The Numbing Effect
"She could never g0 back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the the whole beautiful."
Terri St. Cloud
Lets be real. We can begin this journey in a light heart manor and mask the pain, abuse, emotional and mental strife, loneliness, guilt and shame, lack of loving self, and silence that most of us have been through or are going through....or we can get real. I choose real and raw. By doing so, lets stretch ourselves, become vulnerable and be true to ourselves. Lets dig into where our soul lives and where our pain remains and find our truth and our voice in this so we can heal and breathe and live with intention....sounds beautiful doesn't it?
Well, I wish I could also tell you that the process of healing and vulnerability is just as beautiful as the ideal, but it isn't. Its very difficult, heart wrenching, raw, and humbling.
Stepping out of the numb state was a world unknown to me. Feeling, in itself, was also unmarked territory and so frightening- intentionally choosing to feel every emotion and sit in it instead of walking away, shutting out, or physically making myself numb. Terrifying.
Numbing can be a way of life if you allow it and it was mine for many years, beginning very young. I began to not know anything different than this way of life and this way of handling my relationships, my emotions, my social life, my capacity to love or be loved, as well as the way I even felt about myself.
Have you ever gotten to the point where you honestly... Just. Don't. Care.
Well, I was there and past that point.
I didn't care about you
I didnt care if you cared about me
I didnt care how I spoke to you
I didnt care where my life was headed
I didnt care where I slept
I didnt care who I slept by
I didnt care that I was failing high school
I didnt care about my future
I didnt care I was losing all friendships
I didnt care I was losing my family
I didnt care I was cutting my wrists, arms, and thighs
I didnt feel it
I didnt care that all I wanted to do was party
I didnt want to smile
& i didnt want you to smile at me
I. was. numb
The picture above is very symbolic to my journey.
The tattoo "love" covers up scars on my wrist, where i used self mutilation as a numbing tactic, during my time in high school.
This tattoos meaning dervied from an organization that gave me hope during this darkness.
Here is a bit of the beautiful story that brought life to the To Write Love on Her Arms Organization
"Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn’t slept in 36 hours and she won’t for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she’ll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn’t ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of “friends” offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write “FUCK UP” large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms. "
Those scars, pint up anger, inability to cooperate in school and that massive built up wall of numbness placed me, during my junior year in high school, at a residential care facility for troubled teens for 7 and half months of my life in Branson, Missouri.
I remember crying and screaming in my closet, knowing my life was about to change, as I fought and screamed, once again, with my parents. I had a feeling this was a goodbye to all I knew, but didn't imagine the impact.
So, I placed some pictures I had and a few cd's in my lap as I traveled for hours to my next chapter of life- not knowing all of my belongings, wardrobe, and pieces I held dear were already in the trunk.
As I sat in a room of strangers with my arms folded and my heart cold as ice I heard the words, "Well, let me tell you what this place really is...." My head sank in my hands as I thought of how I never said goodbye to my friends, my room....my life. I wished at this moment, of all moments, I could've shed a tear but the inability to genuinely cry left me years prior, due to my inability to process and feel. I shook my head at the strangers and my family as I was asked to carry my own luggage, that i was illed to find out had been there without my knowledge, into a home, that would become my home for the next several months. I walked into a room full of girls my age and younger "littles" staring at me and eager to know how "f'd up I was" and glanced at some older faces "Bigs" as well, who looked like enemies in my book.
Soon, I learned my inability to filter my mouth and speak to anyone the way I wanted was not allowed and I spent quite some time being silence restricted. I had to ask to speak to anyone. I was required to stay a certain amount of feet from a "Big" and I had to ask to go up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, in and out of the house, to eat, as well as to get up from the table I was sitting at. I had allotted times for everything. I attended school and had study hours. I had bedtimes, my room always had to be clean, bed made, and I had a roommate. two at some points. I also had to attend counseling weekly and participate in room and house events on a regular basis and work through 4 steps. As Im signing over my life, by initialing a huge handbook page by page, the only thing I'm thinking is, " Ok, 4 steps until I get out of this hell hole, speak to no one, pretend everything is fine, follow all the rules, and GET OUT!"
Well, this all switched up my life a bit, okay not a bit, radically.
I had no idea what this journey had in store for me.
No, this experience didn't resolve all my troubles and pour radical heat on my iceberg of a heart and melt it completely- but it did do many, many things, to which im incredibly blessed for.
Here, my counselor, my "Bigs", and the beautiful souls that I shared living space with gradually took a chisel to my heart. I allowed myself to be cared for and loved and I found myself loving the "littles" and "bigs" that surrounded my every day life for this time with a depth I had not felt in so long. I was accepted here. I realized that I was not alone in this crazy journey of a life. I found the key to forgiveness here, which was to solely make it a gift for myself and found beauty in that process instead of disdain.
I formed life long relationships. I found what it looks like to genuinely care for another human being and want the best for them- as many spent time working with me past hours to accomplish homework (so I could get my grades up and graduate high-school), who when they noticed I had to relearn to smile- chose to let me re take pictures 10 times and told me how beautiful my "new" smile was, who spent holidays with me (instead of going home to being with theirs), who took me to get ice cream, listen to "un approved" music so that my soul could jam and release for a minute, who took me to amazing coffee shops- where we got to feel free for a period of time, who wrote me letters and spoke of my beauty at my graduation ceremony, who threw my tennis shoes at me and told me to run and fight my numbness and use healthy coping mechanisms, who let me scream in the laundry room when I had just had enough or who spoke with me after difficult phone conversations, who believed in me and empowered my growth, who told me it was perfectly ok to be angry, mad, sad, and lonely. Who sat with me and told me their journeys, to empower me in mine, and who celebrated each and every step of growth with me.
This, my friends, is some radical love.
The girls, who are now women, who shared a home with me....you all radically touched my heart and soul. You all are such beautiful beings and your journeys are so full of brilliance. You all showed me what life really looks like and that its perfectly imperfect. I saw tears, uncontrollable laughter, anger, beautiful reuniting ceremonies, struggle and triumphant. You all are the essence of trauma to triumphant. You all made me feel real and accepted and most importantly you all touched my heart, which was very difficult to do. You all will always have irremovable memories and a very special place in my heart.
You all are radiant, powerful, beautiful, resilient, bad a souls.
Much love for the mark you made on my journey & know
I will always be here.
With all this being said... living a life of numbness is depriving yourself of intentionally living, loving and being loved, feeling, smiling, breathing, grieving, celebrating, and delighting in life.
Yes, it will be hard, painful almost. Especially for those who have take the numb route for as long as I had but when you get the first real tug, feel the first beat and rattle from your emotions and feelings bringing life to your soul....you wont look back. I promise.
Yes, the grief, sadness, betrayal and the literal feeling that your heart may just in fact break can make you feel like it may be better to run or choose to numb it in some form or fashion, but trust this process, beauty will come from it. You just have to allow it first and sit in it in order to get there.
Cracking open the heart is one of the most difficult journeys I have chosen to take and Im still on it, but it has been so beautiful and fulfilling to feel it all, instead of nothing at all.
There is so much beauty in feeling.
In the wise words of Brene Brown in regards to Numbing,
"Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems brave and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that were in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives."
The song below was played at my graduation ceremony, and now, brings tears to my eyes.
Still, a beautiful song.
I encourage you today to feel it all and see where it guides your life