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Root Issues (aka: Emotional Numbness)

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Emotional Numbness. Today is day 4. My first thought upon waking was, 'Why do I not feel anything- and... is that a bad thing?'. I first noticed something was different when the airplane began its take off from the runway. I was very aware that I had zero emotion. Zilch. Nada. I just blamed it on the fact that I didn't get enough sleep the night before but knew that the tears would come, just like they always do, after I separate myself from family and return back home states away. Two different airplanes, six hours seven minutes of travel including a one hour twelve minute layover of sitting with myself... and still not one tear. Thoughts that bubbled to the surface were, 'Maybe I just don't cry sad tears when I leave anymore'. 'Maybe this is a more mature headspace for me to be in now, more grounded and solid- and not so ultra-sensitive'. 'I may feel a bit numb right now, but when this plane touches down in Oregon, watch out (!!) because that emotional tide is going to come rolling in'. Well, it didn't. And it hasn't. Mostly I have just felt nothing. Don't get me wrong, I did feel happy to see the friends and family members that I had missed while I was away, but I knew deep down that what I was experiencing was just surface happiness. When I stepped away from the persons, that sense of happiness dissipated and the emotional numbness was still there just hang'n on.


My first day back I just went through the motions. After spending some time with a couple of friends, I picked up my car and stopped by the store for a few much needed items to get me through night one... mainly litter and a litter box for Baby and an air mattress with sheets for me. I took a short time to visit with some family members. I stopped by my storage unit to grab my bill box and a few cleaning supplies. I stopped by the mailbox to grab the stack of mail that had piled up. And then I turned the key and pushed open the door to my mobile, my home that I haven't stepped foot in for the past eight weeks. I put some food away in the refrigerator. I opened the windows to let some of the stale air out of the place. I stepped outside to peruse the yard and see what flowers might greet me there (many less flowers than this time last year due to an empty house and neglect). I went back inside my emptied-out mobile, opened my Chinese take out container, and ate in the silence that surrounded me. My only companion besides my cat... emotional numbness. And then I just went to sleep. The past two days have been spent running errands, paying bills, cutting the grass, weeding the flower beds, watering the yard, running more errands, visiting my storage (yet again), and sitting in silence. After spending eight weeks surrounded by the sounds, squeals, squabbles, and song lyrics of four little ones aged under six months to six years, you would think I would welcome the silence and stillness. I even believed I might embrace these moments of spending time with just me- to journal in the quiet still mornings, to sit outside in the sunshine with no where I had to be, to be able to eat or drink without having to share (hehe!), and to just 'feel' Oregon surrounding me again. Those thing did happen... conjoined with emotional numbness. It is just constant. And I am not really sure how to feel about that, especially since the heart of the issue is that I am not feeling much of anything.


When you Google 'emotional numbness' it is described by many as being a defense mechanism deployed by the mind to avoid intense overwhelming emotions. You simply lose the ability to feel and experience your emotions (hence numbness). Emotional numbness is also referred to as disassociation, which is described as a self-defense mechanism that the brain uses when it cannot handle the current situation, or when it is attempting to process something painful. (credit: Pinterest quote image, no author shown). There have been times in my life, more times than I can actually count, that I have lapsed into a state of emotional numbness or disassociation even when I didn't realize or recognize it happening. Those times and situations seemed much more evident to deploy a defense mechanism... like when there was active violence, or trauma, or loss occurring. Disassociation would just show up, push me into the passengers seat, and drive my car (so to speak). I was along for the ride lost in a haze of numb and dumb to what was going on around me- and in me. It was truly what saved my life and sanity. Today is much different than those experiences. Today I am not concerned for my physical safety or that of my kids' (Praise God!). I am not caught up in a violent abusive relationship (Thank you, Lord!). I am not down to my last donut and dollar (Hallelujah!). I know I have friends and family who love me (insert swirling hearts Emoji). I have faith and I have hope for a better future (insert blooming flower Emoji). The sun is even shining right outside my front door (BIG smile!). Yet, I feel emotionally numb (flatline-----------). And believe you me I have tried to wish it away, beg it away, plead it away, even bargain with it... yet it remains. So at this point, I have socialized with family and friends, I have purchased and eaten healthy food, I have gotten good exercise, I have caught up on sleep, I have money in my bank account, my stress is minimal, and I have even taken an unintentional break from the news and social media. These are all very good things for the body, mind, and soul. I have filled my tank, so to speak, yet my tank is empty. Some of you might offer up some 'helpful' suggestions about now like, 'Pour yourself a good strong drink'. 'Turn the music up a little louder'. 'Take a trip to the coast'. 'Just get out of town'. 'Trade your car in for something shiny and new'. 'Hook up with a handsome hunk'. 'Pick up a pipe'. 'Go get a new tattoo, get your hair did, or paint your toenails pink'. True, I could do one- or- every one of those things listed. They might even help... but only on the surface. This emotional numbness goes a bit deeper than that surface stuff. You know how it is when you go to pull a weed. You grab hold of that sucker knowing you are going to pull it out by the roots- whether the roots are 3 inches or 8, so you can get rid of the Mo-Fo for good. You grab it tight, breathe in confidence, give it a solid tug... and the damn root breaks off! Well, that is what those quick fixes will do if I employ them as the 'cure' to this current emotional numbness. This weed that I am dealing with (the root of emotional numbness), I need to first know what kind of weed it is so that I can assess the root span. I cannot afford the time or the energy it takes to risk having that root break off. Cuz you know what happens when the root breaks off? That weed comes back, stronger and mightier, and he's not alone. He has brought a buddy with him, who brought a buddy with him, who brought a buddy with him. So sure... I could just pour myself a strong drink, turn the music up a little louder, and hook up with a handsome hunk- all while sporting my new tattoo, my pretty pink toenails pressing down on the gas pedal of my shiny new ride as I leave town, my new hairdo blowing in the breeze, as I head to the coast, pipe in hand, to sit in the sand and watch my cares just drift out to sea. SNAP! Did you hear that? That 'snap' was my root breaking off. And once I hoist my a$$ off the sand, after I climb back into my shiny new ride and point its front end on the road back to town, all I am left with is what I have now. Emotional numbness. All those things, as great as they are (insert winking Emoji), are only quick fixes. None of them, not one, have the ability to pull that weed out by the root without snapping it off. In order for me to get out from under this emotional numbness, I need to first sit with myself and figure out why I am feeling this way. What moment, event, situation, or circumstance caused this weed to grow in the fist place?


Emotional numbness. Today is day 7... and yes, it is still there. I have continued to just go through the motions of my days, doing what needs to be done, believing that my emotional responses would just suddenly 'wake up'. But they haven't. Just a short time ago, my emotions were sitting right there at the surface, peeking out or making a grand entrance, without much or any ushering at all. There were a few times they actually ticked me off because I would be fine, enjoying my day, with nothing particular on my mind, and boom! Tears would start filling my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. There were a few times I couldn't even put my finger on where the tears were even coming from. I was fine one minute- crying hot tears the next (insert hot mess Emoji). That is not the case now. It feels like my tear well is just empty. I am sure if I whacked my thumb with a hammer my tears would be right there to greet me- but that is not at all the same kind of tears (or emotion) that I am referring to. That would be two completely different types of pain. The thing is, emotional numbness has this ability to block your mind, your spirit, your soul from seeing what might be right in front of you. This current episode I find myself in, to an outsider looking in, you might see the truth of the matter as some obvious, overly obnoxious, clanging cymbal. But to me, the one caught in this emotional numbness, the truth of the matter remains trapped beneath a smothering layer of whatever it is that I cannot bear to look at... or feel. It will never cease to amaze me, how emotional numbness can all but freeze or smother every emotion known to man, yet even as I write this I can sense an emotion or feeling rising of insecurity in how others might see me (or judge me) as being weak, blind to my own truth, or just plain dumb to my current reality. Ha! Of all the emotions to bubble to the surface, how ironic that it would be insecurity (contemplating Emoji).


Today, I plan to get out of my pajamas (again), get out into the sunshine (again), eat healthy meals and snacks (again), be around people (again- as much as social distancing allows), get some exercise (again), take a nap if I need to (again), reach out to a close friend or family member for support (again), go for a drive to clear my head (again), take some intentional deep breaths (again), spend some time connecting with me (again), pray for clarity (again), listen to some good tunes (again), and do something that makes me feel like my life is moving forward (again)... before I get some good sleep (again) and do it all over (again) tomorrow. I know that I am taking the necessary steps to take care of me during this time. I know that my emotions will unfreeze, bubble up, or resurface if I allow myself to be patient with the process. Maybe that is the hardest part in all of this. Maybe it isn't so much about not knowing what is causing the emotional numbness as it is about being patient with the process, and allowing God to work in me through it.


Today is day 14 and you guessed it, emotional numbness (insert rolling eyes Emoji). My doc assures me it is very normal to feel this way (or rather, to not feel) and that my emotions will return just as before as soon as I gain my balance, so to speak. Sure, I have smiled, socialized as much as I am able, even laughed... but those 'other' emotions, the ones that have been halted, are yet to surface. It isn't so much as waiting for the tears to fall, as it has to do with the emotions that usher in those tears- regardless if those tears are happy, sad, glad or mad. And I gotta admit, at this point, I am getting a bit apprehensive over when those tears might come. My guess, as is true for my life, is that they will come at the most 'perfect' inopportune, inconvenient, inappropriate moment (smh!). And most likely, once those tears start rolling... they won't want to stop (insert ugly cry Emoji). My goal for today is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, to enjoy the moments as they come, and to be open to whatever life swings my way! And when those tears do come... hopefully I will be holding that weed high in the air with its long roots dangling (insert triumphant Emoji)... and not with it's roots snapped off (insert horrified Emoji).



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