I've always had dissociative issues (depersonalization and derealization) but attributed them to anxiety and depression because once I got medicated and in therapy for those, I stopped having dissociative episodes. But it seems like the chronic pain from fibro has set me not just back to the start, but into the negatives with regard to my dissociative episodes. There are times I spend the greater part of a day barely tethered to my body. Fibro fog and usual symptoms from my pre-existing mental health issues are just compounding it. My mom, who has her own chronic pain issues, assured me that it's normal, but it doesn't feel normal. I fear I'm losing my grip on reality itself sometimes. It's scary. Has anyone else gone through this? How do you draw a line between "normal" dissociation to cope with pain, and disorder?
I read your other post a little earlier, but got sucked back into work so didn't manage to reply. I just wanted to say that you've found a great place here - lots of wonderful and supportive people who have figured out how to navigate fibromyalgia with impressive levels of grace and humour! Sunkacola's so right that you can and will get a handle on this - it won't be perfect and things are going to look a little different, but it's not going to feel nearly as scary as you find your way.
I also had a bit of a blur between symptoms caused by long-term depression and those which were related to my emerging fibromyalgia. Don't fear that you're loosing your grip on reality - I went through something very similar in the beginning, and figured out how to minimize it over time.
In the earlier stages of my fibro battle, once the condition had fully manifested (which took years, looking back), I had real trouble with dissociative episodes. This went from experiencing depersonalization and derealization as you describe, through to full-on blackouts that scared the hell out of me. At that point all of my symptoms were flaring in a big way - all kinds of pain, fog, fatigue, memory issues, speech issues, insomnia etc. As I gradually got a handle on how to self-manage and got really kick-ass at self-care, everything got much
calmer. I still have flares, but almost never to that extent, and the dissociative experiences are a rarity now. If I could say something to myself back then, I guess it'd be "trust that you're going to come out the other side of this," so that's probably the best thing I can say to you!
That said, it's always a good idea to pay attention to new symptoms in case they indicate that something else is going on. For example, you didn't mention taking any medications, but if you are, keep in mind that side effects can be sneaky as we often take a while to tease them apart from fibro symptoms.
With Sunkacola's advice list, I really recommend working through, idea by idea, doing a bit of research, and figuring out how to make it part of your routine. For me at least, going in and out of the right habits just doesn't cut it - I had to learn to get reallllly consistent about managing stress, eating right and moving a little every day, upping my sleep-hygiene game, and mastering pacing (spoon theory 🥄). To begin with, I wasn't sure if it was working; then I started to notice right away if I didn't stay on track, but still kept overdoing it; and finally I started to develop some good instincts so that I could stay ahead of those flares more often. We can't control every trigger, and sometimes we can't even figure out what the trigger was, but we can certainly do some good work in turning down the dial at least some of the time.
If you have a dig through the forum here you'll find lots of ideas of other things you can try, like certain supplements, treatments, or dietary changes. You can also read about people's experiences with medications and physical therapies. We all seem to need a range of different solutions, so it helps to take a long-game approach, take your time, and experiment until you find a stack of tactics that makes a real difference. The forum's search function is also pretty handy if you want to read about anything in particular. Ask away if you have questions, and vent at will! 🌻