The Road of Disturbing Memories – Part Two

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After I published part one of “The Road of Disturbing Memories” I received great feedback from some of you.  Best of all, I didn’t feel so alone with the depersonalization/derealization that I’ve suffered since taking Geodon in 2012.

My theory is that the atypical antipsychotic Geodon actually triggered these two conditions in my brain, but I know it’s just that: a theory.  Then again, I haven’t done any research, so who knows? But I sense there must be some kind of connection between these terrifying states of mind and Geodon, for I never experienced either feeling before taking this medication.  The disorders struck  just days after I swallowed my first Geodon pill.  That just seems like too strong of a coincidence.

All that aside, I still suffer with depersonalization and derealization.  In some ways the “Two Damn D’s” freak me out more than even bipolar depression, and that’s saying a lot!  

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As a book lover I sought books that addressed these bizarre mental states.  Most importantly, I wanted to read experts’ opinions about effective ways to deal with them.  The first book I bought was supposed to be the most comprehensive book available on the topic:  Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder – a mindfulness & acceptance guide to conquering feelings of numbness and reality.  It was written by Fugen Neziroglu, PH.D., and Katharine Donnell, MA.  

In it the authors discuss ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and MCBT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) skills for coping with numbness, mind and body disconnection, and the bewildering feeling of living in an unreal world.

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As soon as I received my copy in January, 2012, I dove into it, but unfortunately I didn’t e complete the whole book.  I didn’t even try any of the techniques.

Ugh.

I did the same exact thing with another highly acclaimed book: Feeling Unreal – Depersonalization and the Loss of Self by Daphne Simon and Jeffrey Abugel.

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Double ugh.

Reading only the first part of a self-help book has been my “tried & failed” approach to reading 99.9% of the self-books I’ve ever read over the years.  When I first get a self-help book I feel hopeful at the possibility of feeling better.  Then I become overwhelmed by the information and exercises, and I start shutting down.

Although I’ve been very disciplined in other areas of my life, I haven’t been able to possess enough discipline when it came to following self-help books exercises.  Additionally, I didn’t set up an accountability factor (i.e. alerting my therapist and psychiatrist of my bibliotherapy plan) to do any of the exercises.  As a result, I set aside my books and gave up.  One became covered in dust on my bookshelf – the other was ignored in my Kindle.   

I’ve mentioned the “The Two Damn D’s” to both my therapist Tara and my psychiatrist in passing, but then I minimized what was going on with that to focus solely on my bipolar depression.  So even though it has been over two years since I’ve suffered with the “Two Damn D’s”,  it’s still early days for my dealing with them.  I know that I can’t keep shoving these perturbing states to the wayside; they’ll only fester.  

Just for the neck of it, today I searched WordPress blogs using the keywords “depersonalization” and “derealization”.  Imagine my excitement when I found a blog post titled  “Finding the peace of mind – or how to beat depersonalization and anxiety – this is my way of doing it”!

I quickly scrolled down my Kindle screen to find that the blogger of “The Borderline Personality Bliss and Mess” (great title) wrote that taking long drives would throw off her depersonalization.  My heart sank.  Driving was the exact activity that made my depersonalization and derealization much worse.

How different we all are!

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It’s sooooo tempting to just not address with “The Two Damn D’s” and keep them on the back burner.  I already have my hands full with dealing with bipolar disorder every day as well as taking care of my children.  But I can’t ignore these lame-ass sensations.  I still have my “The Two Damn D’s” books; in fact one sits by my laptop, reminding me that I have to do something, anything about depersonalization and derealization.  

As I’ve only mentioned this problem briefly to my psychiatrist, I think I need to make it our primary topic of discussion at our next session.  I have a feeling he knows about ACT, DBT, and all the “T” therapies out there, since his forte is therapy!  (He almost became a psychotherapist instead of a psychiatrist; I believe this explains why he is such a compassionate doctor.)

Unless I spontaneously, miraculously heal, (hey, never say never!!!) I’ll write a “Part Three” later this summer.  My psychiatrist always has cool insights and practical suggestions, and  I’d like to share them with you.

Have a great 4th of July and I’ll see you next week!

Dyane

p.s. as always, I’m open to your suggestions and I love your comments.  Please comment away to your heart’s content!

 

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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.

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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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