Depersonalization Strikes Back: 17 February 2020

Remember yesterday how I said I felt the depersonalization merry-go-round seemed to be slowing down so I could finally get off of it?

After I wrote that blog and did a handful of other things, I went to sit down on the couch and watch YouTube. Looking up a famous organist Noel likes on my phone, I found out that he was playing here in Christchurch in March, so I was trying to see if I could get tickets. Yes! Tickets available. Let’s book those!

It took me about 20 tries (no kidding), and between Noel talking excitingly at me, me trying to follow the instructions on my phone screen (and me rarely booking things on my phone to start off with), YouTube blaring away in the background, and a long day, I felt the tugging on my head. Depersonalization. Not as strong as it can be, but it was pretty much there.

In the end, before I chucked my phone into the wall, I got up and used a computer to book the tickets. Even that was a hassle and a half, but it went through in the end. Phew.

Sometimes frustration turns to depersonalization. Actually, it quite easily turns into depersonalization. Again, internalizing the emotion does not help at all.

Add to that everything else going on around me and disrupting my concentration, and it’s a perfect recipe for depersonalization. It feels, suddenly, very overhwleming. And by “it”, I mean life in that moment.

Later last night, our cat Sissy cuddled up to me, and petting her helped bring me back to the present. I honestly didn’t have very many internal feelings or sensations going on at that point, so it was hard to focus on those like my counselor taught me. The depersonalization episode didn’t fully dissipate, but it did ease up quite a bit.

I could tell this because my dreams, at certain points, dealt with things long past done and gone, or, even worse, became dark and disturbing.

The one dream kept expanding. The building The Place Where I Work was in during the earthquakes was the location. Around this time of the year — the anniversary of the 22 February 2011 quake — I dream about it a lot. It was where I was for that major quake, and the 13 June 2011 quake damaged the exterior enough that it made the interior unsafe, and by the end of 2011, the building had been demolished completely, so it now is a ghost in my head.

white building during sunrise in March 2010
Unit 7 in March 2010. The photo is taken in a moody sunrise, which foreshadows its demise a little over a year later.

In reality, the plan for the building post-22 February 2011 quake was to remove the concrete panels from the outside to make the building safe. From memory, it had something like 35,000 metric tonnes of concrete panels on the outside. Between the 22 February 2011 quake and the 13 June 2011 quake, a construction company was trialing this by removing the panels from our neighboring building, a carbon copy of our building without the earthquake strengthening.

In my dream, Unit 7 (our building — there were 9 buildings, 5 in an older style that are still standing, 4 in a newer style, all of which are now demolished due to damage) was still standing, and the builders were refurbishing all the units so that the roofs could hold a parking lot. I spent the night trying to figure out how the building would hold the cars, how people would get up and down from there, and all sorts of wild ideas.

white building under demolition, October 2011
Unit 7 under demolition in October 2011. The concrete panel on the ground at the bottom left-hand side is one of the large concrete panels that detached and fell in the 13 June 2011 quake.

In previous dreams about Unit 7, and in this dream too, there was an addition made to the side of the building: a two-story glass box-like addition, holding a staircase to go upstairs and a main entrance to the building downstairs. In reality, there was an extra entrance at this point on the building that remained closed throughout the earthquake sequence due to damage, but the addition was never a serious consideration.

Large crack and sagging door frame and window from earthquake damage to Unit 7
The earthquake damage to the secondary entrance. You can see the door and window slumping towards the middle.
Fingers inside gap between wall and window due to earthquake damage at Unit 7
Noel’s hand in the gap, just to show how large it is. Yes, that is outside you can see through the gap.

And the glass-box addition was being seriously discussed and planned in my dream too.

My other, more disturbing dreams, involved car crashes, not so much the crash themselves but the aftermath. In one, a woman was screaming because a young woman in one car, which had flipped on its side, was bloodied and dead, her eyes open and blank. In another, an older woman was on a bike with her dead daughter, another teenage woman, her eyes open, her face ashen, her arms flopping about.

My response to this all was very flat. Depersonalization at its finest. No horror, no recoil, no sadness, no compassion, only a feeling of very flat disinterest.

So it seems that perhaps the merry-go-round is still spinning and it’s not yet time for me to get off of it. We will see.