Depersonalization and Derealization

Depersonalization and Derealization

My mental health has taken a hit recently. Unfortunately, I am person who will struggle with my mental health all my life. In the beginning, it was difficult to accept that I would never be ‘cured’ but, now I have, I am able to work on levelling out my peaks and troughs, while taking comfort in the knowledge that when I am down, I will come back up. In a way, this acceptance has helped me manage my chronic illness too, but that’s not the point of this post.

Today I want to talk about, not what caused this bought of depression, not how I’m managing it, but how I experience it. Today, I want to talk to you about dissociation.

When a brain is exposed to prolonged, sustained trauma, it will often learn to dissociate as a coping mechanism. That is, it will remove your consciousness from your body, from the time and place where you are, and give you an alternate reality to focus on so that you don’t have to endure what is happening to you.

For those of us with CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), even after the trauma has passed, the brain can continue to employ this technique to every day stressors. This can be a blessing and a curse. It means that when traumatic events do occur, we are better equipped to deal with them than the average person. We are often calm in high-stress situations because we are able to emotionally and mentally remove ourselves from it. But it can also caused severe mental illnesses such as DID, OSDD, sociopathy, psychopathy, psychosis and others. In me, it has distorted my sense of reality. The more stressed or anxious I am, the more I dissociate, so I struggle to remember some of the biggest moments in my life, like my wedding and my graduation.

Before I was able to name my problems, I always knew that I had difficulty distinguishing the difference between truth and lies. And not just the lies that others told me, but the ones I told myself too.

When I was a child I had imaginary friends who I sometimes forgot weren’t real people. Sometimes I even heard them speak to me. It didn’t help that my real friends and I would talk about them as if they existed in the world, but nobody else ever got confused like I did.

When I was a teenager I was a pathological liar (I’m sure I’ll get into the reasons for that in another post some day). In order to make my lies believable, I would envision the made-up scenario in my head. I would submerge myself in every detail so that if I was ever quizzed or questioned about it I would be able to give accurate, consistent information. However, the more I told a lie the more I began to believe that it was real. There were a couple of times when I was presented with witnesses and hard evidence that a thing had not in fact occurred, and I flat-out could not believe it.

As a young adult I became fascinated by conspiracy theories and repeated to myself the mantra “question everything”. I became paranoid about everyone and everything I thought I knew. During this time I was also romantically involved with an abusive narcissist, and by the end of the relationship I genuinely believed that he could read my mind.

When that relationship ended I tried to commit suicide by overdose. The drugs made me dizzy, hazy, and sleepy. For about year after that, I was convinced I had actually died from the overdose and that everything I was experiencing from that point onward, was some form of afterlife.

There was a time where I hadn’t slept in several days and my skin was itchy. I thought that if I cut my skin open then the itch would be able to escape and I would feel better.

Often I recall things, and I’m not sure if they actually happened or if I dreamed it. I have been wrong in both directions too (thinking something did happen but it turned out to be a dream, and thinking I dreamed something that turned out to have actually happened).

The pandemic has been the definition of a stressful/traumatic experience for everyone. When it first began, I basically ignored it, thinking of it like another swine flu that is blown up by the media but will ultimately not effect my life in any real way. When lockdown began, that was when I realised my own vulnerability and the immensity of the destruction this virus could cause. That was when I started to flip-flop between “this can’t be real. It’s not really happening” to “this is the most important event of my lifetime and everything that happens now will effect our lives and the lives of generations to come.”

I need to explain though, the “this can’t be real. It’s not really happening” thoughts are not the general disbelief that everyone feels in these kinds of situations. The kind where they don’t want it to be real but ultimately they know it is. This is the kind of disbelief where I am questioning my own existence and the existence of the world around me.

The first time I saw people wearing masks out in public, I thought that it was a simulation. I thought they were holographic projections of what a futuristic world could look like. When I went outside during the first lockdown, the streets were abandoned. There was no traffic and no people walking around. I thought I was in a post-apocalyptic film or game, I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing did.

I’m not completely detached from reality though. If I was, I wouldn’t be able to communicate these things to you. It’s like I have a split brain and while one part believes that nothing is real, the other part is well aware of what is actually happening. It’s difficult to explain the disjointed feeling of unreal and real at the same time.

Here’s an example from the other day: I saw an electric scooter abandoned in the middle of a green area between roads. I saw it there a few days in a row and it became part of the scenery, so I stopped noticing it. The next time I saw it, it was laying on its side, on the verge of the green rather than in the centre. The most obvious explanation for this is that somebody moved it. Maybe they used it and returned it to a slightly different place. Maybe it was in their way so they pushed it to one side. Maybe some kids were messing about and it got shoved a little way away. However the exact movement came about, it was most likely a person that caused it to move. But I didn’t see that happen. From my perspective, it was in one place, then it was in a different place. So what if it disappeared for a day or two, then on its reappearance, it misjudged the time and speed of its arrival and ended up in the wrong place? What if it teleported to somewhere else entirely and when it tried to come back it got it’s co-ordinates wrong and missed it’s spot by a few feet? You see, even though it’s highly unlikely that this is what happened, I didn’t see it, so I don’t know for sure. I can’t know for sure, so in my mind any of these scenarios are equally possible.

It’s like man landing on the moon. We know that’s probably what happened, but we didn’t see it happen ourselves, so how can we know for sure that it actually did?

My most recent dissociative thought was that I was a game character that was stuck in first-person mode. I found it irritating and wanted to switch to third-person so I could see where I was going better. I know I’m not a character in a game, but if I was, would I know?

For a long time I thought (because my psychiatrist told me) that it was caused by my having an “overactive imagination”. But I’ve been thinking about this recently, and I believe it’s actually because people close to me have been fucking with my sense of reality all my life.

It started with my Mother. With things as small as “you did ask for a cup of tea, I wouldn’t have made you one if you hadn’t”, all the way to keeping the details of my Father’s illness a secret. I knew they were going to hospitals a lot and I knew he was in pain all the time, but they never told us what was going on. Maybe they were trying to protect us, or maybe they are terrified of being vulnerable in front of us. Either way, the outcome was the same. I have many memories of my childhood that my Mother completely denies happened, but I know that they did because my brothers can confirm them.

Then came a whole series of people who would tell me one thing, then do something else. My first boyfriend who said he loved me, then hit me. My school friends who said that we would all go to Sixth Form together, then left me on my own and went off to college together instead. The narssacist who lied about pretty much everything and made everything my fault some how. My best friend in the whole world, who I’d known and loved for 10 years who told me that no matter what his new girlfriend did or said, he would never lose me from his life because I was too important to him, who then ghosted me at the worst time in my life (I only knew he wasn’t dead because his Mum would have told me if he was). The girlfriend who played the domestic abuse victim who was actually an abuser herself. The boyfriend who told me he loved me, then took it back the next day. Everybody I ever trusted, lied to me. Is it really any wonder that I don’t know what’s real and what’s not?

My husband knows how important open honesty is to me. In our marriage hard truths are a sign of love and respect, even if they hurt us both, because it’s a demonstration of trust. Promises are a rare thing between us, because we won’t make one that we can’t be certain we’ll keep. All too often people will say things like “I promise I will always love you/will always be here/will never hurt you/will keep you safe” but people change and no-one has that much control over life.

I am a scientist and I believe that empirical evidence can prove or disprove the existence of something. I am religious and spiritual, and I know that there are some things in this world that we cannot explain, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I am a fiction writer and I spend a lot of time “off with the fairies” imagining made up people and places and events. I am a philosopher and continue to “question everything” in order to find deeper meaning. I am a survivor of trauma and abuse, I know that sometimes things that you didn’t believe would ever happen, do happen. I am neurodivergent and the world is not how I was taught it should be. I also have minor prosopagnosia (face blindness) so strangers all look like generic NPCs to me. All of these things effect how I experience the world around me, and inside of me. Sometimes I wonder how many other people experience the world like I do.

From time to time this dissociation can cause an existential crisis in me, but I am aware when that is occurring and can take the time and space to reconcile this. For the rest of the time, as long as I’m rational and not a danger to myself or others, does any of it really matter?

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

It was my birthday on Friday. I turned 30 years old. I’m not worried about aging in the same way that a lot of women are. I’m actually looking forward to having a face covered in lines and creases, and long grey/silver hair flowing down my back. I look forward to having a face that suits my wise, old soul, and a body that looks as fragile as it feels. But when I woke up on my 30th birthday, I rolled over to see my sleepy-faced fiancé who said “Happy Birthday” and kissed me sweetly, we could hear the cat meowing softly outside asking to be let in, and this one intrusive thought pushed its way to the forefront of an otherwise lovely morning; “Where are my children?”

30 is a landmark birthday and, as much as I love my fiancé and my cat, I should have been woken up by little people scrambling onto the bed and yelling “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” in my face at a ridiculous volume. I should have been presented with hand-made cards covered in glitter that gets everywhere for days, and a drawing of unrecognisable shapes that are obviously our happy family. But we don’t have children and, as wonderful as my birthday was, I felt their presence was missing.

I have wanted children since I was 16 years old. I feel like my purpose on this planet is to be a good mother. I never wanted anything else for my life and that’s part of the reason I was so late to make anything of myself. I didn’t want an education or a career, I only wanted to be a mother, so in stead of working hard at school and looking for a job, I spent the years looking for a man to father my children. Wanting to be a good mother though, I wasn’t going to settle for someone who was immature or unstable. I wanted to make sure that my child was given financial and emotional security.

By the time I was 25, I realised that men weren’t always reliable and most my age were still terrified by the idea of having kids. So I came to the conclusion that if I wanted a stable environment to have children in, then I’d have to create it myself. To do that, I would need a well-paid job that had a good amount of security and flexibility so that I could take time off when I needed to, to have and look after my family. To get a job like that I’d need a degree, so I went to uni.

During my time at Uni I met my afformentioned fiancé who just so happened to be mature, dependable and wants children, and we are going to have a family. But college and Uni took 5 years of my life, so here I am at 30 years old celebrating my birthday as a mother without children.

Hopefully, this will be the last one.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

I am a person who believes that everything happens for a reason. I have to with everything that has happened to me. If I didn’t then the universe is just cruel and unfair and what’s the point in struggling against the tide? But in stead of hopelessness, I chose to believe that, although I may not know why, and may never know why, the things that occur in my life have to happen in order for some other event to happen that creates balance in the universe. This belief brings me peace of mind and allows me to carry on trying when everything is telling me to give up.

5 years ago I went back to college to do an Access course so I could go to University. Halfway through my college course I got a very severe flu-like illness and never fully recovered. I got M.E. I was still able to complete my course (just about), but was unable to get the work experience required for the University course that I wanted to do. I was rejected from all four of my University choices and left pretty distraught. I was on the verge of giving up when my favourite University offered me a place on a different course. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was close and it could lead me to what I wanted to do, so I accepted and went to University.

1 year of that course and my health had deteriorated to the point where I was almost completely bedbound. I was still managing to get the work done (and was getting good grades) but my tyrannical course leader said that if I didn’t show up for class then I would be kicked off of the course. If I was kicked off of the course then I would be kicked out of my campus accommodation, making me homeless. I somehow managed to get a meeting with the leader of another course who said he’d be delighted to take me on. I ended up loving that course and that department and they supported me with my illness so I was able to graduate this year with excellent grades.

If I had been accepted onto the course that I originally wanted to do then I wouldn’t have wasted a year on a terrible course and I would have graduated last year and been in work this year when the virus hit. And what was that course that I wanted to do? Child nursing. Yep, if I hadn’t gotten M.E, I would currently be a Nurse in the NHS right now.

Just saying… everything happens for a reason.

The Loss of the Familiar

The Loss of the Familiar

B.L (Before Lockdown) I was taking one of my many busses to one of my destinations. There was an elderly man sitting at the front with a walking stick. During the journey, the bus hit a bump, or halted suddenly, and he dropped his stick. Someone sat nearby immediately jumped to his assistance and returned the cane to its rightful owner.

It made me think of all of the times (and there were very many of them) when I dropped my cane. Sometimes people would help and sometimes they wouldn’t. Usually someone nearby would ask “Should I get that?” or “Do you need help with that?”. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I would probably prefer that they ask that just presume, that’s not the point of the story.

The point is that I saw something mundane, even inconvenient, and reflected on it with nostalgia. In that moment, I missed my cane. It had been a part of me for such a long time that, even though I was glad for the freedom, I missed having it with me. I talked about it before as being like an extra leg, a part of my being, my body, my person, so even though I was whole and didn’t need it anymore, it still felt like a part of me was missing.

It was a strange sensation and difficult to explain, I guess I’m just saying that we become comfortable with the familiar and whether that thing is a positive or negative part of us is irrelevant, we still miss it when it’s gone.

Trading Places

Trading Places

To listen to me read this blog post, please click here: Reading “Trading Places”


My partner is ill. He has shingles. He has been describing to me the kind of pain he’s been feeling, a sensitivity on the skin and shooting pains like electrical shocks through him. Everything he talks about is very familiar to me. It’s the kind of pain that I get in my legs when I’ve over-exerted myself, or I’m in a flare, or sometimes if I’ve just been wearing tight trousers or leggings all day. I told him, “That’s what I feel when my legs get twitchy.” I call it that because the ‘electric shocks’ make the muscles spasm, and my legs literally jump and twitch, sometimes even while I’m sleeping. Again, this is something he is experiencing and also describes the muscle ache that feels like you’ve been working out.

As much as I hate seeing him in pain and I want him to feel better, I feel a strange kind of validation that he now knows my pain. From this point on, when my legs start to twitch he’ll have a better, fuller understanding of what I’m feeling. He’s always been sympathetic and caring and understanding, so it’s not like this new knowing will change his behaviour towards me, but I will feel more understood all the same. Like trying to explain colours to a colour blind person. They might sort of understand what you’re getting at but they can’t know what those colours really look like without seeing them.

It’s also a strange experience being on the other side of this dynamic. Seeing his pain and understanding what it feels like. Knowing that there is nothing I can do to help. Appreciating for the first time what it’s like to see the person you love in pain and being unable to do anything about it. I wish that I could take it from him since I have more experience with this kind of pain.

In a way, it feels personal, like it’s my pain. Like the universe accidentally gave it to the wrong person and I want to be able to say “Oops, that was meant for me” and take it from him. But of course, I can’t. I just have to watch and wait and remind him to take his pills and bring him cups of tea.

I guess every now and again, a little role reversal is useful in a relationship. Being able to view a situation from the other persons perspective gives you a kind of empathy that you can’t get any other way. It might not change the way you behave but I believe that sharing that experience increases the bond between you. Therefore, as much as I hate that this is happening to him, I’m also really glad. I just hope it’s over soon.

New Year, New Decade, New Experiences.

New Year, New Decade, New Experiences.

To listen to me read this blog post, please click here: Reading “New Year, New Decade, New Experiences”


From what I can tell from my social media pages, most people seem to have had a rough 2019. I, therefore, feel lucky and guilty that I have had a good year. The first half was a little touch-and-go but the second half was the best I’ve had in as long as I can remember. And I plan to make 2020 even better.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is going to be self-indulgent and a little braggy. If you don’t like reading about other people’s happiness and good fortunes then stop reading now.

There’s no denying that the main reason for my happiness is my improved health and, as mentioned in a previous post, that is almost completely down to my amazing, supportive partner. I spent the majority of my illness thinking about all the things I would do if I wasn’t ill. Therefor, when my health began to improve I began to do as many of those things as possible. My main restriction shifted from energy levels to time in the day, and that is an incredible feeling.

So I guess we should start with my physical improvements. I have talked about this in more detail before so I’ll just highlight my favourite bits. I do yoga. Walking a mile to the shop is not something I have to worry about. I took up running again. Every morning I can get up, shower, brush my teeth, dress, do my hair and make-up and feel ready for the day, not ready for bed. But more than that, we can go out, for meals, to shows, to fairs and fetes, or just for a walk around the park. It’s so good to spend time with the man I love outside of this house. And inside the house I can indulge my inner housewife with cleaning, baking, mending and crafting. I can “waste” energy on doing things that are completely frivolous and purely for my own enjoyment. I feel like I can function normally again and that is such a blessing.

Secondly, this is my final year of university, which for me is the culmination of 5 years of pursuing the future that I wanted for myself. Going back to education as a mature student with anxiety and depression was daunting enough, but to get M.E in the first year of this journey really tested how much I wanted it. In year 2 I was almost completely bedbound but still managed to drag myself through because this really is the most important thing that I have ever done with my life. I am sad and scared that it is ending because it has become familiar and safe, and has helped me to grow and develop as a person. I am also excited to move onto the next step of this process and actually begin living the life I have been working towards. So many more doors will open up to me once this one has closed behind me. I have also done some work experience over the summer which provided me with connections, taken on some part-time work which has given me experience, and given guided tours of the university to potential applicants which made me so proud and happy for the next generation of Biology students.

Self improvement has been a big focus for me this year. Physical improvements I have mentioned, educational improvements too, but I’ve also spent a lot of time on self-reflection and observation. I saw a councillor for a while and she was great. She asked the right questions and got me to focus on who I was and what I can do. Often we look outward to place blame and seek happiness. This year I have learned and internalised the idea that I have no control over others and the world around me, but total control over my own actions. I am responsible for my own happiness and I am to blame for my poor choices or reactions. In this way, I can make my life what I want it. My self-reflection has also lead me to ask the bigger questions too and I’ve revisited Zen Buddhism and listened to the Bhagavad Gita as well as “Letting Go” by David R Hawkins M.D PhD, and “The Madness of Crowds” by Douglas Murray. I also listened to “Battle Scars”, “Break Point”, and “First Man In”, by the hosts of the TV show “SAS: Who Dares Wins”, Jason Fox, Ollie Ollerton and Ant Middleton respectively. I also scattered some fiction in between because even made-up people in made-up situations can teach us things about ourselves. I started a Bullet Journal this year too as a creative outlet and to organise myself, but I also found that it motivated me to be more productive and to enjoy taking time over small details.

My domestic life this year gained a house, a cat and an improvement in my relationship. I don’t wish to talk too much about this as it is not just mine to divulge. My home life is shared with my partner and he deserves his privacy. I will say that I am feeling more like a wife and mother than ever before and that is a warm, comfortable feeling for me. I will be having my 30th birthday this year and I am more than ready for this phase of my life. In fact, I have been waiting for it for a long time but it has been waiting for me to be in the right place and the right time. All the chips are falling into place now and I feel like I am becoming the person I was always supposed to be.

So, to summarise, 2019 has been a year of exponential growth. It has been hard work, exhausting at times, but also enjoyable and so, so worth it. 2020 should continue this trend and although this time next year my life will look completely different, it will also be exactly as it should be.

Happy New Year. Best wishes to all of you.

Universal Energies

Universal Energies

Do you ever have those days when it feels like the universe is against you and everything that can go wrong, does? Well my day today was the opposite of that.

Science hasn’t yet nailed down the ins and outs of the energy or frequencies that radiate in all things. They are working on it and one day it will be considered fact and taught in physics class in schools, but until then people will find their own way of explaining this phenomenon depending on their culture, religion or personal experiences. Personally, I am a Wiccan (as well as a Buddhist) and we believe in the Rule of Three; all energy that you put out into the universe will return to you threefold. It is also called Law of Attraction, the Power of Thought, Summoning by Visualisation, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around, Karma and other such things.

I have done a lot of terrible things in my youth and had a lot of terrible things happen to me but at a certain point in my life, I decided to change this pattern and try my best to be a good, kind, human being. Then worse things happened to me. I couldn’t understand why I was being punished when I was trying so hard to be good. I knew I wasn’t perfect but I thought that trying meant more than the actual accomplishment. I also tried to reason that if I was suffering there must be a reason for it and a lesson to be learned. To be fair, I did learn from those events and they have made me a better person but I am sure that the same effects could have been achieved with far less trauma.

What I didn’t realise then, but do now, is that your inner thoughts and feelings matter just as much, if not more, than your activity. If you ask someone if they are okay and they say they’re fine, you can tell if they’re being truthful or not. Similarly, if someone says that they are happy to do a thing that they’re really not, you can feel their discontent. Doing a thing or saying a thing does not make that thing a true reflection of yourself. Your inner thoughts and feelings are sensed by those around you and absorbed by the universe.

A person who wants a new job may send out CV’s, dress smart, go to interviews and attend job fairs, but if they have the inner belief that they won’t be good at anything else and maybe it’s best if they stay in the job they have then they are unlikely to get a new job despite all of the legwork they do. In another scenario someone may long for a good lasting relationship and sign up to dating sites, join clubs, socialise and go out on dates but if they believe that they are not worthy of love and no one will ever love them, then they won’t find the love they seek.

This is a concept that I’ve always been aware of but never actualised. Partly because I always thought I had little control over my thoughts and feelings (another self fulfilling prophecy) and partly because I believed in the mantra “fake it ’til you make it”. I thought if I behaved as the person I wanted to be then eventually I would become that person. Now I realise it is the other way around, you must make the change inside first, then it will shine through you effortlessly.

Since listening to “Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender” I have made a conscious effort to watch my thoughts and feelings and adjust them when they go astray. In today’s example I had the thought “What idiot would park in such a stupid place?” I observed the thought and reflected. Perhaps the person didn’t know this was a bus route. Maybe there was an emergency or they are only stopping for a short time and didn’t realise they would cause an obstruction. I myself have done similar things without knowing I was being a hindrance. In fact, I have quite a talent for accidentally getting in people’s way. When you reflect like this you remember the human-ness of us all, the anger dissipates and you forgive them knowing that if it were you, you would want to be forgiven.

Negative thoughts like this come up several times a day but when you take the time and make the effort to observe them, experience them and reflect on them, then you become a happier, calmer person. And when you become a happier, calmer person it radiates from you and people around you become infected with it. Suddenly everyone is polite and friendly and considerate and the world seems to be working in your favour. Everything goes right for you, even the things that normally would ruin your day seem to be fortuitous and even comical.

I had a good day today and I plan to have many more.