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Monday, May 23, 2016


Okay, let's lay this out and look at it carefully:

1. I've been under a lot of stress for a very long time. That's not changing very soon, so I need to find ways to manage the stress and still live.

2. PTSD symptoms have been increasing over time because I've not taken the steps necessary to recognize and minimize them.

3. New PTSD symptoms (or perhaps old ones I just didn't notice before) have been cropping up and becoming more and more distressing.

Number one is something I just have to organize. I've become more adamant about including rest, running, and some sort of downtime activity (reading, practicing music I want to play - not what I'm paid to play, and spending time with my family, for example) in my days even when they're busy. I've finished my performance schedule for now and will not be contracting more for awhile. I've cut back on my students (down from 15 to 9, currently) for the summer and that will decrease even more in June and July. I'm taking more breaks when I work online - real breaks, not just substituting different work. The trees are in bloom, the weather is gorgeous, and I want to be outside. That helps.

The remedy for number two is linked to number one, and since I've begun to address number one, number two has become less obnoxious. Also, I have to admit to simply refusing to recognize the symptoms occasionally. Sometimes I don't have the energy to decide whether someone is trying to get rid of me, or really wishes to be with me and I've misinterpreted something said. That takes a lot of emotional stamina. So when I don't feel I can figure it out, I just don't. I'm guilty of hiding for awhile until I feel ready to talk again. That being said, I've also been careful to allow the other person to know I'm doing that, and why. 

Example: Tabitha's car has been rear-ended twice in the last three months. Needless to say, she needs a new car. But when she talks to me about it, I get frustrated and panicky. So I told her I can't talk about it with her right now. That was about 10 days ago (actually, before the last accident happened , which was last Tuesday). But on Saturday, I went with her to test drive cars because she had allowed me enough space to process what was happening and at that point, I could address the topic without losing my mind. Thanks, Tabitha! Side note: We both found a car we're in love with. That's bad.

But number three is the kicker. I'm not ready to deal with new symptoms. And if they're not new, I'm not ready to deal with unfamiliar symptoms, or ones that have been lurking in the dark and have chosen now to rear their ugly heads. But I will. Because I have to.

So looking at the most insistent of those symptoms:

1. Sometimes when I'm with people, I feel like they are no longer the person I know. These pictures illustrate what it feels like to me. They arouse the same feelings that occur when I'm experiencing the phenomenon with another person: 

I talked with Therapist about this when I saw him last month. He identified the phenomenon as depersonalization/derealization, and my homework was, of course, to do research on that. So I did.

In my first day of research, I discovered the above pictures. And there was a lot of information. I'll admit that I became completely freaked out and scared when I was viewing all of it. And I couldn't do it alone. So I called someone and made him look at the stuff with me. I think I might have cried. I don't remember. And then I became completely overwhelmed and had to stop.

I've been revisiting the research bit by bit this month. When I feel scared or frustrated, I stop. I regroup. Then I try again. 

This is what I've concluded:

1. My symptoms align more with derealization than depersonalization, although I definitely experienced the depersonalization symptoms years ago. These are identified derealization symptoms (from Mayo Clinic website):
  • Feelings of being alienated from or unfamiliar with your surroundings, perhaps like you're living in a movie
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from people you care about, as if you were separated by a glass wall
  • Surroundings that appear distorted, blurry, colorless, two-dimensional or artificial, or a heightened awareness and clarity of your surroundings
  • Distortions in perception of time, such as recent events feeling like distant past
  • Distortions of distance and the size and shape of objects
2. All my research suggests that derealization is upsetting and can be frightening, but does not indicate that I'm crazy or dangerous and is only harmful if the feelings escalate and cause more distressing symptoms or behaviors. 

3. While some medication helps a few individuals, better results are achieved through talk therapy, which is what I would have turned to even without the research. 

So I see Therapist on Thursday. And I'll present my research and ask what I should do next. And he'll say, "What do you think you should do," because Therapist learned a long time ago that if I don't believe it's my idea, I probably won't buy into it. He's not stupid.

Except I don't know what I think I should do yet. And I'm tired. I'm thinking maybe I should let Therapist make the suggestions this time. And maybe I should take his advice and do my assignments. Because the truth is, I'm pretty sure I don't want to keep doing this derealization thing anymore. It's a little bit terrifying (please see pictures above).

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