*Depersonalization- a sense of detachment from yourself, as though you are an outside observer of your own mental processes or body.
*Derealization- is the perception of unreality, with your entire surroundings appearing unreal, dream-like, or distant.
In previous posts I've talked about the "cloudiness" in my head. Depersonalization and derealization are what I'm actually referring to. In my opinion its easier to say (and for me to accept) that my mind is "cloudy"; because it takes someone who is really okay with expressing their vulnerability to share how they feel detached from their own mental processes or how some of what they're experiencing in their day to day appears unreal and distant.
For months though I didn't have a description for the cloudiness I was experiencing; and while it might be embarrassing in a mental health dark-side kind of way to admit it, not understanding it was way, way worse.
I first read about the terms a little over a month ago. I've been working through a new book, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne. Technically, the two words and their descriptions were located within a section explaining anxiety related to PTSD. Now, I don't know everything about anxiety even though I know a shit-ton more than I did six months ago. And, I actually feel pretty confident that I could teach a class at this point in how to understand how anxiety persists and how to help manage through it all...but I don't consider myself an expert.
While I read about anxiety and all of anxiety's companions, I try to make sense in how it relates to me and my life. There is no one explaining it all to me. And although I have never before experienced the awful settings that elicit PTSD types of anxiety responses, when I read the descriptions of those two words I felt like someone had managed to articulate exactly what I've been dealing with. As if someone figured out what I'd been trying to describe without ever talking to me...and they did it so completely. It was like I'd found my people.
It's hard to describe the calm that comes with this knowledge. The idea that not only have other people experienced similar feelings and thoughts, but that enough people have that it requires the existence of such terms. It's oddly comforting.
These types of thoughts and feelings and experiences that come with the "clouding" are isolating. They're incredibly lonely when they latch on. They're so foreign to a "normal" mindset that they make you feel like no one could ever possibly understand.
But people do. I wish I could meet them.
My working theory is that the "cloudiness" that continues to encroach my thoughts is like those people who all of the sudden realize someone has been living in their attic or their basement. For years they've been co-habitating, and they didn't even know.
I started having panic attacks back in the fall of 2012 according to my super sophisticated tracking system. Three of the four occurred within the same school year. I was unhappy with many aspects of my place of employment. No need to drudge up the past, but it is important to mention. I was deep into deciding if teaching English was going to keep being my thing.
That same fall I took my first nutrition class. I liked it, but I wasn't sure where to go from there. I didn't like the idea of starting over. It seemed terribly daunting. Being wary of moving forward, but tired of standing still...is not an easy resolve.
To me, looking back, the stress of indecision and an overall lack of purpose...the feelings of stagnancy, and the uncertainty about my future all contributed to these breaking points...or as I like to call them now, warning signs. Panic attacks are our bodies way of letting us know that something is off; but most likely it doesn't have anything to do with what we're actually doing in the moments when one pushes through.
We hang on to stuff. We worry. We try to figure out how we fit into this world. We seek purpose. We seek happiness.
Anxiety builds in times of change and uncertainty and stress. These last couple years my life has been very different than it was at other points in my adulthood for a multitude of reasons. Some very good and some not so good. At some point through all of my changes and stresses and uncertainties, I think someone moved into my attic and I just didn't know.
This summer, that attic dweller decided to make his presence known by throwing one outlandish rager after another. Day after day I dealt with this asshole...this squatter. I've managed to quiet down the parties he insisted on for so many months, but have yet to evict him completely.
And so the "cloudiness" looms on.