Thawing Out and Letting my Feelings In

IMG_1661I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas this morning. The sun is shining through the shades next to me, reminding me of a warm summer day, while a cold draft from the large picture window behind me lets me know it is a mere six degrees outside.  This mixture of cold and warmth reminds me of how life can be  good and bad, sweet and salty, all at the same time.

Growing up in a household where uncertainty was the norm, I developed this interesting ability to wall myself off from the painful moments when my mom was having a psychotic episode. I taught myself how to go numb, like a body does when its been in the cold too long, in order to freeze out the terror that was a part of living with a parent who struggled to cope with a difficult to treat,  sometimes debilitating illness  called paranoid schizophrenia. It wasn’t so much her accusations that I was the devil, the shouting at me, or the pushing me out the door that hurt so bad. It was the pain of watching someone I loved descending into a living hell and not being able to do anything about it.

So I learned how to protect myself, first by living in a day-dream world, hidden in my room surrounded by books, colored pencils for sketching my dreams, and  a desk full of pens for writing stories about a better life. Later my body became the subject of my obsessions; restricting, bingeing, purging, all to numb myself from the world around me.

In parallel to this numbing, was the ever-present sunshine in my life, even when hidden behind thick misty clouds or blizzard conditions, it was always there. The people who loved me unconditionally, the music that kept me in touch with my soul, and the tiny glimpses of a peaceful being that I couldn’t quite understand. Most call this presence God. I have found no words yet to describe this divine source of tranquility.

As life went on, winters came and went, and so did warm summers. I learned how to navigate life without some of the vices that had become my shield. Yet, whenever something unthinkable would happen, the near loss of a child, divorce, or the death of someone I cherished, I would find myself going back to my old way of coping, this time without the help of an eating disorder. I found that I had mastered the ability to quickly go numb once the initial tears were shed.

I am certainly not the only one who anesthetizes their feelings in order to cope. I am finding that most adults do to a greater or lesser degree all of the time. It turns out, our emotions seem to be our greatest foe at times, and we will go to great lengths to drown out our inner voices. We use drugs, alcohol, work, relationships, avoidance, sex, religion, gambling, violence, and many other behavioral tactics to keep us from facing our true selves.

The problem with having this ability to numb oneself is that it is hard to go back to feeling anything once the cold has passed. I am working on being able to show up in the moment and open up my heart to whatever feelings come to me, no matter how scary, as that is my only hope of ever being fully alive.  It may take me the rest of my life to figure out how to live in a world that is bittersweet, but slowly I am thawing out and warming up enough to experience the beauty of life as well as the pain.

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13 thoughts on “Thawing Out and Letting my Feelings In

  1. It is amazing what you wrote, Amy. Yes, why are there addictionsa and abuses, violence and agression? Because people dont’t dare to look at themselves, to take responsibility for their own lives. In the end it is about that. Even if bittersweet and painful at times, life has to offer more and that always grows from that painful experience which always makes us develop something amazing. Btw. I too was escaping in a dreamworld as child and teenager in order to find relief.
    That is a wonderful post which shows that life goes on…

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  2. The littlest amount of light can thaw a great amount. Especially concentrated. A magnifying glass focuses a pinprick beam of light, but the ice melts quickly in that tiny spot. Concentrated focus on the blessings around me does the same. Some days are harder to hold that focus, but it does work. 🙂 Glad to hear that it does for you, too.

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  3. I understand. The day dreaming, the diversion, the numbing of feeling and the struggle to get back to mindfulness to have a real life. It’s always been a challenge, but it can be done. And it gets better all the time, Amy. Wishing you peace of mind, and the warmth of that winter sun. 💖 🌞 💖

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  4. My history was not as troubling as yours, but I somehow picked up relatively early that my feelings were troubling to my parents, so I learned to keep them to myself. The only way I was ABLE to do that was to numb out.

    My salvation was training for my first love and first career – acting. In order to portray feelings, you must connect with them – and the better you do it, the more positive the feedback. If you have any interest at all, maybe an acting class might help with the thawing? I know that writing makes similar demands (depending on what you write about, of course) – but the immediacy of connection is one thing that acting requires that writing does not.

    Beautifully written, btw.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    -ADD Coach Training Field founder/ADD Coaching co-founder-
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your title. Amy I’m sorry you had to endure such experiences, I’m glad that you had God with you to help you through some dark times. It must have been difficult for your Mom too, having to “live” life this way. It has given you an incredible gift to write, you really have a natural flair and your choice of words seem to be the perfect ones. So if there’s a silver lining perhaps that is it. xo Deb

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  6. I know exactly how you feel. I have been working hard for the last year to trying to stop numbing myself, a habit carried over from a bad childhood, and actually feel things the way a “normal” person would, but lots of therapy later I am still a work in progress.

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  7. …I am experiencing the same but not in context to my mother anymore. The world is a bittersweet place after healing from schizophrenia and it puts me back into the state of schizophrenia I wish to be in for a long time..

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