My struggle with reality as a teenager

I would be sitting innocently in a class as a 13 year old. Nervous… scared. If it started again…. When IT…. would win… I was terrified to go to school… I felt I had no power over my mind. I’d cry about the thought of having to go in.

What was IT?

It was never fully diagnosed but speaking to a friend who went through something similar, the closest self diagnosis I was able to conclude from my situation was that I went through an undiagnosed case of derealisation.

Usually my blogs are quick shares of experience with solutions but today I felt the need to be a little bit more open as I go through some deeper work in my life. Currently I’m working through subconscious blocks and trauma in my life.

When we say trauma it doesn’t necessarily mean a huge amount of abuse, it can mean an event which triggered us to feel a certain way. It can be a huge rejection, a job lose or a terrifying moment. Trauma lives in our body. I’ve discovered mine in forms of tense shoulders and a clenching jaw to name a couple.

When I reflected back on my younger years of my life, although at 31 now I’d consider myself very young in life still, I came up with this painful series of experiences of self diagnosed derealisation.

I would feel scared, terrified and anxious. I would disassociate myself from being in certain times in my life, mainly the classroom at school when it was boring lol. It was beyond terrifying feeling like I was in a dream (or nightmare), that everyone and everything around me wasn’t real. I would pinch myself and clench my fists hard to attempt to not have a panic attack.

I remember a couple of times I would though. I would breathe heavily and leave the room. I was terrified and never felt so alone in my life.

What were the reactions from the school nurse and my parents?
They thought I was just tired and playing up…. I even went to the Doctor and they thought nothing of it. Just tiredness. I don’t think mental health challenges back in the early 2000s were as evident as they are now. The school nurse and my parents started to get irritated by me coming up with this challenge a few times. It’s not their fault it wasn’t clear what was up.

I just knew I felt very alone. Very scared and terrified. I was not very self aware in life then and didn’t know what was up.

How was it caused?
I don’t know. Perhaps some kind of unresolved trauma. I had been in a car crash and almost died at 11 years old, but hadn’t really processed that. I had lost a brother at 2 and a half years old, a grandad just before that and a grandma at 7 when I never fully processed it either.

There are lots of levels deeper I’m prepared to go. It’s not easy when your brain hides things for you, but I know that when I uncover something and share it, I feel a sense of freedom and can grow even more.

So how did I overcome it?
I kept my head up, continued to battle the fear of having a panic attack feeling like I wasn’t in reality. I started to focus on other good things in life. Eventually I didn’t have these episodes anymore. I’d definitely recommend to anyone in this day and age to share and get help as the root cause needs to be explored as trauma and stress came up in other areas in my life which I’ll share in another blog.

I feel the healthiest approach in my life for me has to move forward to go for what I want, but also become self aware and look at any wounds I may be carrying. I’ve not been as good at the latter but it’s something I’m committed to now.


This has been my share of my struggle with reality as a teenager. I hope by writing this someone can relate to my story to help them understand they are not alone. Trauma can spring up in many ways, but self awareness and deep work can really set us free. I’ll continue to do some more deep work and share my experiences.

Thank you for reading.

By Jonny Pardoe

Podcast Host, Confidence & Podcast Coach and Author

© The Self Esteem and Confidence Mindset Ltd February 2022
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