DISCLAIMER: Before I get too far with this, I want to say that this is just my experience with Depersonalization Derealization Disorder (DDD) and I am not trying to speak for everyone who has it nor am I saying this is accurate and/or the only explanation. It’s just the best way I can put my own experience into words.
I have always struggled with explaining DDD to people beyond mentioning I disassociate a lot and that I often don’t feel attached to the world around me. Many people with or without mental health issues disassociate and if you are apathetic towards the world around you then of course you won’t feel attached to it. So does everyone have DDD? No. At least I hope not because otherwise we all are really going through it.
The best way for me to explain DDD is to compare it to a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. Before I go further, I should mention that my book is also riddled with Bipolar 2 disorder, memory issues thanks to numerous concussions, and other factors so the themes in this book may be more specific to me than the average person.
You may be thinking “Alyssa, everyone’s life is a Choose Your Own Adventure Book because we all have to make decisions and respond to the consequences, this is a stupid, general explanation”. And you’re right! We do all have to deal with the consequences of our actions BUT hear me out.
You have a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure Books. You probably expressed interest in them a few years ago and have received them as gifts for every Christmas and birthday since, so you’re getting pretty sick of them. They all become predictable and you can’t relate to the protagonist anymore because seriously, who gets themselves into these situations? But you read through your newest book anyways just to be nice to whoever gifted it to you.
You’re not interested in this book and the books in general don’t suck you in as much as they used to, so you’re not invested in the story. You blankly scan the lines of the page and when it comes time to make a decision, you make sure to leave a finger on that page, just in case you make the wrong choice or you don’t like your choice and want to go back. See, the storylines no longer feel real and you know that you can undo any choice by going back, there are no real consequences. There is no wrong turn that can’t be undone, so none of the surprises faze you.
You get through the whole book like that and before you know it you’re done, and now what? As you were reading, you considered taking your finger off the decision page after making a risky choice and having to deal with it, just to see where the trouble takes you. For some semblance of thrill but you know the point of the book is to survive, so you don’t. Plus, it might not even pay off in the end so the risk isn’t worth it.
These books are so easily manipulated, there is no real risk and mortality isn’t a concern.
But that’s not true, is it? You know that if you actually committed to a choice that you would have to deal with some kind of consequence but the repetition of it all has made you numb to whatever that is, there is no sense of fear or excitement. You just have to think quickly enough to stay alive.
I know my life is more than a book of choices and my friends and family are more than characters but sometimes, rather than all the time now that I’m medicated, it does feel like I’m just reacting to the next prompt on the page, there’s no emotion involved, just considering what is strategically the best decision to make.
DDD is a defense mechanism your brain uses to keep you feeling detached from reality and your emotions because it knows reality is a bitch and you can’t handle it. My brain is just trying to protect me and sure, that means I may disassociate but it goes beyond that because it is a constant state of detachment. I don’t always recognize myself in the mirror, much less feel connected to that person but I know that they’re the main character so I have to keep them alive.