The Road of Disturbing Memories – Part One

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I drove on Highway 236 today.  It’s a windy, mountainous road high up in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains of California, surrounded by towering redwood trees.  While driving this route I’ve often spotted families of deer along the wayside.  For all I know, I’ve unwittingly passed a mountain lion or two!  (There have been recent sightings of them over the past year.)

It was a slightly cool, sunny day as I wove my old, white Suburu Forester up and around the curves of the steep highway.  It takes me over forty minutes to reach my therapist “Tara’s” home office, and while it’s a total pain in the ass to get there, a session with Tara is worth the effort.  When I’m not feeling up to making the rigorous drive, I opt for a phone session, but Tara prefers to see me face-to-face.

GreenTara

The “Green Tara” Buddhist Goddess

Over the past four years I’ve driven this road to visit Tara in all kinds of emotional states. A few times I met with her when I felt fairly stable, a handful of times I was hypomanic and manic, but most of our visits have occurred when I’ve felt deeply depressed.  She has been supportive and available to me and my family in ways that have gone above and beyond what most counselors offer their clients.

I first met Tara at the co-op preschool where each of our daughters were students.  At first I found Tara a little intimidating.  She looked like a tall, blonde supermodel and she appeared confident and serene.  As soon as I found out what Tara did for a living, however, my intuition prodded me to ask her if we could meet.  

We had a good rapport, and I felt that Tara not only knew what she was doing, but she genuinely cared about helping me feel better.  It didn’t hurt that she hailed from Germany and had a beautiful, scholarly German accent.  Tara and I were able to keep our boundaries clear; it never became problematic when I saw her at the preschool or around town.

When I was hospitalized a year ago, Tara invited my daughter Avonlea to stay at her house to play with her daughter so Avonlea could have a good time, and to help make things easier for Craig.  Tara was also one of the very few people who offered to visit me at the hospital last summer.  She lived over two hours from the hospital, and I was very moved by her willingness to make such an arduous journey for a client.  

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Nowadays, every time I drive to a therapy session, I can’t help remember the Geodon incident. Several years ago, I was prescribed the atypical antipsychotic Geodon by my former psychiatrist.  I hoped with all my heart that it would make a dent in my bipolar depression, but since I was “medication-resistant” I felt dubious any pill could help me.   

The first few weeks it seemed that Geodon was truly helping me.  I was in shock to feel the weight of depression finally lift.  It was a sensational feeling as I hadn’t felt happiness like that in a long time.  But then my bipolar depression returned with a vengeance and along came some brand-new, terrifying sensations: derealization and depersonalization.

Before this experience happened in my life, I had no idea what deprealization or depersonalization even meant.  I’ll paraphrase their Wikipedia definitions: “Derealization is an alteration in the perception of the external world so that it seems unreal.” Depersonalization consists of “a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation.  The world has become vague, less real, and lacking in significance. ”  Both sensations were over-the-top horrific, as I’m sure you can imagine.

When I first experienced these conditions I was driving down a steep, super-windy hill on Highway 236 after a session with Tara.  The unnerving states came upon me suddenly.  I didn’t feel like myself.  Worst of all, I felt like I was losing my grip on reality.  I clutched the steering wheel so tightly that my hands cramped for hours into the night.  I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to keep my car from veering off the road.  It was a miracle that I made it home safely.

Unless you experience depersonalization/derealization, you can’t understand it, and I hope you never will…

to be continued

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13 thoughts on “The Road of Disturbing Memories – Part One

    1. Thank you, Doreen!!! 🙂 I feel blessed to have you as a reader; I look forward to reading your latest blog post on “Always Recovery”…as always! 😉

  1. I’ve had depersonalization happen to me several times and it’s scary. For me it’s like I think about doing something and I may voice it aloud but then I get up and go do something else because that thought was unspoken. I feel sort of…robotic in a way. It’s really strange. I used to have epilepsy and had seizures so having this feeling of losing control is really unsettling

    1. Hi there Meredith, and thank you for commenting!

      The way you describe your experience with depersonalization as being robotic sounds unnerving, that’s for sure. I’ll be writing a little more about the topic in the next day or two, and I’ll mention a few resources that can possibly help us.

      I am glad you no longer have epilepsy, by the way!!!! No wonder when you experience depersonalization it reminds you of losing control due to the seizures you used to have.

      I hope that you are having a good day that’s 100% devoid of any depersonalization! I’m off to check out your blog… 🙂 (I think you have one! ) Take care and once again, thanks for stopping by my blog & for sharing.

      Dyane

  2. Depersonalisation or dissociation have been my brain’s coping mechanism since before I was even 10 years old. My brain would get me out of terrifying bullying situations (being choked or suffocated by other kids at school).

    I’ve had close calls on the road and once nearly electrocuted myself at work. It was one of the reasons my wife encouraged me to seek help all those years ago when we first met.

    She’s my guardian angel 🙂

    1. Hey James, well, I am majorly relieved that depersonalization helped you to escape the hellish bullying – what a nightmare – choking??? suffocating??? OMG.

      The road is an awful, awful place to lose touch – but then again, any place is!

      As far as almost getting electrocuted on the job??? Once again, this California born-and-bred girl must yell out “OMG!” I am relieved you made it through that near death experience….
      you are a survivor of the highest degree.

      You are sweetheart and I’m glad you have your guardian angel -you deserve that – my Pisces intuition tells me that she feels the same way about you! :))))))

  3. Hi again, I just finished reading your post, Anger. I’m sorry I didn’t visit you in the hospital. I would have loved to, but I didn’t know you were there. Perhaps you can leave a phone chain for Craig to start next time you need support, and we can all help by calling the next person on the list. I’ve visited my brother many times in the BHU. You’re right that cancer and other illnesses get much more empathy and support. It’s not fair.

    1. How terrifying,

      Dyane! I once had a somewhat similar out of body experience while driving over the Bay Bridge and tested whether I could safely change lanes because I did not want to have to stop in the middle of the bridge (extremely dangerous).

      Tara sounds like a godsend. I am so glad to hear that your healer is so compassionate, supportive, and most of all – loving.

      1. Dear Kitt, oh my goodness – I find the Bay Bridge scary enough to drive across when everything is okay, you know what I mean? I am SO glad you made it over the bridge safely!!!! That’s a a major understatement. I know you also had a very different experience going over a bridge, am I right? Something that (and you mentioned this aspect) sounded manic, but to me seemed deeply spiritual more than anything else…you write about it in your fantastic blog. I just have a poor memory for details this morning as I’m a groggy froggy. Ribbit!

        Yes, Tara is amazing, but I stopped putting her on a pedestal a while ago. I had a tendency to do that with other professionals…

    2. Hey Barb! Thank you so much for this lovely, kind comment. I didn’t expect any friend I had lost touch with over the last couple years (my fault, not yours) to know what was going on. I think that’s a fantastic idea to leave a phone chain for Craig just in case. I know in my heart that you would come see me. I can’t say that about many people. You’ve been a wonderful sister to visit your brother when he has been in crisis.

      I’ll be getting in touch with you very soon, btw, as I want to hang out with you! I know you’re busy preparing for the homeschooling conference, and I’d really like to hear more about that. I checked out Nature Academy on the web and found it to be very interesting. – it looks like a demanding program, to say the least! Anyway, thanks for reading my anger post, and I’m sorry to take a few days to respond! thinking of you….Much love, Dyane

  4. Sounds like a terrifying experience. I’m glad to hear that you have such a wonderful, dedicated therapist. Hope to see you and girls soon.

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