What Cracked First, the Chicken or the Egg? Part II
Derealization — Is this for real??
If you haven’t read the intro to this “Medical Mystery or Mental Health Mishap” series, I suggest you start → here. If you’re a return customer, welcome back! Let’s get on with the case study.
But before we go back to the day it began, we need to go waaayy back.
How can you decide what’s going on without adequate background information!?
Have you ever experienced anything like this before?
As far as derealization (DR), I did experience episodes a few times.
There was one time when I had a killer sinus infection and my boyfriend and I were eating at Red Lobster. I want to say it was 2008. I actually had to ask the waitress to pack our food because the DR was so bad that it was triggering panic attacks. This lasted throughout the night. As the infection cleared, the DR disappeared.
For me, DR was also a side effect of drug use. Specifically when I smoked too much pot, or ingested magic mushrooms. As I came down from my high, the visual distortions would dissipate. They weren’t long lasting. I never was a big drinker, and to this day it’s rare that I’ll use alcohol. But it does have a similar effect.
I’m sure the medical professionals didn’t love hearing about my past drug use, but it was the only way I could describe what was going on with me.
The way I explained DR:
Floating, almost dreamlike, where you feel slightly detached from your body, almost as if you are shifted above it by an inch, you’re on the verge of dizzy but the room never spins, everything is crystal clear, details pop out at you, your perception is altered like you’re looking at those magic eye books…
[Side note: I did attempt to use marijuana and delta-8 to recreate these effects on top of my preexisting DR. I thought that when I came down from the high I would be cured. My experiment did not work. It only caused me further anxiety by heightening the DR. I never did try micro-dosing shrooms, although I toyed with the idea. I wasn’t desperate enough to find the answers, or really brave enough to attempt that fix. What if I made it worse?!]
Things that aggravate the DR:
Certain lighting (specifically very bright lights or fluorescent bulbs), Patterns (specifically stripes), Certain pressure points (found during medical massage and acupressure), Sinus infections, Stress, and Physical Activity (hmm maybe I did have exercised induced asthma after all!)
I know for sure that I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age. The earliest I can remember it interfering with my life was in the third grade, when I was provided an inhaler for my “exercise induced asthma.” It was always present to some extent, but I had periods when it was more intense than others.
As I’m reading through my old medical records, I see that my previous doctor ordered a full workup of my catecholamines. It was March of 2010.
[Catecholamines are the fight or flight hormones. They generally have a short half-life (less than 2 min!), so the best way to measure them is using a 24-hour urine test.]
I don’t remember what was going on at this time in my life, and it was part of the dark ages when I wasn’t journaling, but if the doc was ordering these assays, there had to be a reason. I also remember him prescribing me Lexapro at this time.
Clearly, he was on to me.
Lo and behold, the lab tests came back unremarkable. I did stay on Lexapro for three months tops, if memory serves me right. It must have gotten me back on my feet long enough that I didn’t look for help again until it was too late.
I was never treated or diagnosed with a mental health disorder officially until June of 2014. This is when I got branded with panic disorder (PD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In 2019 Doc added on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In my own search for answers, I’ve also stumbled upon other diagnoses that could apply such as OCPD and subgroups of bipolar disorder, like BP-II and Cyclothymia.
It’s difficult to pinpoint, and comorbidities are fairly common with mental health disorders. There may very well be some overlap in the diagnoses I’m tossing around.
I’ve never been a fan of labels. What I am more interested in is how do I fix this? And is there something more to it than “it’s all in your head”?
Also, can I figure this out before my daughter potentially goes down the same path of self-destruction? The only silver lining is that going through this myself has me ahead of the curve as I navigate her situation.
Next up… “You have a brain tumor, no wait, you’re actually just crazy”
Check out Part III here: