Disorienting depersonalization can accompany bipolar. Recognizing it and talking to your practitioner are important first steps in dealing with this confusing aspect of bipolar.
I’m kind of writing this as a way to not only publicly admit that something’s going on in my life, but also as a way of hopefully getting insight on how to deal with it from others. I haven’t really seen many people talk about this particular issue, and I’m hoping that this article helps change that.
At an appointment with my psychiatrist a couple of months ago, I was informed about “depersonalization.” It was brought up because I explained that I have these moments when I kind of lose control of my mind and just react to certain things. It’s hard for me to explain, but essentially I feel like I don’t have control of my mind, although I’m still aware of what’s going on.
I’ve dealt with this since I was very young, and usually it happens in private. When it does happen around other people, I find an excuse to cover it up. I noticed that I usually blank out; blurt out things that make no sense; or in react as though something traumatic is happening to me—so I’m usually defensive. I’ve always been ashamed to talk about it, and even now I’m a little embarrassed.
But something is obviously wrong, and after decades of not talking about it, I want to get to the bottom of it. I’ve been talking with my doctor about this off and on for a while. At first, he considered the possibility that it could be something else, and as of my last appointment, he was still floating that around. To be clear, I haven’t been diagnosed with anything new in addition to the laundry list of conditions I already have, and he wants to rule out other factors before coming up with anything definitive.
I’ve heard of depersonalization before, but I never looked into it, so I never fully knew what it meant. To be honest, I still don’t have a complete understanding. I know it’s a feeling of being detached from yourself, which is exactly how I feel in those moments. I know that it’s classified as its own disorder, but also can be experienced by people suffering from other disorders, including bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder—both of which I have been diagnosed with. Now that I’m facing the possibility that I could also be living with this, things make a lot of sense—but it also feels like another weight on my shoulders.
While it’s important to get checked by your doctor to make sure that you are properly diagnosed and understand any condition you have, I have to admit that it’s sometimes overwhelming. Ever since I left the army, and started having my conditions documented and treated, I’m always worried about what they will find next and how I will handle it. How will it affect my life moving forward? How do I explain it to people when they personally witness it? What will be added to my personal pharmacy?
I’ve been mostly quiet about it since the possibility of having depersonalization issues was brought up to me. I only told a couple of people before I completely stopped talking about it. I’ve had more potential moments since then—they usually happen at least once a day. Sometimes they’re scary. But who wouldn’t be afraid when they feel like they have lost all control of their mind, even if it’s only for a minute or two?
Again, it’s not new for me; it’s not something that started a couple of years ago. It started when I was much younger, probably before I was a teenager. But I never talked about it, and the first time I tried to bring it up many years ago, it was dismissed as though it could’ve had something to do with my military training. That had nothing to do with what I was trying to say, and I never brought it up again until a couple of years ago.
So as I sit here trying to figure out what I’m dealing with and why, I wonder who else deals with the same thing. I wonder how has it affected your life. What tips do you have to manage it? Can it be managed at all? I’m not just doing this as an open forum; I’m asking this personally so I can have a sense of understanding and closure, so I can accept it and move forward—just like I had to when I was told I suffer from bipolar disorder.
JB Burrage is a creative and content writer living in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Originally from Meridian, Mississippi, he joined the US Army in 1999, serving until 2010. After years of battling depression and receiving different diagnoses, he was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011. Initially ashamed of his diagnosis, he later embraced it and started on the road to manage it. He’s currently the owner and operator of The Mad Writer Project, LLC, a writing service and self-publishing consulting company that also manage his various projects; including material that addresses his mental health concerns and a blog on his website called The Diary of a Mad Writer. More information about him and his work can be found at jbburrage.com.
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