When considering topics for today’s daily prompt word “identical”, what came to mind first were my experiences with déjà vu. I believe most people are familiar with the term. If not, the relevant Merriam-Webster dictionary definition I’m writing about is “the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time.” Or to me, it is more like where you recognize that even minute movements (like turns of your head), exact sounds, and sometimes even feelings and/or smells altogether take you back to moments of an absolute identical experience. Have you ever experienced déjà vu?
Déjà vu experiences are actually not uncommon at all, with a rather large percentage of the population experiencing at least one in their lifetime. You need not have any kind of neurological or mental disorder to experience déjà vu, though they are known to be experienced more often by some people with temporal lobe epilepsy and/or mental disorders such as dissociative disorders and even anxiety, in some cases.
I recall having déjà vu a number of times throughout my life, starting from early childhood. At times it bewildered, excited, or even scared me, depending on the experience. The length of these events ranged from seconds to what seemed like minutes, though I believe the longer ones were time distorted. Sometimes as they would happen, it would almost be like literally watching a video of moments from my past, as if they were really happening again. Not a daydream or reminiscence. I was immersed and reliving it. Other times, soon after it began, I actually recognized that I was having the déjà vu as it was happening. I’d struggle to think or look at something I thought would be quite different than ever before, almost as a means of stopping it. That desire to control and stop it by “changing” it became more common when I was older. Though I don’t completely recall the full experiences I had as a child through young woman, I clearly felt somewhat disconnected from myself in the later ones. They were more “dreamy” and somewhat “cloudy” feeling.
It is a mystery what the causes of my past déjà vu were. Were they the sorts that many normal people experience? Were some related to mental illness (I have bipolar disorder and often anxiety issues)? Or could some actually have been seizures?
My mental illness has surely been with me since I was 15 years old, though not officially diagnosed until I was 32. There was also a time when I was about 38/39/40 years old (I forget exactly), when doctors even wondered if I had Simple Partial Seizures, a type of epilepsy. They gave me a CT scan, MRIs, and numerous EEGs. The first two tests came out negative, but one of the many EEGs showed activity that led a neurologist to officially give me a Simple Partial Seizure diagnosis. That scared the heck out of me, so I went to an epileptologist. That doctor said it was not definitive. He wanted me to go in hospital for 3-6 days for more testing. My husband urged me to refuse it, and I did. My husband’s fear was that it would trigger a major bipolar episode. Coincidentally, the same medication helping to control my bipolar disorder was also the medication of choice to control my suspected seizures. Anticonvulsants are commonly used for both. I started that medication a short while before with some good results in controlling another strange symptom (musical hallucinations). For the sake of the in-hospital testing, that medication would have to be drastically reduced.
I have been taking a large dose of anticonvulsants for about seven years now. During most of that time, many of my concerning symptoms faded away, including déjà vu. Some others lingered, but according to my psychiatrist and psychologist, the remaining symptoms seemed more like depersonalization and/or derealization, which are dissociative disorders. So, wow! I really did have some major risk factors.
With therapy and continued medication treatment, some of my bipolar and pretty much all of my neurological issues have eased or vanished. Grounding techniques help with any dissociative symptoms. I’m pretty sure that my anticonvulsants and low stress life control any seizure activity, if indeed I really had it. My bipolar is still an ongoing issue, but much less severe than in the past. If and when I have a déjà vu experience again, I’ll admit that it will be disconcerting, even if its origin is a more innocent one, whatever that may be for “regular” folks.
Consider reading my other posts below on topics mentioned above: