Know Thyself

Know Thyself

While conducting research for the final editing of my latest novel, I literally stumbled upon a concept that has radically improved my coping mechanisms…something of which I have admittedly been in dire need for a very long time.

I recognize that self-diagnosis is a slippery slope, but after a great deal of inquiry and assessment, I realized that I simply felt better knowing that not only was I not alone, but also that the simple recognition of my condition is in itself instrumental in my own recovery.

Just as it has been said that those who would try to act as their own attorney have a fool for a client, so also it is that those who would attempt to act as their own psychiatrist may by definition have a crazy person as a patient, but it all depends on how much they want to get better because in this case, the physician has to “heal thyself”.

No one can figure it out for you; once you are given the map and the compass, you only have to find yourself.

Recognition provides opportunities for alternate behaviors that target the isolation, and initiate theraputic responses.

For that reason, I am sharing this with my readers. Some of you may benefit from it yourselves; some of you may know someone who will.

Wikipedia describes Depersonalization Disorder (or Syndrome) as:

The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of “unreality in one’s sense of self”, and as such there are no clinical signs.

(This is probably because DPD victims are taught to cope, to move on and to ignore, mask, or overcome the symptoms. Divorcing oneself from one’s feelings enables a pattern of denial that allows the sufferer to continue to function despite overwhelming toxic stimulae.)

(Please note that I have added emphasis and comments throughout this text. This is typical of one of them. Also, the first time I saw the initialization of the syndrome, it sounded like a term of art from the Kink/Fet community…but that could just be me, I suppose.)

Depersonalization Disorder is frequently described as feeling disconnected from one’s physicality; feeling like one is not completely occupying the body; not feeling in control of one’s speech or physical movements; and feeling detached from one’s own thoughts or emotions; experiencing one’s self and life from a distance; a sense of just going through the motions; feeling as though one is in a dream or movie; and even out-of-body experiences.

People who are diagnosed with depersonalization also experience an almost uncontrollable urge to question and think about the nature of reality and existence as well as other deeply philosophical questions.

(Or is it more a matter of course that people are more prone to experience epiphanies and profound realizations that are triggered by the emotional, physical and sensory overload experienced as a result of Critical Incident Stress?)

(Those who choose to put themselves in harms way as a career often try to divine and attach meaning or purpose on a grand scale as part of the troubleshooting and diagnostic processes of our respective careers and life-long ambitions. This would appear to be an effort to prevent or resolve DPD by Rationalization.)

Individuals who experience depersonalization can feel divorced from their own personal physicality by sensing their body sensations, feelings, emotions and behaviors as not being theirs. This in effect, is the exact opposite of Sentience (as self-awareness).

Also, a recognition of Self breaks down (hence the name). Depersonalization can result in very high anxiety levels, which can intensify these perceptions even further.

A diagnosis is made when the disassociation is persistent and interferes with the social and/or occupational functions necessary for everyday living.

(Oh really? Just how fucked up do you have to be for this to be recognized? …Wouldn’t these people benefit from recognition and help long before it gets to that point? Even when I was that severely disordered, I never even knew that such a diagnosis existed, and the subject certainly never came up during numerous therapy sessions with many different mental healthcare professionals.)

Depersonalization disorder is thought to be caused largely by severe traumatic lifetime events, (such as the death of a spouse, or child, divorce, or other emotional losses involving a loved one), childhood abuse (verbal, emotional and sexual), accidents, natural disasters, war, torture, “…justifiable self-defense with extreme prejudice”, panic attacks and bad drug experiences.

(For many of us, “bad drug experiences” were regarded as failures to assimilate a positive outcome from an extremely challenging situation…after all, no matter what you experience, it all came from within you. You cannot fear the Poison Thought. Embrace it, and you will find meaning.)

Although the disorder is an alteration in the subjective experience of reality, it is not related to psychosis, as sufferers maintain the ability to distinguish between their own internal experiences and the objective reality of the outside world.

During either episodic or continuous depersonalization, sufferers are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and their grasp on reality remains stable at all times. (…or at least as much as it ever was…you could be completely delusional, for instance, and be quite stable.)

(For some, Zen meditation can lead to a paradoxical state of mind wherein the connection between the individual and all life, energy and matter is only recognized by detaching oneself from all personal biases and attachments including words themselves. Without a strong sense of Self, this strongly resembles DPD.)

Factors that tend to diminish symptoms are comforting interpersonal interactions (How about Romance?), intense physical or emotional stimulation, (especially sex) and relaxation (afterwards). Distracting oneself (by engaging in conversation, sexual escapades, meditation, or watching a movie for example) may also provide temporary symptomatic relief.

(Which does nothing to cure the condition, whereas “comforting interpersonal interactions” practically is the cure, or at the very least a good indicator of progress.)

Some other factors that are identified as relieving symptom severity are diet and/or exercise as well as psycho-pharmacological agents; while alcohol and fatigue are listed by others as to cause worsening of symptoms.

The exact cause of depersonalization is unknown, although bio-psycho-social correlations and triggers have been identified. Childhood interpersonal trauma – emotional abuse in particular – is a significant predictor of a diagnosis.

The most common immediate precipitators of the disorder are severe stress (either chronic or acute), major depressive disorder and panic; as well as hallucinogen ingestion.

(Personally, I never met a hallucinogen I didn’t like.)

Patients demonstrate abnormal cortisol levels and basal activity. (Frequently, the diurnal circadian rhythms are also disrupted.)

Studies found that patients with DPD could be distinguished from patients with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, (although the conditions may also exist concommitantly).

It has been thought that depersonalization has been caused by a biological response to dangerous, life-threatening or profoundly tragic situations which causes heightened senses and emotional neutrality.

Depersonalization disorder may be associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary disorder, the area of the brain involved in the “fight-(fuck)-or-flight” response.

(I honestly think that is a dangerous combination…it may keep you alive, but it also facilitates detachment from our actions in order to enable us to survive the unthinkable consequences.)

As I read the above description, I realized that it was a condensed synopsis of my life thus far, which for me, meant that I now had an identifiable, recognized series of causative agents to explain a condition that I had not yet discretely identified despite the fact that even my earliest childhood memories are filled with elements of those descriptions.

Until very recently, I believed that my adult experiences, including a twenty-two year career in Emergency Medical Services, five failed marriages, the death of a spouse, and a lifetime of bad choices and dangerous living were all that factored into my condition.

It has only been after careful re-consideration of my childhood and early adult life that I began to recognize how the pre-disposing anticedents of my childhood set the stage for what was to follow; not because I did not have any choice, but because I did not know that I had one.

I now realize that it is long past time to make peace with myself, to forgive myself, and acknowledge the horrors I have either survived or created, congratulate myself for my achievements, and to embrace my life and loves like there is no tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Depersonalization Disorder patients do not process emotionally salient material in the same way as do healthy individuals.

As a result, I have been in denial for so long, that every time I open the door even the tiniest bit, so as to allow my emotions to touch me, to allow even the happiest or subtle moments of joy to be experienced long enough to be felt and savored I am overwhelmed by feelings so strong that they feel as if they will tear me apart as I am swept away…and heroes are not allowed to cry.

This is not a test.

This is not a drill.

This is not a movie.

This is not a dream.

This is real.

Every day is a miracle.

Every day is judgment day.

Be here now.

This is the only life you will ever recognize as yours.

I share these observations and information not to call attention to myself. It is not something most people would be inclined to admit. My own recovery is a work in progress.

If you know an armed services veteran, or a cop, paramedic, or firefighter, doctor or nurse, chances are that some aspect of Depersonalization Disorder/Syndrome either has or will affect them or someone they know or love eventually, depending on whether of not they were pre-disposed to it by early primal life experiences.

Perhaps aspiring heroes are born out of the emotional needs created by dysfunctional or abusive childhoods, further predisposing them to harm from critical incident stress and isolation as adults.

The very same tools that we were taught to use to prevent us from becoming emotionally attached to the critical stress incidents that hurt and damage us as we are thrust into them have the potential to distance us from the rest of the world as well, long after the turmoil is over.

Awareness and recognition are the first steps toward healing.

Namasté

नमस्ते

3 Responses to “Know Thyself”

  1. Interesting… This is a lot to absorb.

    I am familiar with the description you provide, but in tandem with (or caused by or a side effect of or an ancillary condition to) PTSD.

    • Yes indeed. Furthermore, various forms of childhood abuse (even verbal) seems to predispose the victim to its susceptibility.
      I received large doses of both, and have come to believe that many damaged children end up aspiring to be heroes and in the process invite the trauma that pushes them to disconnect even further.
      Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
      The simple realization of the existence of DPS is helping me reconnect.
      tanks,
      Chazz

  2. I hope you are feeling stronger in this. Knowing thyself is not for the weak minded. That’s for damn sure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: