Who is that Stranger in the Mirror?

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and not recognized the person staring back at you? And I do mean staring because when this happens, I stare. I just look and look and hope that something will connect and I’ll suddenly feel like I know the woman staring back at me. But no matter how hard I face my own gaze, I am still foreign to myself. I am nothing more than a stranger.

 

This happened this morning as I was putting on my makeup. It’s a familiar occurrence, one which I’m sure is attributed to some mental health issue or another, but I’ve never had occasion to discuss it with a mental health provider so I’m not really sure what it stems from. My initial thoughts are maybe depersonalization (which can be defined as a state in which one loses all identity) or derealization (a sense that one’s surroundings are not real). The first makes more sense but often the latter accompanies the first for me… when I lose a sense of my own identity, I also have experiences in which I swear they are real one moment but then the next, I have no clue, like the lines between reality and fantasy have blurred, have become irreparable.

I do wonder if other people have experienced this feeling and if so, what do you do in order to combat it or get through it? This is usually when I find myself making some sort of drastic change to my appearance. It almost always results in my hair changing cut or color or both.

It might result in new piercings.

It could be in more tattoos.

Weight loss and weight gain are also fair game when I feel like this… because, unfortunately, it isn’t a feeling that passes quickly.

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It always lingers for days at the least and months at the most. Sometimes I even try to fill the void with things, as if buying new clothes will somehow make me better able to find myself. But, no. I’m still not there.

How do I find myself again? Do I even really have a self or is self just an illusion? I’m so unsettled by this feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. A stranger who has no choice but to go about living a life that feels foreign to me because the self I think I am created this life. I feel like I’ve gone bloody mad.

via Daily Prompt: Foreign

13 Thoughts

  1. I do the same thing when I’m dissociating while in deep depression- I see myself (or what is supposed to be myself) reflected in the mirror and I don’t recognize it. To be accurate, my brain doesn’t know that it should recognize it. I stare some more, but think that since logically, a mirror is supposed to be a reflection of this body that I am staring out of, I can conclude that the reflection is of my body that I’m in. All this takes a second longer to register, usually, but when the dissociation gets very bad (I feel like everything that is happening is actually a movie and I have no control, so both depersonalization and derealization), it takes a few seconds. I don’t really have solutions to get out of it. I usually try to sit with the discomfort and stop myself from doing anything that I might regret after the dissociation is over.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course! And I know, it’s not an easy thing to waltz through… It’s very uncomfortable and scary. But hang in there- one of these days, it will lift, and because it’s such an alien experience, you’ll never believe that it ever happened to you. Sending you lots of hugs

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  2. I think this feeling can be due to lack of confidence. I don’t know if you feel like this?
    When I had this time of feeling like you, I could remember feeling like this in my teens, due to the couple of years before it started and onwards. This was because at school, I felt an outside and not belonging anywhere, as well as the lack of confidence. This went on into into my 20’s.
    It wasn’t an everyday feeling, but I got to the point in my 20’s I would not look in a mirror anymore. (A full length one mostly.) I did not think of a way to get out of this feeling, as by my 20’s, I was dealing with other issues, while lacking in confidence and trying to build myself up from the other issues. So I can’t help on that part, with not really looking into a way myself. I can only say that if you are lacking confidence, then to work on that, which is something I have done over the years and I don’t seem to have those moments when I look in the mirror. x

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    1. I don’t think it is that for me as I literally feel a complete disconnect from the person I see on the mirror, as in, no judgement about the self… just no sense of self. Like, my brain doesn’t even know who the person is… but confidence is certainly something I likely should, at some point, address for myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have had this happen to me many times as well. I feel like I am disassociating when I do so. I do not know how to stop it either. Right now I am unrecognizable to myself because of my weight gain. It disgusts me so when I look, I do not see me. I totally get what you are saying here because who I see isn’t who I am, it is me now, but only temporarily. Sounds weird but that is how it is for me.

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    1. Doesn’t sound weird to me. I totally get it. I think to others who haven’t had the experience, it seems weird. I told the woman I’ve been dating about it and she was like, “yeah, no, never experienced that.” I’m just like, “oh, okay, well… cool. Moving on.” Haha
      Anyway, for what it’s worth, in the one photo I’ve seen of you, you seem like an incredibly lovely person. Even if who you see now is only a temporary self.

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  4. My understanding is that both DP and DR are a form of dissociating and often occur together.

    For me, people I know will start to feel like strangers. I know that I know them, but it’s hard to feel comfortable around them. I will have seen them just a day or so ago, but it feels like I never saw them at all. It’s awful. The connection is completely gone. It feels profoundly intolerable when it happens.

    I think, but it’s from far away. I am there, but really gone. I talk but the words are hard and they feel foreign to me. I exist in the world but feel completely unreal.

    I hope you can talk to someone soon about it. I don’t know how to stop it from happening either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I get that, too, actually. But I think, for me, it’s more disconcerting to others than it is to me, right now. I have made myself get comfortable with the pain of disconnection. I remember how hard it is when really seeking connection though… which maybe hinders healing, actually. Because I know to get back to a place of connection, I’d probably have to go back through the discomfort.

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      1. T says to try not to get too overwhelmed with it. It’ll pass and the cloudiness will lift. He says it’s there and it happens because I don’t feel safe. I’ve asked him to help me make it go away–he says not yet.

        Are you having trouble feeling safe lately?

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