If you have to ask what derealization is, you have most likely avoided that benzo withdrawal symptom—lucky you! Derealization is described in different ways by different people. For me, it felt as if I was behind my eyeballs, knowing that I was watching what I was watching. Everything felt fuzzy and dreamy—as if I wasn’t quite dialed into the station—but at the same time, there was a hyper-awareness taking place that was exhausting. My derealization went on for a very long time.
I could cope with derealization (DR) when I was gardening in my front yard. I wasn’t as stressed around my flowers as I was around people. Something about trying to listen, read facial expressions, interpret body cues, was too much for my damaged brain. Anything that required an emotional investment or any type of discernment threw me into a wave of bizarre DR. (Driving was the all-time worst trigger!) Of course, no one other than myself knew I was experiencing an altered reality, but that was of little comfort to me. I knew I was messed up and it was awful.
I didn’t have a good handle on how to cope with the DR the first six months or so. Granted, I had a laundry list of symptoms I was battling, so I didn’t have a great deal of stamina to battle everything. But after awhile, as the intensity of my cold-turkey symptoms gradually diminished, I had to face the DR head on. I used four main tools to cope with DR.
- Acceptance. I know that’s a tough one for many of us. But it did help me to cope with the derealization, especially while driving. (Driving was my worst trigger.) I tried to get on with my life the best way possible. I’d often remind myself that I was going to be walking around in “weirdsville” when I went out in public and to accept the fact and keep going.
- Distraction. It’s a mainstay in the benzo withdrawal coping skills toolshed. I distracted with gardening, word puzzles, writing, games on my cell phone, painting, and being of service to my friends as often as I could. Putting the focus on something or someone other than myself helped a great deal. It didn’t decrease my DR, but it decreased my preoccupation with my self-pity over it.
- No fear. I stopped fearing DR and that helped make it far more tolerable. Without the fuel of fear to increase the flames, it usually smoldered instead of raging into an out of control wildfire. I used a lot of self-talk to calm myself down when things heated up.
- Resting. My DR often flared up when I extended too much energy—Physical, mental, or emotional. Time out to rest allowed my CNS to settle down. I preferred a quiet room with soft, soothing music. I created a healing music station on Pandora that became a favorite. Candles, low light, a warm blanket, and good music always helped.
I’m sure there are other ways to combat derealization. What do you do when it flares up? Feel free to share your thoughts with us. BTW, I can’t remember when my DR went away for good. Four years? More? I can drive, be in loud venues, talk to a group of people, and generally have my CNS activated without any DR showing up. I know yours will go away as well, in time.