Decoupled from Reality
At some point, severe anxiety decouples you from reality. Psychologists refer to it as derealization. As someone who’s experienced such a state, I find it impossible to describe. Imagine locking yourself in a virtual reality game with photorealistic graphics: you go through the motions, retain your habits, work, spend time with family, interact with people, and so on. It simultaneously feels real and simulated, as if you’re in a moment in space and time and also outside it, peering it. The VR analogy doesn’t convey the experience but it’s as close as I’ve come to describing it. In a way, it’s like trying to describe the color red to someone blind since birth—it’s not possible; you only understand “redness” when you experience its sensations. The same holds true for derealization.
In 2013, I experienced this state for several months. It threatened my job, my relationship, and, eventually, my life. Combined with mania stemming from undiagnosed bipolar disorder, my self-induced hyper-anxiety also fueled a sustained period of writing in which I produced nearly a half million words in less than six months. Two novels, one novella, one novel rewritten from the ground up, and upwards of a dozen short stories burst from my brain as I hovered in this state. (more…)