I have been living with this beast known as depersonalization now for 5 years, but I have to thank my lucky stars that where I was with it and where I am now with it are two entirely different places. This journey has been, and continues to be (at times), difficult.
A few days ago, I found this unfinished blog from 13 December 2018. Before I continue with today’s blog, I’ll share with you what I wrote.
13 December 2018
The honest truth is this: I have been struggling and fighting very hard over the last 4 years or so to get better.
I have no visible scars. I’m not missing a limb, or an eye, or an ear, or part of my jaw. There’s no limp, no lisp, barely an indication visually I have been unwell, or struggling, or fighting.
The dissociative disorder known as depersonalisation, like many other mental illnesses and conditions, leave no visible marks. Sometimes, they don’t even really present themselves as anything abnormal to other people. But they are measurable by a trained professional, and they can be devastating for the person affected by them.
I’m in partial remission. I have been mostly for the last few years or so.
But in the last few months, this disorder has been very difficult for me to live with.
It used to be that, when some part of me couldn’t deal with it all, I’d become numb or gloss over what I was feeling. This was a learned defence mechanism at play to take me out of a perceived (albeit somewhat unrealistic) threat of danger.
In the last few weeks, the sadness — due to self-care, due to acknowledging I continue to fight, due to understanding this battle is still ongoing — grew a new component: despair.
There have been people in my life who have been awesome and stuck by me through thick and through thin with this, and I appreciate it. These are the people who have kept me going and fighting.
There have been other people who have walked away, and it has reached a point where this is causing some of the despair. Did they care so little that they decided to turn their backs? Was it the false “happy-go-lucky” Scott who was appearing less and less as the true, multi-faceted me emerged (finally) that kept them with me? I probably will never know.
That’s where that blog ends. I never completed it, mainly because I felt it was too much a “Poor Scott” blog. (I’ll elaborate on that little syndrome in a blog or three at a later date.)
What happened to cause this level of despair?
Well, a lot of things, but the final straws came when people I thought I was close to, and who in themselves were friends with one another, decided en masse to distance themselves from me. Many of them were like my family here in New Zealand, so to lose so many people at one time in my life was very difficult. Especially in light of the fact that, in New Zealand, I have no family and very few friends to begin with.
In addition, I overheard one of those people gossiping about me while they were visiting a neighbour’s place. (It was probably on the day I wrote that blog entry.) After dinner, it’s time to take out the trash, and as I was doing that, I overheard part of a conversation, during which my name (and no one else’s) was mentioned a few times, and then someone else saying, “Ssh. Someone’s on the other side of the fence,” and the conversation grew into hushed tones.
(I want to put it out there that while I am not exactly the loudest person walking around, I wasn’t sneaking around either.)
The final topping on that ice cream sundae of hurt was this same person who was gossiping about me, an alleged friend, had a New Year’s Eve party, invited all our mutual friends, and indeed most of the neighbours in the neighbourhood, and did not extend that invitation to me.
Not one of our mutual friends asked, “Where’s Scott?” None of them went, “Hey, it’s not the same without Scott here. Let’s go get him.” None of that happened.
It hurt me a great deal.
I’m not a difficult person to get along with. As a matter of fact, in the last few weeks, I’ve heard several people say (in unrelated conversations) that I am one of the kindest, nicest people they know, which is a compliment of the highest regard. I believe strongly in what you give out there is what you get in return, so I try to be kind to others.
Speaking with my counselor about these events in 2018, he looked as if he was hurt on my behalf. I don’t always find it easy to read him as he doesn’t show emotion a lot during our sessions, but it appeared like he was shocked that a group of so-called friends would do that to someone like me.
Throughout my journey with depersonalization, I have discovered that sometimes we need to make hard decisions in order to let others know how we deserve to be treated. For too long, I let my self-respect slip, and during that, I lost my sense of self. I let people treat me sometimes horribly, and I allowed it, but I am trying to now stand up for myself more. This is something I am still struggling with.
But I learned that there is nothing selfish about some degree of self-care, and that self-care was something I was neglecting.
I cut all those people out of my life on New Year’s Day 2019.
Deleted all our Facebook friendships, blocked their numbers, blocked some of them on all social media: the whole shebang.
When I have seen some of them out in my day-to-day life, I don’t engage with them. I was angry and disappointed and hurt with them, but I don’t hold grudges easily so I have forgiven them, but they don’t deserve any of my energy any further.
Back in the States this year, and with other friends in New Zealand, I have found the depth and quality of those friendships and tried to nurture them more. I know I’m not the super-outgoing, funny, likable person I used to be. There are moments when that Scott does emerge, but now, mostly, I am quieter and more reflective. But — I do really enjoy my time with my true friends and family, and I try to appreciate every moment. It grounds me.
My closer friends and family have been telling me that I seem happier again. And I do, at times, feel a lot more content and happier in my life. So when I read what I wrote a year ago, feeling so despondent and so buried by my depersonalization, I felt I needed to let the world know that things can, and do, get better.
Depersonalization is a horrible illness, and, at least in my case, a lot of hard work and a lot of counselling have helped me mostly recover from it. It still takes time to unlearn ingrained behaviors and thoughts, to consciously steer myself from them, and I am still gaining my confidence back. This won’t all happen overnight.
But I am forever grateful for my good friends and family who have stood by me during this difficult journey. I do appreciate it more than I can ever say.