I Feel Numb. I Want to Escape.
August was a very stressful month for me. I was in between apartments, questioning some of my closest relationships, and was stressed out about my career and well—where the funds were coming from too. But this isn’t really about August. August just amplified some of my ongoing plights, if you will. These plights have to do with my relationship with myself, which sucks because I tend to associate “working on myself” with times when I’m not feeling the best about myself either. I’m sure you can relate to that because we all do it. Yet the thing is, I know that if I was just better to myself and had a better relationship with myself in the first place, I wouldn’t wait till I was down to pick myself back up. You see, when you keep doing that, you begin to associate growth with having to deal with the bad shit in your life so that you can not be down, so that you can feel the good stuff again. It shouldn’t be that way. But anyways, until I learn that, which I am, let me get back to the matter at hand.
Now minus the apartment situation, I’ve questioned my relationships and stressed over my career at many times throughout my time in New York. Hell, most of my adult life really. But you see, New York— let me say that that has been a time and place in my life I associate with leaving my stable teaching job to fully pursue my dreams of being a motivational public figure and writer. I have a lot to be thankful for. But it hasn’t been easy. I’ve faced a lot of rejection. From moving to a new city and looking to build a community of close friends to establishing my career, rejection has come in many forms. Up until recently, I wasn’t close to very many people here, I didn’t have a support system of people I could go to or felt comfortable going to. Maybe you’ve felt that way yourself at times in new environments. And being an extreme extrovert, I need a community more than most people in order to be functional. So let’s just say I’ve had to turn to myself a lot more than I have ever been used to, and it’s led me to my demise at times, but in the end, to a stronger relationship with myself. But again, it’s been a process. It still is.
I’ve questioned my intentions and what I’m really doing here and who I’m becoming. I try to connect with my inner voice as much as possible but failure, self-doubt, and the opinions of others steers me off course a lot of the time. I’ve mentioned this in “Growing Pains” as well, that “you’ve got to almost step away from yourself and observe your actions, your mood, what excites you, what drains you” to really learn about who you are and what you want. It’s hard to do that when you allow the voices of your insecurities, self-doubt, and others’ opinions to drown that process of self-learning and growing.
But it happens. And it happens all the time. We shy away, we begin to give in to the doubt. We begin to silence ourselves. We begin to present less and less of ourselves to the world, and to ourselves. Personally, I just feel quite calloused. I feel overly emotional yet I can’t express any of it productively. And I think:
Why do I feel numb? So discouraged? It’s as though I don’t have a voice, as though I feel lost. And I can’t help but feel a little helpless.
It becomes a lot. This is when you see those memes of: “When I have a thousand things to do and decide to take a nap instead—” sure they’re funny and relatable, but they hold a lot of truth to them too. I, and maybe you too, get overwhelmed. And we shut down. We stop feeling. We’d rather be somewhere else; in another state of mind.
Why am I looking for an escape?
Because I have shut down.
Why have I been smoking so much weed lately? Or so inclined to want to drink? Am I hiding from feeling something? Am I escaping my feelings? My obligations? In other words, why am I in my feelings and I can’t get out?
Because I don’t know where else to go. I’m going within— internalizing it and expressing it the only way I can, voicing it where it’s safe. Within.
We internalize and dissociate from that which we cannot connect with.
When I don’t feel fulfilled. When I don’t feel heard. When I don’t feel respected; honored, I pull away and pull within. But when I do the same to myself? Then I just bottle it up.
It’s a reaction. But I don’t feel safe at those times. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to even express myself.
What must I do?
Strengthen myself and at least hear myself out through and through. Understanding and being heard from within, from your own self is first and foremost. Take that literally and speak to yourself. Write it down, say it outloud to yourself in the shower, in your own privacy. How do you feel? What’s hurting you? Why’re you upset? Let it out. You are safe with yourself. If you’re having trouble doing this, then run these thoughts through your mind:
You may be afraid of even admitting to yourself what’s bothering you.
- Is there a relationship at stake? Do you not want to see this person in this light? For example, if someone hurt you, you don’t want to see them as someone that could be capable of that?
- Is there something else you value at stake?
- Are you afraid of what people may think?
You may be resisting or denying your truth.
- This is where your “shoulds” will kill you. I should be happy. I should be attracted to this person. I should be motivated. I should be doing this. I should be this way.
- If this isn’t the first time you’ve been hurt in this way, you may not be giving yourself enough space to feel because: “hey, this is isn’t the first time- so it shouldn’t be bothering me.” You cannot normalize your pain.
Give it time, it will take practice but honesty is crucial in developing an open, connected relationship with yourself. Because If you don’t show yourself love and compassion, how will you know how to seek it from others? How will you show others to treat you the same way, if you don’t treat yourself that way? Okay point on that note: I didn’t mean that to incentivize why you should build your relationship with yourself, but sadly that’s again what we do: we only want to work on ourselves when we know it’s affecting our relationship with others.
We know what may have attributed to our numbness. It could be the pain of what you’re going through or have recently been going through. Or maybe the pain of past trauma that you never dealt with, yet has accumulated. Being calloused by our experiences can almost be understandable; a safety mechanism preventing us from getting hurt even more.
What is feeling numb though? It’s that feeling of nothing really phasing you, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s hard to really be happy even with the things that usually make you smile. It’s hard to let anything, good or bad, affect you. Maybe it’s your expectations of life that have dropped due to recent events— it’s your outlook that’s been affected and you almost expect bad things to happen. You become risk-averse, or better yet, risk-expectant. You think you’re protecting yourself from the hurt affecting you, but the pain will eat away at the joy in your life too. You don’t look forward to the simple things that usually put you in a good mood, like your favorite snack or going to the gym— those things may now become a chore. So instead of dealing with your pain, you look for more extreme sources of pleasure. It’s your pain that will begin to prohibit you from feeling joy. I see it in myself, in partners I’ve been with, friends, my clients, students: your pain will lead to the conditioning of a reflex. Your body will never want to experience that pain again so it will do whatever it can to avoid future pain that may even remotely look like the past experience that caused you such trauma.
Yes it was painful. But first, you get to admit that to yourself. You get to admit to yourself that you were hurt. Say it over, and over, in new and more honest and blunt ways. Don’t feel bad about your resentment, your anger, or even admitting that you have those emotions in the first place! Because if you feel the need to escape or you feel numb to the point where you can’t feel anymore, you are now in damage control. It is too late for you to say: “Okay, that’s fine, I’ll just snap out of it and begin expressing myself more. I’ll be good from here on out” No, now you must go back and deal with your pain or you won’t be able to move forward without letting your past affect your future.
Please. For the sake of giving your future a new fresh leaf to turn onto, get back there, re-dig your shit up, actually feel and process it, and then move forward. You know when you’re sick and need to throw up, you may stick your finger in your mouth to activate your gag reflex to help? Yeah, getting your emotions out can be a lot like that. Heal. You can’t skip the bad times and think they won’t affect the good times. You may be fine with doing that now, but that’s also because something that really means a lot to you hasn’t presented itself in your life yet that could be jeopardized by your lack of self-awareness. Say for instance, you fall in love six months from now—it’ll feel really good, but if you don’t deal with your current worries, your past trauma, or what is getting to you, it will show up. And it will get in the way of something that really means a lot to you. And trust me, you don't want to fu*k that up when it finally comes.
The escape you were looking for will present itself. And when you’re young and there isn’t as much at stake, those escapes such as a fling, a good night out, or other indulgences may be used and discarded with— but the things you truly, truly long for should not feel like an escape from what’s bothering you but something you can embrace in your entirety, including your pain.
Because what I’m learning, and what inclined me to write this article, is that I cannot go through life thinking that it will be just a bunch of good times sprinkled with being sad once in a while. It's not that black and white. There are a lot of complex emotions that go on within me and I get to recognize all of them. I get to recognize that I may feel various ways about one certain thing too and that’s okay.
First and foremost, I get to admit to myself how I really feel. I get to then express it accordingly. Hopefully I too will get to the point where I begin expressing myself in real time 100% of the time— if something bothers me, if something makes me overly joyous, if something makes me angry, worried, hurt, excited, scared, or drained, I admit it to myself when it happens and express it. Not a week later or a month later when it’s really built up and manifested into even more toxic emotions and behaviors. Because that’s when I sit there in pain, wondering why I drank so much the night before not knowing what the real problem is either because there’s ten other emotions fused in with what I was initially feeling. And now I'm sitting there asking myself, "what's wrong?"
And I’m tired of that shit.
I hope you are too.
I want to be happy when I’m happy. Really happy. I want to be present and feel empowered in my skin. But life throws shit at you. People will hurt you. Experiences will leave scars. But you have to learn how to properly heal from them or they’ll just keep opening back up. And you don’t deserve that.
You don’t deserve to feel numb. There is no where you should want to be then where you are. If that’s not the case, work on getting it there. Because that’s where you are. And that’s where you’ll be. So either you water your grass and learn to make your home a home you are fully comfortable and present in or you’ll spend all your time wanting to be somewhere else— a place that quite frankly doesn’t exist.