Many things in life occur or develop at an undetectably slow pace; for instance, the rotation of the earth or the growth of human hair. In this case, however, we are talking dissociative disorders.
Do me a favor. Imagine having cotton balls stuffed in your ears. Now imagine your skin sensitivity being half of what it normally is; like you're made of plastic. Now, bite into an apple and imagine the intensity of the taste being decreased, like your tongue has forgotten how to taste. You close your eyes and struggle to distinguish what you taste as an apple.
Now think about where you feel is your body's "center." Where in your body do you identify as your core sense of self? Most people will point to the spot between the lungs, above the belly and bellow the chest. Or perhaps they identify their "self" as the place over their heart -- but not you. You identify your "center" as the spot between your eyes. In fact, you are your eyes. And that is it. You are the space inside your head. You look out your eyes like they are the windows and your head is a room you are trapped inside of. You look out your eyes and down at your body to see that your body isn't actually yours at all. You are not this body. It belongs to another person; you are just a mind observing it. Do your best to picture this perception.
Due to this observational perspective of the body (in contrast with an inhabiting or acting perspective), you are hyper-self-conscious. You are overly self-aware. You observe yourself moving and behaving; washing "your body" in the shower, talking to people, writing an essay, and you feel as if the movement of your body is on autopilot. The circuit between "you" and your body's motion is broken, and you feel robotic.
Now look at your surroundings. Imagine some almighty force were to suck the life out of everything, similar to the way the light would leave someone's eyes as they pass. The world around you loses its brightness and softness. Everything is flat, dull, and unfamiliar. Things sparkle less, cars lose their glossy finish, trees sway lifelessly, and you are left with a strange shell of the life you once knew. Sometimes when you look at someone's face, things blur and sway. The mechanics of their facial structure are subtly altered, almost comparable to when everything in a room as been moved an inch to one side and for some reason becomes unsettling. People begin to look like aliens to you; even your loved ones. What is a person really? Sometimes you stare at the back of your hands trying to figure it out. This brings me to my next point.
On top of all of this, imagine you are high. You are on a different level than everyone else. You feel a different vibe. This is constant, from the second you wake up to the second you fall asleep, and as you sleep I assume as well. Sometimes you come down and sober up for maybe 30 seconds. This happens once or twice a month, and because you aren't used to this sober perception it is perceived similarly to a hallucination. The cotton momentarily leaves your ears, shadows are magnified and shapes transform to become three dimensional for a moment before returning to a dull state once again.
Now, imagine what it means to become your mind. Your identification with your body and your world is lost, and your mind is all you have left. This is where obsessive thinking begins. You are hyper aware of every thought that crosses your mind. No thought goes unnoticed by your consciousness. As you read these words, focus carefully on how they sound in your mind. Sound the words out in your mind and hear them clearly in your head. Now turn up the volume so these words are the forefront of everything. Your thoughts are louder than all the sounds around you by tenfold. Now imagine these thoughts could not contain spaces between them. The gap is always filled with a word or sound. Even when you try to meditate the space between thoughts is filled with words, sounds, frustration, and mental exertion. Sometimes if you try and meditate, closing your eyes sends your mind spiraling. You end up talking yourself in circles. Think back to the last time you couldn't fall asleep because you were thinking anxiously, going over something again and again. Quadruple this mental noise and that is how your mind now works 24/7.
Now imagine your chest physically cannot expand. Take the tiniest breath possible in through your nose, and stop. This is all you can physically breathe no matter how hard you try. Take this perception in. This is a dissociative disorder, depersonalization/derealization to be exact, and this happens to people.
Picture living your life, maybe as a college student, and thinking everyone felt this way. Other people seem to be at ease, and you think maybe you're just high strung. Other people don't question what their reality is, and you think maybe you're just too curious. Other people are not self-conscious as they observe themselves socializing; maybe you're just shy. Yet all the time there is this looming unknown question you can't shake; this feeling that something isn't quite right. Until one day you look in the mirror and suddenly, you wake up from a dream. This happens to people, and this happened to me.
The only word to describe my experience with depersonalization/derealization is "colossal." When something colossal occurs in your life, it is meant to be learned from and shared. However terrifying and debilitating my experience was, it was a weight I pushed against and strengthened from for years. In my blind attempts at feeling better, I stumbled on a multitude of knowledge with the ability to benefit not just the dissociated, but the average person. Stay tuned for valuable insights I gained from this experience.