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This topic contains content which has been flagged with warnings, as follows: Self-Harm

I don't feel real


Zach Cant Focus

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I don't feel real. Sometimes my body just switches out of automatic mode and I just feel like what my eyes are seeing is just me sitting behind a TV screen. This feeling sneaks up on me at the worst time and I have to refocus. Once in a crowded area it got bad enough I had to sit down for a minute, which would be ideal every time it happens but it's not always something I can do so I just power through it.

The earliest specific instance I can remember this happening is like ~4 years ago. Then it was just "huh I'm alive and can move my fingers and stuff" and I remember it wasn't the first time it happened then. Since then it's been getting worse, particularly in like the last years. I hate it but I don't know how to make it stop.

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10 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

I don't feel real. Sometimes my body just switches out of automatic mode and I just feel like what my eyes are seeing is just me sitting behind a TV screen. This feeling sneaks up on me at the worst time and I have to refocus. Once in a crowded area it got bad enough I had to sit down for a minute, which would be ideal every time it happens but it's not always something I can do so I just power through it.

The earliest specific instance I can remember this happening is like ~4 years ago. Then it was just "huh I'm alive and can move my fingers and stuff" and I remember it wasn't the first time it happened then. Since then it's been getting worse, particularly in like the last years. I hate it but I don't know how to make it stop.

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

How are you doing? My name is Duckie and I'm one of the support mentors here. I am wondering how often you experience this and how it affects you? Are you always alone when it happens or are there sometimes people there "waking you up" from your state of mind? Is this something that worries you a lot?

It is easy to switch off and sometimes forget time and space. I think that's why they add laughter tracks on series - to let you know you're meant to join in on the laughter. If this happens a lot when you're behind a TV screen, could it be that the series/movies you're watching just aren't engaging enough?

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1 hour ago, Duckie said:

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

How are you doing? My name is Duckie and I'm one of the support mentors here. I am wondering how often you experience this and how it affects you? Are you always alone when it happens or are there sometimes people there "waking you up" from your state of mind? Is this something that worries you a lot?

It is easy to switch off and sometimes forget time and space. I think that's why they add laughter tracks on series - to let you know you're meant to join in on the laughter. If this happens a lot when you're behind a TV screen, could it be that the series/movies you're watching just aren't engaging enough?

Maybe once a day ish? It varies but that's the average probably. I don't need to be "woken up" exactly, the feeling is more feels like I'm "waking up" from like my life? It just feels like I'm controlling a video game character or watching a TV show when it happens because I don't really feel like I'm there.

Usually it happens when I'm with people but it has happened alone. Another thing that seems to trigger it is being somewhere I don't want to be or after saying something that I'm worried my parents or someone will be mad at.

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Hi Zach,

I see you are receiving support from the mentors but wanted to say hello and hope things get better for you! Massive hugs 🫂 

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6 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

Maybe once a day ish? It varies but that's the average probably. I don't need to be "woken up" exactly, the feeling is more feels like I'm "waking up" from like my life? It just feels like I'm controlling a video game character or watching a TV show when it happens because I don't really feel like I'm there.

Usually it happens when I'm with people but it has happened alone. Another thing that seems to trigger it is being somewhere I don't want to be or after saying something that I'm worried my parents or someone will be mad at.

It sounds like this might be a kind of coping mechanism for you. A way to mentally check out or put yourself on autopilot mode if you will... Is that fair to say?

How do you feel afterwards when you're back in the room again? Do you feel rather empty or are there suddenly lots of thoughts that wrestle for your attention, for example?

Do you have any ideas how long these automatic modes last for?

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52 minutes ago, Duckie said:

It sounds like this might be a kind of coping mechanism for you. A way to mentally check out or put yourself on autopilot mode if you will... Is that fair to say?

How do you feel afterwards when you're back in the room again? Do you feel rather empty or are there suddenly lots of thoughts that wrestle for your attention, for example?

Do you have any ideas how long these automatic modes last for?

Yeah it might be a coping thing.

Readjusting is sort of getting back to normal. I just wait for the feeling to pass over and then I can go back to functioning. When it happens I often have difficulty processing things like questions and instructions. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple minutes.

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11 minutes ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

Yeah it might be a coping thing.

Readjusting is sort of getting back to normal. I just wait for the feeling to pass over and then I can go back to functioning. When it happens I often have difficulty processing things like questions and instructions. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple minutes.

Has it always been like this or is this something that has started happening lately? What do think your mind is trying to tell you by doing this?

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2 hours ago, Duckie said:

Has it always been like this or is this something that has started happening lately? What do think your mind is trying to tell you by doing this?

It's been happening for at least 5 years but it hasn't started becoming something I think about or that affected me a lot in the last couple years

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11 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

It's been happening for at least 5 years but it hasn't started becoming something I think about or that affected me a lot in the last couple years

Maybe it's a sign that you need to remove yourself from the situation. If you for example get like this around people you don't feel comfortable with, maybe your mind is trying to protect you from this uncertain situation by shutting down. What do you think? And how does it make you feel? Do you feel calm or rather confused afterwards?

When this happens when you watch TV, is it when you're watching something you've already watched before or something that otherwise would make you feel less engaged than normally?

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8 hours ago, Duckie said:

Maybe it's a sign that you need to remove yourself from the situation. If you for example get like this around people you don't feel comfortable with, maybe your mind is trying to protect you from this uncertain situation by shutting down. What do you think? And how does it make you feel? Do you feel calm or rather confused afterwards?

When this happens when you watch TV, is it when you're watching something you've already watched before or something that otherwise would make you feel less engaged than normally?

It doesn't only happen when in uncomfortable situations sometimes it just happens. I don't really notice when it ends, sort of like when you're falling asleep you don't notice the exact time you fall asleep. I do notice the exact moment it starts though.

It doesn't really happen particularly when I'm watching TV what I said was when it happens is it feels like I'm watching my life behind a TV screen.

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On 8/30/2023 at 8:22 PM, Zach Cant Focus said:

It doesn't only happen when in uncomfortable situations sometimes it just happens. I don't really notice when it ends, sort of like when you're falling asleep you don't notice the exact time you fall asleep. I do notice the exact moment it starts though.

It doesn't really happen particularly when I'm watching TV what I said was when it happens is it feels like I'm watching my life behind a TV screen.

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

Oh my apologies for getting it wrong. It does sound like you switch off and go to an autopilot mode, which isn't necessarily anything to worry about, as everyone will shut off from time to time. Is this something that is causing you concern? How are you feeling otherwise?

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On 9/4/2023 at 2:38 PM, Duckie said:

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

Oh my apologies for getting it wrong. It does sound like you switch off and go to an autopilot mode, which isn't necessarily anything to worry about, as everyone will shut off from time to time. Is this something that is causing you concern? How are you feeling otherwise?

Yeah it just makes it really hard to function and I hate the feeling so much. Sometimes I have/want to tell people to not ask my questions for the next 2 minutes while I try to fix my brain.

Otherwise my mental health isn't really great either

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9 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

Yeah it just makes it really hard to function and I hate the feeling so much. Sometimes I have/want to tell people to not ask my questions for the next 2 minutes while I try to fix my brain.

Otherwise my mental health isn't really great either

Hi there, Duckie won't be back online until Monday so I thought I would jump in. I hope you don't mind. 

I think asking people for 2 min until you feel yourself again is a great idea and a perfectly reasonable request. You mentioned that you have already done that. Can I ask, how others around you reacted when you asked them for a couple of minutes of peace? I hope they were respectful and understanding. 

You mentioned that your mental health isn't great. Would you like to tell me a bit more about what's been going on for you?  We're here for you

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12 hours ago, Aurora said:

Hi there, Duckie won't be back online until Monday so I thought I would jump in. I hope you don't mind. 

I think asking people for 2 min until you feel yourself again is a great idea and a perfectly reasonable request. You mentioned that you have already done that. Can I ask, how others around you reacted when you asked them for a couple of minutes of peace? I hope they were respectful and understanding. 

You mentioned that your mental health isn't great. Would you like to tell me a bit more about what's been going on for you?  We're here for you

Once on like a field trip my friends and I were walking a lot and I told them I needed to sit down it was a busy area and the feeling was particularly bad then. They told me I could take my time. However that's kind of the only time I had people make like accommodations because I'm non confrontational and the last thing I want to do during these moments where I can barely answer yes/no questions is explain to someone why they need to stop talking for the next few minutes.

In terms of general mental health, I just started high

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Just now, Zach Cant Focus said:

Once on like a field trip my friends and I were walking a lot and I told them I needed to sit down it was a busy area and the feeling was particularly bad then. They told me I could take my time. However that's kind of the only time I had people make like accommodations because I'm non confrontational and the last thing I want to do during these moments where I can barely answer yes/no questions is explain to someone why they need to stop talking for the next few minutes.

In terms of general mental health, I just started high

Didn't finish that

I just started highschool and have been generally stressed out and also being deadnamed a lot as teachers get to know all the students is taking a toll on my mental health

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17 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

Didn't finish that

I just started highschool and have been generally stressed out and also being deadnamed a lot as teachers get to know all the students is taking a toll on my mental health

No problem. OK, so it sounds like your friends were very understanding. Would you feel happy to do the same again if it was just them and you felt like you could do with a little time out. Also, did it help you in that moment? 

Starting highschool is a big change and I can understand why you are feeling stressed out. What do you think would help you to feel less stressed? And I'm really sorry to hear that you are being deadnamed. It's really understandable that this will be having an impact on your emotional wellbeing. Do you mind me asking what you do, when this happens. Do you feel like you can correct them? I wanted to reassure you that our wellbeing changes all the time and you will feel differently again. If you like we can think about some of the things together that might help you feel better again. How does that sound? 

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6 hours ago, Aurora said:

No problem. OK, so it sounds like your friends were very understanding. Would you feel happy to do the same again if it was just them and you felt like you could do with a little time out. Also, did it help you in that moment? 

Starting highschool is a big change and I can understand why you are feeling stressed out. What do you think would help you to feel less stressed? And I'm really sorry to hear that you are being deadnamed. It's really understandable that this will be having an impact on your emotional wellbeing. Do you mind me asking what you do, when this happens. Do you feel like you can correct them? I wanted to reassure you that our wellbeing changes all the time and you will feel differently again. If you like we can think about some of the things together that might help you feel better again. How does that sound? 

It did help to tell people that I needed to sit down. However, when stuff like this happens in class I'm worried the teacher might be less understanding of me like, having to sit outside for a couple of minutes.

Im not able to correct people who deadnamed me because I live in Florida and the teachers legally can't call me anything not on the roster unless I get a paper signed by my parents.

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On 9/8/2023 at 8:27 PM, Zach Cant Focus said:

It did help to tell people that I needed to sit down. However, when stuff like this happens in class I'm worried the teacher might be less understanding of me like, having to sit outside for a couple of minutes.

Im not able to correct people who deadnamed me because I live in Florida and the teachers legally can't call me anything not on the roster unless I get a paper signed by my parents.

Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. That must be really frustrating. Do you think you could ask your parents to sign that paper or are they not aware of what's going on (please don't feel you have to answer if you don't feel comfortable to)?

Most schools tend to be quite good at giving students some space to have a time out if they need it. I think schools are getting better at recognising, that in order to learn we need to feel calm and focussed. Sometimes this means that we need a little time out first so we can collect our thoughts and calm ourselves down. I'm wondering, is there anyone in your school you could talk to about this? Do you have something like student support services or is there a particular teacher or member of staff you trust and who you could reach out to? 

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9 hours ago, Aurora said:

Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. That must be really frustrating. Do you think you could ask your parents to sign that paper or are they not aware of what's going on (please don't feel you have to answer if you don't feel comfortable to)?

Most schools tend to be quite good at giving students some space to have a time out if they need it. I think schools are getting better at recognising, that in order to learn we need to feel calm and focussed. Sometimes this means that we need a little time out first so we can collect our thoughts and calm ourselves down. I'm wondering, is there anyone in your school you could talk to about this? Do you have something like student support services or is there a particular teacher or member of staff you trust and who you could reach out to? 

They probably wouldn't sign it they aren't really accepting of trans people (at least my dad isn't, my mom has tried to defend trans people occasionally in his rants about us but he shuts her down)

I have my friends but not really any adults I could talk to. Its hard to know who to trust because outing is permanent

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Just now, Zach Cant Focus said:

They probably wouldn't sign it they aren't really accepting of trans people (at least my dad isn't, my mom has tried to defend trans people occasionally in his rants about us but he shuts her down)

I have my friends but not really any adults I could talk to. Its hard to know who to trust because outing is permanent

My parents are the type that believes in "real" and "fake" trans people

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33 minutes ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

My parents are the type that believes in "real" and "fake" trans people

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

Do you think your mom would be able to sign the paper for you? Maybe your dad doesn't need to be involved in this, since he doesn't seem to understand it anyway. What do you think?

It sounds like your mom might be more understanding, although it might be a concious choice to not always defend trans people when your dad goes off on a tangent, simply because she knows it won't change hpw he feels. But I am thinking she might actually be an ally. Would you feel comfortable talking to your mom about this?

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1 hour ago, Duckie said:

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

Do you think your mom would be able to sign the paper for you? Maybe your dad doesn't need to be involved in this, since he doesn't seem to understand it anyway. What do you think?

It sounds like your mom might be more understanding, although it might be a concious choice to not always defend trans people when your dad goes off on a tangent, simply because she knows it won't change hpw he feels. But I am thinking she might actually be an ally. Would you feel comfortable talking to your mom about this?

No. She's not exactly an ally but she's better than my dad. Also my family is kinda different where my mom works and Dad raises us so if the school started calling me Zach it would involve my dad.

I'm also just not comfortable having difficult conversations with them as it makes my brain do the zoning out rebooting things I was talking about earlier on this post.

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11 hours ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

No. She's not exactly an ally but she's better than my dad. Also my family is kinda different where my mom works and Dad raises us so if the school started calling me Zach it would involve my dad.

I'm also just not comfortable having difficult conversations with them as it makes my brain do the zoning out rebooting things I was talking about earlier on this post.

Hi @Zach Cant Focus, 

That does sound like your zoning out might be a way to protect yourself against difficult emotions and settings. Would you agree?

Is there someone at school you could talk to about this? Like a welfare department or any kind of councelor? They might be able to help you and find a way to discreetly ask the teachers to call you what you want to be called. This is important to you and there might be someone who could help. What do you think?

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1 hour ago, Duckie said:

Hi @Zach Cant Focus, 

That does sound like your zoning out might be a way to protect yourself against difficult emotions and settings. Would you agree?

Is there someone at school you could talk to about this? Like a welfare department or any kind of councelor? They might be able to help you and find a way to discreetly ask the teachers to call you what you want to be called. This is important to you and there might be someone who could help. What do you think?

I think that makes sense, yes.

As for adults at the school I just don't think its possible without involving my parents.

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37 minutes ago, Zach Cant Focus said:

I think that makes sense, yes.

As for adults at the school I just don't think its possible without involving my parents.

Hi @Zach Cant Focus,

Considering how this is affecting your mental health, they might find a way to help you without involving your parents. Because they have to take what's best for you into account, and if it's going to have negative consequences for your health and well-being to involve your parents, they have to take this into consideration. You can for example ask to have a confidential chat and ask whether it's possible for teachers to refer to you as your name of preference? If for some reason they can't, there is usually a way to go around this, such as just calling you by your last name when they need to call you for example. What do you think of this?

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