This subject is hard for me to talk about. For me, it’s the scariest part of panic disorder. It used to happen often, but thankfully it doesn’t anymore.
Here’s how I can best describe the feeling: I’m in a fog. I’m in a dream. I don’t know whose body I’m in. I’m not sure if everything around me is real. I want to cross the street, but the lines are wavy and the street signs are blurry.
Is this real? Am I really here? Who am I anyway?
I’ve had these weird thoughts since I was a girl. When I was in my 30s, I learned that there were actual terms for the symptoms that totally freaked me out.
Derealization (feeling as if the world isn’t real) and depersonalization (an anomaly of self-awareness; being a detached observer of oneself). Like an out-of-body experience.
The first time it happened was in fourth grade. I had to go to the administration office to get something for my teacher. This crazy sensation came over me that I wasn’t sure what I was doing in the office. Is this me? I sat in a chair until I felt better. Scary! And I was only ten years old. I didn’t mention the episode to anyone. How could I? Who would understand?
It started up again in high school. I’d be looking in a mirror and wonder, Is this really me? If not, who is it? I practically had to shake myself to stop those thoughts.
One morning I was sitting on the floor in front of my full length mirror, getting ready for work. Those strange feelings hit me so hard. I couldn’t stop them. I was shaky and felt like I was brushing eyeshadow on someone else. Like I was in a fantasy world. I called in sick that day.
I’d tell myself, Stop it! Stop thinking I’m not who I am! Don’t go there! I could easily make myself go to that weird, awful, freaky place. But it was hard to bring myself out of it. Once I stepped over into the land of distortion, I couldn’t get back. The trick was not going there at all.
That dreamlike (nightmare) state was what I always hated most about my agoraphobia and panic attacks. To be honest, as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if anyone really understands what I’m saying.
When my little Talee was having panic attacks, she’d say to me, “Don’t ask me questions. I don’t want to talk, because it doesn’t sound like my voice.” I knew exactly what she meant. And I was so sad for her.
It’s been years since I’ve gone into that frightening zone. Yes, “zoned out.” I’m thankful I rarely feel like I’m going there. And if I do, I can stop it. I tell myself, NO. I’m NOT doing this. Then I keep myself busy to distract myself.
Anything to keep me out of the dreaded fog, and back into reality.
Image courtesy of: https://www.pinterest.com/caputxi/conceptual-photography/