One of the biggest problems faced by people who experience depersonalization and derealization (DP/DR) is managing their jobs. Committing to doing your work while being depersonalized quickly becomes a major source of pain.
People with DP/DR may experience the following at work:
- Loss of ability to focus or concentrate.
- Feeling scared and anxious at work.
- Feeling disconnected from co-workers and unable to interact with peers.
- Work environment and colleagues feel weird and alien-like.
- Fear of embarrassing oneself by losing control of the situation.
- Unable to think straight and caught up in intrusive thoughts.
- Lack of emotional support and being forced to put on a professional demeanor even when feeling panicky and scared inside.
Most of us depend on our work to pay the bills and provide our living. Under these conditions, the above symptoms may interfere with our ability to perform our jobs and duties to the best of our abilities.
So, what can one do when one has DP/DR and wants to manage their work situation? Let me list out a few options.
Option 1: Take a Vacation
Sometimes all you need is a little break. When we are caught in the cycle of work and depersonalization, a vacation may be exactly the cure that could help break this cycle. If you are experiencing DP/DR and have difficulty going to work, take a vacation for 2-3 weeks.
Head to a relaxing place like an island or a beach. I’d advise against going to a big city; they can be full of stimulation, which may not help calm you. On the other hand, relaxing on a beach or in a peaceful small town can calm your nerves and reduce the level of stress hormones in your body. Lowering these hormones directly lowers the level of DP/DR you experience.
Go ahead and pamper yourself for a few days. Get a massage. Stay in the hotel swimming pool all you want. Take it easy. Make it a time of rest and rejuvenation.
If you don’t feel like traveling, make it a staycation. This is where you take some time off of work but just stay in the comfort of your own home. Maybe you could work on some low-effort side projects. Maybe you’ll just cook good food every day, or maybe you don’t do anything at all other than resting up in your bed. Use this time in a way that suits you.
Option 2: Work from Home
Today, many offices allow employees to work from home. Most of the work these days is done on computers over the Internet, hence there’s not much need to commute to work every single day.
Check with your employer to see if you can take advantage of such an option. Even if you get approved for working from home for just 1-2 days a week, that is still a big win.
If your employer does not allow such arrangements, and if you have the required skills, you can try to find online work from places such as Fiverr and UpWork. These can be jobs in areas such as proofreading, graphics design, software programming, data entry, etc. You can do these jobs from the comfort of your own home.
Option 3: Work Part-Time
I get it; it might not be easy for everyone to have a work from home arrangement. In that case, think about working part-time. I understand your pay might be cut, but you will be able to gain 1-3 extra holidays per week. You can use that time for rest and recovery. This means that you will be dreading going to work less because you know the long weekend is around the corner. Over time, when you have built up enough confidence and courage, you can then transition back into a full-time job.
Option 4: Take a Sabbatical
A sabbatical is a long break from work. Typically, sabbaticals can be anywhere between 6 months to a year or two. During a sabbatical, one usually does not get paid, but they are able to re-join the workforce anytime they want to. In some situations, if you have been with a company for several years, a paid sabbatical may be part of your package. In any case, check with your employer to see if a sabbatical is something that you can utilize.
Use this opportunity to spend time with your family or people that bring you happiness and inner peace. Pick up hobbies that you can lose yourself in. This will help keep your mind off of DP/DR. You can even use this time to pick up new skills that might enable you to work from home in the future.
On a sabbatical, you no longer need to worry about your commute or the need to interact with customers or co-workers. The longer your break, the more time you have to recuperate your energy and recover from DP/DR.
Option 5: Claim Unemployment/Disability Payments
Most developed countries pay their citizens some unemployment compensation if they become disabled or incapacitated to work. Since DP/DR can be utterly disabling for some, they can try to take advantage of these options through their state or local governments.
Do some research online and check in with your local or state government to see if you qualify for such a payment.
Don’t feel ashamed to go on disability for a few months. You can use this time to cure yourself. This is only temporary. Once you gain your confidence to get back into the workforce, you’d no longer require such help.
Option 6: Embrace it and Show Up for Work
I kept this as the last option since it is probably the last resort for many. When none of the above options work and you need the pay from your job for your livelihood, there’s not much you can do except embrace the pain and show up for work.
It might be frustrating, and you may feel utterly helpless and scared the first few times, but by repeatedly going to work and trying to do the work to the best of your ability, you might eventually decrease the fear and dread you experience while there.
This is what happened to me. I had no other choice but to show up for work. I took it one day at a time. I told myself, “I’m just going to show up for work,” and then took it from there.
I went easy on myself. I did not beat myself up whenever I lost track of the conversation in a meeting or when I wasn’t able to perform to the best of my abilities. Sure, my performance suffered, but I told myself that I was still winning because all I cared about was that I showed up to work.
Over time, my fears started decreasing one by one and I was able to concentrate again. I also embraced the fact that everything around me looked weird or everyone looked so alien. I told myself to embrace and accept this weirdness and just show up for work.
If you have a supportive friend or colleague at work, open up to them and seek their help when you can’t perform at your best. It’s only hard in the beginning; as you keep showing up and continuing to work your DP/DR will start to decrease.
There you go. These are some of the options you can explore when you are struggling with DP/DR and trying to manage your work. I hope this article proved helpful to you.
- Opening image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/herval/424010245/