By Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH
A Case of Depersonalization and Residual Anxiety after Drug Use
A 20-year-old male consulted me regarding anxiety. About two years ago he experienced a state of depersonalization with panic attacks after taking recreational drugs at a party. The panic attacks took several months to get under control.
He saw a psychiatrist and a psychologist within a month and was given medication for a few months. He is not taking any medications at this time, but still feels as if he has not fully recovered.
He feels that he overthinks everything and has trouble making decision: “I can feel very helpless in trying to decide on something. It’s very frustrating. I get totally overwhelmed. I have a sensation that I can’t prioritize things in an orderly way, going from A to B to C etc.”
“Then I feel like just giving up. I don’t want to deal with any of it.”
“At that point I start spiraling. I overanalyze and I’m just thinking and thinking. This is preventing me from going to sleep at night. Things go out of focus and I start living in my head.”
“I analyze the events of the day. I go over what I could have done or said differently, even days later. I am very concerned about future planning. I’m anxious about what to do in the future, I’m planning too much.”
“I wish things would happen NOW. Just do it and get it done. I have a sense that I am biting off more than I can chew.”
Concerns about Future Planning
What about your future?
“I want to finish my degree. I feel I need to break away. I feel tied down, that I can’t escape. I feel very obliged to fit into my parents’ ideals, yet I am very different from my parents.”
“I feel I have to complete all these things, my studies etc, before I can be myself. It’s a dilemma, I feel I have to be two people – one way with my parents, a different way with my peers.”
“My parents are very conservative. I can’t talk politics with them. I’m very radical, into left-wing politics. I want them to understand me, but they can’t. I feel I have to hide aspects of my life.”
Interests in Nature, Animals
What is it like not be yourself?
“It’s frustrating. I want to convey these concepts. I was anti-Olympics. Mom agreed, but did not agree that I should go out and do something, like demonstrate against the Olympics."
"We are speaking a different language. I have a moral outlook, am interested in animal rights. It’s a big step to get away from the anthropocentric view regarding our relationship with the earth. Morals need to come from the earth. It should be obvious that we should not drill in the tar sands for example. With me – plants and animals matter.”
“My value system is more holistic, there is a respect for everything. I love nature, I have a strong affinity to the oceans and the cedar forest. I love Camus flowers, you can eat the bulbs, they are starchy.”
“I am allied with the indigenous community. Some people work with them as social workers, via the government route, but it is so slow. I want to go right in and rebuild the community. The government is so slow, why would you wait and wait?”
Power and Action
“I prefer direct action – this is the glaring difference. So what if a few windows are broken in demonstrations of protests. But my father is adamantly against it. For me direct action is very empowering. If the city won’t let us build a garden we just do it anyway, then we get the approval later.”
“I work with the most marginalized people. It’s empowering to take a stand.”
"To be independent, to have control over your life. You don’t have to tone down anything or fit into anything. I’m trying not to offend my parents, yet I need to do what I need to do.”
What would happen if he offended his parents?
“I don’t think we could ever create a rift so huge it could not be repaired. However, I feel awkward, a feeling of not belonging. I have a sense I owe them something, they put money aside for me to go to college, they did so much for me.
I would be devastated if I offended them. A rift with my siblings would be the worst. My little sister looks up to me quite a lot."
Best case scenario?
“That my parents could understand me.”
He has always been a night owl. He can stay up until 2:30 – 3 am, even 6-8 am and not be very fatigued. He has bad anxiety before going to sleep. Weather affects him. Has tried Melatonin and Trazedone for sleep.
He has low energy on waking.
He has a history of nightmares from childhood. The newest one is running from something, from the police. “We have done something.”
As a child he had a feeling of something being in the shadows with eyes, coming to pull him away. A great sense of terror. “I was sitting and it was coming to me.”
He has running nightmares about 2-3 times a month.
He had several surgeries as a child, which may have been traumatic.
Tell about the depersonalization?
“I was viewing myself from a third person perspective. I’m watching without any control over it. I was looking in the mirror and knew I saw a face but did not feel it was actually me. Like I took a step back and my eyes were watching from behind. Just being, not even thinking, not actively aware of where I was.”
“I felt: Nothing is real, so why should I be real?”
“It was overwhelming. I had to ask my mother to tell me I was real, that anything was real. I wondered – will I ever feel like I’m even in the body again? Is anything real? What if I’m just reliving someone’s memory? I was just watching myself. I even dreamt in the third person.”
“Nothing is real – so I should just end it.”
“I’m just a cog in a wheel and can be replaced. An automaton.”
This all happened after an all-night party without sleep and some drugs.
I asked him to tell me about his many tattoos. One of them is a lion.
"The lion is empowering. I always felt weak on all fronts. I’m not very big or physically strong and I was overweight in high school. I’m not strong emotionally, more moody. I feel politically weak and not empowered.”
“I’ve had dreams of lions and cougars, I am walking with them. When I went to Europe I went to the Basel Zoo to see lions, but I was so disappointed. They were just like big house cats.”
He feels a spiritual connection to cats in general. Most cats like him. He feels that cats have a real sense of independence and are self-sufficient.
Tell more about full power?
“Being comfortable, knowing limits of body and using it to full potential. I don’t need to depend on anyone, I can do everything myself if I need to do it, grow my own food, sustain myself.”
Anything else about animals?
“I like animals quite a bit, all animals, horses, insects, birds.”
What about birds?
“I like ravens and crows. There is a mystical quality to ravens, esp. also in the indigenous traditions. Also a sense of cunning and chaotic qualities.”
“I have a strong sense of being connected to nature, to the cedar forests. Ravens are more associated with old growth forests. I have an image of cedar trees with ravens overhead, a black silhouette. Untouched nature, ancient wisdom.”
Food desires and aversions?
He likes seafood (2), dark chocolate (2), savory. Not picky.
“I feel as if I’ve never felt healthy. I need more solidity. When anxious I feel transparent, not all there.”
“I feel my immune system is not working properly.”
He often feels as if he is getting sick. He often has flu-like aches and pains and is better taking Echinacea and vitamin C.
Case Analysis and Plan
This is a young man with a strong sense of connection to nature, earth and green causes. He feels connected to the cedar forest and identifies with the indigenous people, although he is not himself indigenous.
He shows some of the typical bird symptoms of ‘watching’- in this case, watching himself during the depersonalization, the history of being terrified as a child, similar to the eagle and vulture cases, a sense of increased responsibility, in this case to society and the planet as well as to the family, anxiety and general nervousness, a strong love for nature, animals etc.
Themes of depersonalization which came through in the Raven provings:
Themes of Anxiety, fear and panic from the Raven proving (Proving by Greg Bedayn, 1996)
Theme of need to protect individuality from the proving:
There are issues around feeling weak vs empowered and around independence, which are more common animal themes, too.
There is a sense of honour and obligation towards self and parents. For those interested in more detail I recommend the book “Raven Quest”, a teen novel about a raven written by Sharon Stewart. Tok the raven is falsely accused of murder, he is banished from his community and stripped of his kora, or honor.
He then embarks on a dangerous journey to rehabilitate himself and regain his honour and especially the acceptance of his parents.
Plan: Corvus corax 200 CH (Raven. No worries, the remedy is made from a feather.)
Follow-up three weeks later
Right after the remedy felt more upbeat for a while. Then he crashed.
Some friends were arrested at a political rally and held for a few days, which upset him.
Still feels like he almost getting sick.
Plan: Repeat corvus 200 CH, stop niacinamide as it upsets his stomach.
FU six weeks after first meeting
Mood is not fluctuating as much. Everything is less extreme. No particular dreams, no nightmares. Anxiety about the future is less, he is viewing things with less apprehension. Less worried overall.
Sleep pattern has been good, more consistent. Easy to get up now, before would hit the snooze button a few times, now doesn’t.
The feeling of getting sick is less.
The feeling of being overwhelmed and out of focus is there only occasionally. Definitely better. The tendency to spiral down with his analytic thoughts is less.
Energy is better.
Assessment: Overall improvement.
Plan: Corvus 200 CH
Update in September - 3 months later
He is doing very well, feels much less often like getting ill, has decided to finish his degree on-line which is okay with his parents and is now much closer to his parents, visiting them on weekends. This was what was so important to him, that his parents would understand him.
In many cases the person suffers from an idea or 'delusion' about the world, projecting inner states onto outer circumstances and then perceiving the world as a problem when the issue really lies within.
As the remedy strengthened this young man on all levels his perception of the world changed, which likely included a different view of his parents and or a reduced perception of stress in regards to his parents.
Update in December - 5 months later
He has been getting sick again lately, more colds and they are lasting longer again. He is also feeling more anxious again and has been depressed for a few days. The anxiety is worse over the past two weeks.
Also feeling less energetic again, sleep is also worse again.
Assessment: Mild relapse.
Plan: Raven 1 MK. He did very well after this dose.
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH is a naturopathic doctor with a special interest in developmental and behavioural disorders. Cases are all from her practice, names have been changed, they were published with permission and are intended for education only.
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH
Naturopathic Physician and Classical Homeopath
6550 Throup Road
Sooke, BC, V9Z 0W6
Serving families in Sooke, Metchosin, Langford, Colwood, Victoria, Jordan River, Port Renfew, Greater Vancouver Island, BC
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-6 and alternating Saturdays from 10-4