How Can You Describe Derealization

“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”

John Milton, 1667, Paradise Lost

Some things are harder to explain than others.

Some feelings and behaviours manifest, or become distorted, deep inside our psyche and come to light without a note of explanation.

Upon waking, you fail to notice that anything is wrong.

There seems to be, in fact, a lack of thoughts. Sitting up, you rub your eyes trying to bring things into focus. Placing both feet on the ground, you don’t notice the cold of the timber underfoot or its rough texture against your skin. You stumble out into the hall, and fall into the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet you rub your eyes again, this time with both hands, struggling to bring things into focus.

Wandering back into the hallway, worry starts to creep in as you look round.

Squeezing your eyes tight, you try to gain some sense of acquaintance. You look from the floor to the ceiling, your gaze running along the paintings on the wall. You know you’ve seen the paintings before, but now it’s like you’re looking at them through a haze and can’t quite recognise them. Everything is in the same place, everything looks the same, but nothing feels familiar. You are a stranger in your own home. You begin down the stairs, holding tight onto the banister, urging your eyes to just focus.

Why do your eyes deceive you!

Everything is how you left it, but it all feels unfamiliar and so far away. In an attempt to get some sense of grounding, you reach out and run your hand along the countertop. You inhale the smell of the burning range, hold the dog, rubbing their fur in your fingertips. Like someone drowning, you grab on with both hands, hoping that the physical contact will bring you back- but nothing. Your feet aren’t even touching the ground anymore, you float a foot from the floor, not able to reach anything. People begin to enter and exit the room, moving slowly, like ghosts in the night. You try to catch them but just can’t hold them long enough to break out of this bubble. Like a balloon floating into infinity, you fear slipping further and further away if you can’t find an anchor. You clasp both hands to your eyes, begging for things to come back into focus.

It’s difficult to explain what we experience but don’t understand.

The brain is unimaginably complicated and sometimes it feels like we are a pawn in a game of which we know nothing about. So often things happen within us, and we have no clue why. Have we split in two? Or three, or four… Be assured that no, it is all part of you. It’s just a part you haven’t learned about yet, but those willing find answers. Speak of it out loud and it will penetrate through the space between you and them. Your voice can act as your anchor, a call for rescue to the rest of the world. With effort and attention, you are pulled back down to earth and you will feel your feet on the ground once more.

“Yes, as my swift days near their goal,
‘Tis all that I implore –
In life and death, a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.”

Emily Brontë, 1846, The Old Stoic
Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream
Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream
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