Has anybody ever felt like they're "not real"?

I, like many of you, have suffered with depression and anxiety for many years in recurring bouts. I'm currently off work and have been for 2months for the first time in my life. My depression and anxiety have made it difficult to live my day to day life, and I have been feeling more and more often that I'm not really a real person.

It's difficult to explain. I have a good job, a lovely home that my boyfriend and I worked hard to achieve, a wonderful family and a few very close friends that I can talk to about anything. But behind it all I just have this feeling like it wasn't me that made all this amazing stuff happen, it isn't me that goes to work and it isn't me that is now scared to leave the house and see people or generally do whatever I feel I need to.

Everything I do I just feel like it's happened to someone else, someone I don't know. But not like there's someone else in my mind. I don't hear voices etc.

I have seen my GP and no, he wasn't very supportive, like any time I have been to my GP for help with depression (I haven't discussed this disconnected feeling though). I am now having to switch doctors due to moving home a while ago and have run out of the sertraline prescription I was on. However I don't feel that it was helping me and I will address this with my new GP once I have an appointment.

Has anybody ever had this disconnected feeling? I can have days where I can have a good time and bad days where I can't even leave my bed because it doesn't feel safe outside of it. I just want to know how on earth I can stop this feeling or at least help myself with it.

Thanks in advance.

22 Replies

  • Hi

    Yes, I spent much of my life feeling the way you do, disconnected from what was happening around me despite appearing normal to everyone else - which somehow left me feeling despair that nobody could ever understand how I was feeling.

    It was not easy and took time but I was enabled to feel real within therapy and gradually become secure with that feeling. Now I realise how healthy I was all along and that I didn't know how to process feelings that were overwhelming as I had not had anyone to help me with them.

    I would suggest when you see the new GP you ask for a referral to the psychotherapy department - rather than counselling, if you are offered that it will be short term and be likely to lead to your feeling despair. It is likely to take time to form the kind of therapeutic relationship that will enable you to feel sufficient trust to contact your real feelings.


  • I agree re ensuring the counselling is long term. This six week 'quick fix' approach has never helped me in a similar situation because it takes at least that amount of time to build up a relationship with the therapist.

  • At least! I would reckon 6-9 months is short term and 12-18 months a reasonable time... what has the NHS come to... I despair.

  • Again, I agree entirely. I am benefitting from counselling but it has taken since early January to get to the stage where things are really beginning to happen. Perhaps short term counselling would work for some but serious problems like mine need a great deal more.

  • In our area talking sessions have been restricted to six sessions.

    Then they will decide the way forward at that time. So sometimes you may have too wait for a further course of treatment


  • Yes, it's the same here, 6 weeks CBT and then get re-referred and go onto the waiting list for anything longer.


  • Yes, I know exactly what you mean about not feeling real. I have been ill with depression for about three years - it has been a problem to a greater or lesser extent for a lot longer than that. Last year I spent most of it in bed because I had 'vacated' my body and couldn't cope. I am lucky because I have a very understanding GP who has referred me to a very kind psychiatrist. I now have a combination of drugs that seem to help. I also have counselling. Unfortunately, the NHS grinds along slowly so I've had to wait a long time for this help. In fact, I have the counselling provided by a charity. The 2 year NHS waiting list was too long for me and my psychiatrist pointed me in the charity's direction.

    May I suggest finding your new doctor asap because in my experience the drugs do lift you up to a place where you can help yourself. In the meantime, why not just go with it? When you feel like staying in bed, do it. Stressing about it only makes things worse. Depression is an illness so if you need to rest, you need to rest, and that's that. I know that is easier said than done. You seem similar to me - proactive, hardworking, achiever - so it comes as a bit of a shock when you can't do the things you used to do so easily. My husband still keeps telling me off for worrying about all the things I 'should' be doing but can't.

    May I suggest you remind yourself frequently that you have an illness and that of course you need to stay in bed sometimes. You may find that by removing the pressure you are putting on yourself, that you will need to stay in bed less often.

    As for not feeling real and as if someone else did all the fab things that you did, I'd suggest the same thing. Remind yourself that you're ill. If you had had a road accident, you wouldn't be able to do those things at the moment either. The illness depression has a similar debilitating effect on your life. May I suggest reminding yourself that you are only thinking that way because you're ill, try to accept the feeling but don't except that it is true. You are ill and that is why you are feeling this way.

    I know by experience that although it is always good to help yourself, sometimes depression gets so bad that that is not possible. You need help and support from others before you can turn the corner.

    Have you tried counselling recently? That has helped me a lot but I needed the drugs first.

    I hope I've been of some help. I do feel for you, depression is a horrible illness.

    Good luck!

  • Thank you all for your replies and suggestions. I have previously had counselling on several separate occasions for 1-2 years at each time. It takes a long time to create a rapport with a stranger, and I have always used it as my 'safe place' and been as open and honest with myself as possible in there. That's what it's there for.

    I will be seeing my new GP next week as soon as I have an appointment and will go through what options I can have, and if there is possibly anything else I can do.

    I try to stay positive and remind myself to see the good and great things I have and have achieved, but with this disconnected feeling it gets very hard. I think maybe I just don't understand or fully recognise that I'm not well. Maybe it's denial.

    I'm just glad in a weird way that it's common and not me losing my mind. It's not easy to explain to someone that hasn't felt like this or experienced it. Thank you all again.

  • Have words with your GP, I do not know how long you have been at your new address, Personally you should see the practice and have a chat and a checkup of self and records by now.

    We moved a while ago a good distance from our old address, when I look around the room and see all our furniture and feel that I am back at my old home. Then I go through a door and depending which way I go I will stop and take a second glance.

    We now are in a bungalow and to be honest everything seems that much more around us and it really helps not to have any stairs , although the place is full of memories of where we were, it is all one very strange feeling. I will stand in our office/study etc and just stop and stare, wondering how all is there, very unsettling


  • Not up to writing much at the moment but yes I definately get this feeling of not being real, and even not being here or not existing, so yes others do get it. Gemma x

  • Hope you are ok Gemma, missing your input on the site and hope you are feeling ok. Suex

  • I'm struggling but I'm ok if you know what I mean? I do think I'm progressing but still struggling a lot. It's nice to hear from people though so thanks for the comments Bob and Sue. X

  • Hello Gemma

    We miss your input.!!

    Personally I feel sometimes this feeling of distance or being in an unreal environment is caused by a very mixed up Society, that our political parties need to foster to get away with what is really going on in our green and pleasant land. So basically I feel those of us with Depression and associated problems are the only sane ones around. It may concern them I suppose LOL.


  • hi there, i often have this feeling/thought that i am not real. that the life happening around me is not real. can't offer any helpful advice ... just that you are not alone xx

  • Hi Brecca I am another one who understands how you are feeling. Like you I have had and still do issues I can't deal with and I think the disconnect is the mind protecting you so it is possible to go on surving and doing the things you have to in order to survive. It's like seeing yourself from the outside but not the inside which is empty and bare.

    Have you ever thought of trying mindfullness? There is quite a lot online about it and it could be worthwhile having a gander. I haven't looked into it much myself but others have found it very good.

    Sometimes it is like being in a fog with no sound and nothing feeling real isn't it? I have occasional memory fugues where I can't remember what I have done.

    The worse one I ever had which scared me enormously is many years ago. It was a nomal day and I got up for work as usual. I had my bath, got dressed and did my my up and was about to leave for work when I suddenly felt very tired and drained and sat down for a moment. Next thing I know it is 5pm and I am still sitting in the same place but with no memory of the day at all. I hadn't been sleeping but was just in some sort of no place and I have no idea to this day what I did. I wasn't hungry so imagine I must have got up and made myself something to eat.

    To a lesser extent this came back around 6 months or so again when I lost whole chunks of memory. This time I went to the doctor who said my depression was pushing me off centre and I was drifting a bit. She recomended counselling.

    You are not alone love. Bev xx

  • When I had my last breakdown I seemed to loose a lot of memories from my early adult life and I feel I have not got them all back. Mind as I get older I am now remembering my Surrogate family and the days out we used to do. Also I remember mixing with their family members and having parties, with them. Strange to say my life as this child I cannot remember very much of my actual family at this time. My teenage years are also not remembered with my real family. So sometimes trying to remember really does my head in


  • HI Bob I understand how you feel as I remember very little of my childhood too. I do know I was quite a happy child until the age of around 10 when my depression started. From 10 onwards I can mainly remember unhappiness and despair. There were a few good times but my main memories are of feeling unwanted and unsupported and being constantly criticised and feeling inadequate.

    I also have memory blanks in my teenage years and early 20's and mainly remember again unhappiness etc. Late 20's to late 30's were a lot better and I remember them more. I think the mind reaches a certain level of pain then shuts down to protect you which is why a lot of it is unremembered.

    This probably leads to the feelings of disconnect and unreality as well.

    Bev x

  • Bev

    I think you are right there.

    My last words with my mother at break up said I dragged you to ten then wiped my hands of you when you failed your eleven plus.

    I had heard something much the same from my Father when in my teens

    Proper charmers, the lot of them. You would not believe it my Mother was a Teacher in a Junior school.

    Thanks Bev


  • Hello Brecca

    I had those feelings too in the past. Sometimes for days. Sometimes it returns. I told my doctor but she wasn't helpful.

    So what I do is: I accept that I feel this way and keep doing my routine. But I also practice some mindful activities e.g. feeling the wind or sun on my skin. And try to connect me with my senses like taste of something, a smell or I watch other people or talk to my wife. Than usually it goes away when I realize there is a world and i am connected to it so I am real.

    You could also try to find out in which situations it happens and what is going on around you.

    I cannot promise if this helps but you could try.



  • i too have had time of work 3 months , i have a good life , a nice wife , good job had depression for a few years now on and off had tablets and had help with occupational health , but no better depression kills your motivation and i dont want face anything the only thing i like is jogging this seams to help me ?

  • Yes! It is dissociation. It's a response to anxiety that your mind uses to protect itself. i used to feel I was floating one foot above the floor and couldn't touch the ground. My psychiatrist years later explained to me that I had learned to use this defense as a child when I was being abused and I was falling back onto it now whenever I was under stress. She said it was the way my mind had stayed sane when I was little.

  • Thanks again for your kind words and advice. I was mean to start a phased return to work today., but I couldn't face being in a small office where everyone can hear you and see you at all times. Maybe I'm not ready yet.

    The worst thing is the crushing disappointment I have in myself. I have never in my life been good enough for family, friends or colleagues and the thought that in work people will be watching me and treating me with kid gloves makes me feel sick. I don't want to be noticed in any way right now. I know my boyfriend is disappointed and worried, but I can't make somebody understand who hasn't felt this. Let alone explain to my boss that I'm terrified of being 'trapped' in that environment. But at least I know that I am actually good at my job. I run that office single handedly on a regular basis and I get great feedback... But there's always something that somebody doesn't like (which I know is life in general. But when you're in such a small place and you spend most of your time there, it's hard not to take it personally).

    I have noticed a definite change in myself being off medication; I feel slow, tired and just trapped in my own head. I eat when hungry and keep my usual good standard of hydration, but the rest of 'everyday life' just is not appealing. I used to love to read, but now I can't get into any type of book and that gets me frustrated. Everything I try to distract myself with is only that; a distraction.

    I can't shake the feeling or questioning what the point is in doing anything at the moment. Roll on Thursday and seeing the doctor hey? I hope I get myself out of this pit, and soon. But even then nobody will forget it and I'll forever be 'that person' and I'll never measure up. My Christ it's frustrating!

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