. You’re always welcome here…


  • Scott January 1, 2016, 10:40 am

    I have severe DPDR and feel like I’m in hell 24 hours a day. I got one break for three hours about a week ago, but the rest of my time, for the last month, has been filled with dizziness, a feeling that the world around me isn’t real, and feelings of madness. Miserable. No one seems to understand just how terrifying this is.

    • Chipur January 1, 2016, 6:44 pm

      Hi, Scott! Welcome to Chipur, and thank you for your participation.

      Well, I can sure understand how terrified you feel. Though it’s been decades, I was in the same ballpark. However, I must say, my experience with DPDR leaned toward the episodic. Still, I get it.

      I’m assuming you’re seeing a therapist and, perhaps, a psychiatrist. I think working with both is important. And what’s also important is to understand – believe – DPDR, in the vast majority of cases, is a symptom (manifestation), not a disorder on its own. So that means if we can pinpoint and treat the underlying cause (trauma, anxiety, depression, substance use, stress, etc.) we can eliminate DPDR (the symptom). I truly believe that!

      Best to you, Scott. Don’t quit, okay? It all really can go bye-bye…