SHE | MY PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH DEPERSONALIZATION-DEREALIZATION DISORDER

 “ Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ”

—Lao Tzu 

Two years ago, at this exact time of the year I was broken, shattered. I couldn’t really make sense of what was happening to me, all I knew was that I was mentally unwell—and physically as a result and that I was experiencing life in a totally different way, a very scary way. I felt this heavy pressure surrounding me at all times, it was suffocating me, choking me. Strangely enough, I also felt like I was floating on top of my own self and observing this “new me” that had taken place. Hoping that things might get better, they actually got worse and worse. Anxiety kept building up, feeding this dimension in which I felt trapped into.

My battle with depersonalization-derealization disorder ended roughly after 6 months of attempts at channeling my thought process and with active conversations with my sister—the only one aware of my condition at that time (I deeply thank you Carine). Being aware of my own thoughts, how they were processed and then translated into reality was vital in my journey. Knowing how to filter my thoughts was also key. Acknowledging that a lot of what was happening to me was a direct result of battles and fears that I had let sleep for so long was also key in realizing the importance of self-care. Those past ghosts were paying me back a visit, but in a totally different way and they would not go away until I had confronted them.

«nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know
…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. but what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. it just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.»

I stumbled upon these words by Pema Chödrön in the midst of the chaos I was experiencing and they highly resonated with me. They made me realize how much I was “closing down instead of allowing [myself] to experience fully whatever” I was encountering. In the first stages of my journey—stages because I saw myself and still see myself as a work in progress—denial became my best friend. I fought so hard to reject the possibility that I could be unwell and fought harder to appear well. Little did I know that acknowledging that my condition was real and seeing it as an integral part of my journey, rather than an obstacle, could have helped me journeying towards wellness.

My denial came from a place of pride and confusion. As black women, we were tought to be strong, to support and care for our sisters, brothers, mothers, daughters, sons. How could I be anything but strong? I slowly came to realize that it was okay not to be okay. I am one to deeply value privacy, so reaching out was a difficult task in itself. I feared being vulnerable in a time where I was already most vulnerable to my own self. I saw in vulnerability two things; the possibility for healing and renewal and at the same time, I saw it as opening doors for more wounds.

The latter was confirmed when I tried opening up to my family. My father’s reaction to my “anxiety” was dismissive and I was suggested to “pray it off”. I do not blame him though. It just made me realize that even for me, mental health was something I had yet to understand and that more conversations about the topic were needed in our communities.

Two years later I still don’t understand the whys and hows to my recovery, all I know is that I am grateful. I recently looked at past pictures and statuses I posted 2 years ago. I was curious to see how I presented myself while being detached from my own. Surprisingly enough, nothing I posted reflected my internal condition at the time.

My only wish for 2016 is that you take care of yourself and your own. Take time, it is necessary. Stop. Even for a minute or two, but do take time for you and allow yourself to be aware of your thought process. Take time to listen to your inner self. It has much more to tell you than you’d ever think. 

Take care of your loved ones. A smile, a simple presence can go a long way, never forget that. It is so easy to appear well, to pretend and yet feel shattered inside. But most importantly, respect people’s spaces and pace. Not everyone is willing to share their story with you, respect that. They will, if they wish, in due time.

With love,

Aurora x

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