People suffering from DP and DR are usually so frightened and crippled by their symptoms, that their main focus becomes getting rid of these symptoms and to feel ‘normal’ again. This was the case for me, too. It was all I thought about and all I wanted. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to live my life fully or focus on anything else while I felt like I was in a dream and was constantly battling with my mind and my worries.
I learned, however, that you can’t approach DP and DR as though something is ‘wrong’ with you, or as though it is a burden. You can’t try to fight it or override it, or approach it as something you need to ‘get rid’ of. Because DP and DR is a stress response, and it is something that is actually trying to help you, even though it feels like a curse. Nothing is really ‘wrong’ with you. In fact, the symptoms of DP and DR are a perfectly normal survival response to the prolonged state of extreme stress, anxiety, detachment from the self and a harsh environment that you have been subjected to.
When you start to view DP and DR as something that is your physical and emotional response to fear and stress, and your subconscious’ effort to protect you, you will start to feel less afraid of your symptoms, and instead can notice patterns in when they flare up, and take them as a sort of navigation system or alarm system, alerting you to the fact that you need to step back from whatever people, places or things are causing your symptoms to flare up, and move to an environment in which you feel safer.
To understand more about what I’m saying here, and before you continue reading, I highly recommend you read my blog post titled What Causes Depersonalization and Derealization. There, I talk about the environmental and emotional factors that have caused you to develop this condition, and how the feelings of dreaminess and disconnection mirror patterns of self-abandonment and self-disconnection.
In order to ‘cure’ depersonalization and derealization, it is absolutely essential that you understand what has caused it. It is the causes – the factors contributing to it – that need to be fixed or ‘cured’, not the symptoms. The symptoms are merely trying to alert you to the core problem, and although it seems like the symptoms are what is ruining your life and causing you so much suffering, the core problem is actually what has caused, and what will continue to cause you suffering and problems in life. DP and DR is not the problem – your lifestyle and thought processes are. Improve these factors, and DP and DR will cease to rule your life.
Step 1: Reconnecting to the Self
DP and DR is forcing you to reconnect with yourself – to take notice of how you feel physically and emotionally in every situation, and to take actions accordingly. If you have developed this disorder, you are used to overriding and suppressing your own emotions and feelings about things in order to survive in your environment and social/family setting. You have probably lost touch with the things that really interest you, and you most likely feel passionless or directionless. This is because you have abandoned yourself to survive to such a degree that you can no longer ‘feel’ yourself anymore – hence the depersonalization (feeling separate from the self).
Before you developed DP and DR, you were probably already prone to extreme anxiety or nervousness when going out into the world or in social settings, feeling like you were on ‘high alert’, constantly living on your nerves. Although your anxiety may have been a mystery to you, it is caused by your subconscious knowing that whenever you are with other people or in new places, you invariably suppress and override your natural instincts in order to fit in.
You are constantly (unknowingly) going against yourself, and because of this you continually put yourself in situations or take actions that are unpleasant for you. Subconsciously you know this, and your anxiety flares up because you are always preparing for the next episode of self-abandonment or the next ‘bad’ thing. You don’t trust yourself to make decisions or choices that benefit you, so you live in a state of fight or flight, always preparing for the worst.
Before DP and DR you most likely didn’t even realize you had these problems. You probably felt like you were happy and life was just fine. I felt this way too, and it wasn’t until I went through the process of reconnecting to myself that I could look back at my life prior to DP and DR and realize that I was not happy at all, and my lifestyle was not at all conducive to health or happiness. I just didn’t realize it at the time because I was so disconnected from myself. It was normal for me to feel that way and to override myself. DP and DR forced me to notice how I actually felt in my environment – and it didn’t feel good.
Since developing DP and DR, even though you may have been extroverted and social before, you are probably now feeling an overwhelming need to isolate yourself from your social group and from the world in general – to hide away at home and just be alone. The need to be alone is DP and DR forcing you to reconnect with yourself, to be with your own thoughts and feelings, and acknowledge them and familiarise yourself with them without the influence of anyone or anything else. Because at this point you are incapable of being present and loyal to yourself in social environments, your subconscious knows that you must be alone while you re-learn how to acknowledge, validate and follow your own thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Your need to be alone is also due to the degree to which you feel uncomfortable and distressed in your environment now. You most likely feel panicked or fearful at the thought of going to the places you used to go or being with your social group. This is because DP and DR has reconnected you to how you really feel in your environment – and for the first time you are realizing that you feel terrible in it.
This may be because your environment is actually very toxic or dangerous, or it could just be that you feel unsafe and frightened in it because you are constantly abandoning yourself for it. DP and DR is now forcing you to remove yourself from these threats until you learn to not abandon yourself and learn to follow yourself again.
Once you have re-learned these skills, you will feel safe enough to re-enter your environment. However, if your environment is particularly toxic or out of alignment, you may never feel safe enough to re-enter it. DP and DR will force you to radically alter your environment and the people in it permanently.
Again, it is not the symptoms of DP and DR that are making you incapable of being social or being in a certain environment, it is the environment itself or your behaviours related to it that are damaging you, and DP and DR has simply made you acutely (and painfully) aware of how uncomfortable you truly feel in these situations, forcing you to finally make changes that are for your benefit.
Now that you are aware of your true responses to certain people, places and things, you must acknowledge them and validate them. If you feel unsafe or scared, and want to run and hide and be alone, you must do this. It is perfectly normal to feel this way if you have a habit of abandoning yourself. Let yourself sit in the emotions, and be kind to yourself.
Do exactly as your body and emotions are guiding you. Learn to follow and trust yourself again. I cannot emphasize how key the process of reconnecting to yourself and your emotions is, and listening to them, in your recovery from DP and DR. Forget about pleasing everyone else now. You literally will no longer be able to do it.
Prioritise the way you feel over everything else. Once you start to act in accordance with your feelings, the choices you make and actions you take will be to your benefit, and your DP and DR symptoms will gradually dissipate as you will no longer be separate from yourself or afraid of yourself.
Step 2: Reconnecting to the Body
The depersonalization you are experiencing is your subconscious’ way of protecting you from environmental stressors and threats. You feel ‘out’ of your body and separate from yourself because it is too uncomfortable for you to be in your body while you are constantly subjecting yourself to people and place or decisions that are detrimental. As a survival response, you disconnect so these threats feel less severe. Your skin feels numb so you will no longer have to feel these things at all.
However, once you have started working on reconnecting to your emotions, trusting yourself and taking actions based on how you feel, you should gradually start to feel safer and as a result should start to come back ‘into’ your body, because you will no longer need to escape from a vessel that is undergoing perceived attacks.
To aid the process of reconnecting to the body, I recommend any kind of movement. I don’t mean exercising to the point of exhaustion or to become the next great athlete. I mean exercising purely to ‘feel’ your body again, to ground yourself in your body.
Because you are used to being in a state of perceived harshness and also sort of masochistic behavioural patterns, I don’t recommend any strenuous exercise or overally rigid, structured exercise. Avoid anything that makes you feel more stressed or is harsh – for example long, strenuous runs can be mentally and physically daunting and stressful. You don’t need to get a sweat up, just move. Swing your arms, skip around, go for walks, move to some music. Simple things. Spontaneous things. Keep it light – no pressure.
Stretching is also hugely beneficial. Stretching helps to release tension, fears and traumas that are held in the body. Any stretching that feels good or comfortable for you is good, but for people with this condition, deep hip openers are essential. The pelvis and hips are ruled by the root chakra, which rules our life force and personal power. By activating this chakra and releasing tension held in this area, you will aid the process of reconnecting to yourself, trusting yourself and regaining your personal power. It will also help you to feel more grounded and stable in life, and less fearful or fragile. For more information on deep hip openers and stretching in general, see my post titled STRETCHES FOR SELF-CONNECTION AND TRAUMA-RELEASE.
Because people with DP and DR often feel unsafe in the world and as though their environment is harsh, they often have poor posture and poor breathing. You may have forward neck posture or rounded, hunched shoulders. You probably lean forward and have a collapsed chest. This is the body’s natural defence mechanism to protect the heart and stomach from threats in the environment.
Poor posture, unfortunately, leads to poor breathing patterns (breathing disorders – I was diagnosed with this). Breathing disorders will exacerbate the symptoms of DP and DR as our breathing affects our nervous system. Poor breathing can also worsen poor posture, as the more shallow or irregular your breathing pattern is, the more your body will compensate by adopting certain unhealthy postures.
Stretching is another way to improve posture. It helps to retrain your muscles, and open your chest back up, helping to activate your heart chakra (which you have been protecting by hunching over).
Your posture also mirrors how you feel about yourself and how you feel in the world. When you see someone who walks with their heads down, shoulders rounded and neck out, they probably struggle with anxiety and feel generally unsafe in the world. Their breathing is probably weak, and as a result, they feel fragile, nervous, and suffer from cold sweats and clammy hands (also linked to poor breathing).
Your breathing, next to food, is the most primal function in our survival. If it is flawed, it has a profound effect on our mental health and quality of life. By deepening and calming the breath (breathing from the diaphragm), and opening the chest, we can feel stronger, safer, and more confident. Shallow, panicked breathing, gasping for air (gasping for relief in a spiritual respect), can lead to strange tingling and numbness of the skin, lightheadedness, and for those suffering from DP and DR, it can make your symptoms much, much worse. For more information on how to correct your breathing, read my post titled HOW YOUR BREATHING PATTERN AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
Step 3: Nutrition and Nourishment
The food we eat has a huge impact on our mental state, emotions and energy levels – our gut and digestive system are actually referred to as the ‘second brain’.
If you are suffering from any kind of emotional or mental disturbance, it is essential that you consume foods that nourish your brain and vital organs, as well as stabilize your blood sugars and hormones. For people suffering from DP and DR, this is especially the case. It is important that you eat foods that will help to bring you back to earth, so to speak, and to ground you back in your body.
Root vegetables, as in vegetables that literally grow in the ground, are excellent for this. Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, beetroot, and many others, fall under this category. Starchy, heavy vegetables are particularly good as they are calming and fill the gap of ‘nervousness’ and the feeling of lacking a solid centre.
Whatever you choose, make sure the foods you consume are in their most natural state as possible. Foods in their natural state are always the most nutritious, and they also lack the harmful toxins that are harsh on our bodies and contribute to being in a state of stress.
Avoiding salty, sugary and/or highly processed food is essential. It is not just that these foods lack nutrients, but they are full of additives and other ingredients that cause imbalances in our moods because they affect our hormones and blood sugar levels.
The way these foods are produced and the vibration they hold is also very harmful. Since developing DP and DR, you may have found that you don’t need to ‘try’ to eat healthier food, you may have found that since becoming hypersensitive to your environment, this also extends to the food you eat, and that you simply can’t eat fast food or processed foods anymore without feeling unwell.
This is because foods produced in bulk, in factory environments, carry the harsh energy of the environment in which they are produced. They are produced in a rushed manner, and the sole goal (most often) is money, not that there is anything wrong with this, but it is a problem when the goal is profit at the expense of the health of the consumer or with no consideration for the health of the consumer.
Foods also carry the energy of the people who handle and package them, and if factory workers are unhappy or mistreated, your body consumes this energy also. If you can, purchase fairtrade foods and avoid mass-produced, processed foods. Fast-food chains are a no-no, too, of course!
Focus on eating foods that are alive, not dead. Process foods fall under the ‘dead’ category. Cook your own food as often as you can, as it will carry the energy and intention with which you have made it, which is to nourish yourself. Pay attention to your emotions and physical symptoms after eating meals prepared by yourself, compared to foods that are mass-produced. Notice the difference. Handle the food you eat with care, as it always takes on your vibration. Remember you are putting this in your body – you don’t want to consume things that carry negative or harmful vibrations, particularly if you are already feeling distressed.
Eat regular meals, and always eat when you feel hungry. Don’t deprive yourself or make yourself wait for long periods between meals. Because your body is already in a state of stress and defence, things such as diets or any kind of harshness will make you feel much worse, and will only worsen your DP and DR, as it will give your subconscious more of a reason to be ‘out’ of your body. If your body is subjected to harshness, you will feel more disconnected and dreamy in order to be protected from this harshness.
Before I developed DP and DR, I ate irregularly and the foods I did eat were terrible. I was often cold and tired because I didn’t eat properly, but I continuously ignored this because I was not connected to myself enough to do anything about it. Because I didn’t take proper care of myself, I perceived my environment as being harsher than it actually was.
For example, when you don’t eat properly or regularly, your energy levels will be low, and things will feel generally more difficult. I was also cold a lot so I found daily life more uncomfortable, ‘harsh’ and mentally challenging. If your body becomes used to, or expects to not eat during the day or not received the foods it needs, it will naturally go into a state of tension and your hormones will respond accordingly to make up for this lack of nourishment. You won’t only feel low in energy and unwell, but you will feel as though the world is harsh, not a ‘nourishing’ place.
This is where nutrition overlaps with nourishment. Proper nourishment is not limited to the obvious or literal, like food. When I talk about nourishment, I mean the overall way you treat yourself. If you have DP and DR, you need to soften everything in your life. Your body and emotions, for the first time, need to experience the opposite of severity and harshness: softness.
This means doing what your emotions tell you to do, when they tell you to do it. It means cuddling up in warm places, resting and taking all pressures off yourself. Stop depriving yourself of things. It is important to eat nutritious food, but if you feel you need to eat sweet things or typically unhealthy things, allow yourself to do this. Do whatever you need to do to comfort yourself and give yourself that warm grounded feeling.
Eat the unhealthy foods you feel like eating, but make sure you also eat all the healthy, nutritious foods you need aswell. This is nourishment. This feeds your emotions too, and tells your subconscious that you unconditionally give your physical and emotional body what it needs. If certain foods represent comfort and safety to you, eat those foods, regardless of whether they are unhealthy, as this is what will nourish your emotional state, and help you to heal.
Nourishment can also extend to many other aspects of your environment. For example, you may have found that you can no longer wear certain clothes anymore as they are too uncomfortable. I found myself feeling acutely uncomfortable in my usual clothes. I felt angry and overheated when I wore tight clothing or unnatural fabrics. I found my favourite jeans awful all of a sudden and I just couldn’t wear them. I resorted to wearing baggy, ugly clothes, but I didn’t care because they were the only things that were bearable for me to have against my skin.
Since becoming hypersensitive, you too may find that you need to change the types of clothes you wear. Try to stick to soft, natural fabrics. Cotton, linen and wool are cosy. For the moment, don’t worry about how you look. Focus on being soft with yourself, and softening your environment. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and free.
You can come up with your own definition of nourishment and apply it to your life. For me, it just means listening to yourself and doing the things that make you feel good. It is the opposite of punishment or deprivation. To restore a feeling of safety within yourself and to allow yourself to come back into your body and to wake up from the ‘dream’, you must first nourish yourself and soften your environment, and make this a habit, so that you feel safe enough to be back in your body again.
If you are suffering from DP and DR, you must reconnect with your emotions, validate them, and listen to them. You must start making decisions and taking actions that are based on how you feel, and stop abandoning yourself. Develop boundaries and priorities how you feel over everything else.
The symptoms of DP and DR arise to alert you to the fact that either your environment is toxic, or that your behaviour and treatment of yourself within that environment is harmful, which is why you have ‘left’ your body, so to speak, and feel the need to stay away from your environment or social group. You have simply become aware of how uncomfortable you truly feel around these people on in these places, and now you are being forced to change the things that aren’t suited to you.
Your subconscious is merely trying to protect you from the perceived threats of your environment. It is safer for you and less painful for you right now to be in a ‘dream’ than to be in reality. Once you alter your environment and learn to listen to your emotions, your DP and DR will gradually dissipate, as it will no longer need to protect you from anything or alert you to any problems.
This is such a frightening and crippling disorder to have, but if you can understand that it is just a defence mechanism, and something that is trying to protect you, it should help you to feel less afraid of it. Once you make the changes that DP and DR is urging you to make, and develop a trustworthy relationship with yourself, you will value the experience of DP and DR, despite its unpleasantries. It isn’t trying to ruin your life, it is helping you to live your life – for you.
I hope this helped.