Emotional numbness can be difficult to imagine if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Some people describe it as feeling emptiness or despondency, while others report feeling isolated. Some feel as though they have no future or that there is no hope for the numbness to ever fade. There are a number of different things that can cause emotional numbness. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common causes. Severe levels of acute elevated stress or nervousness can also trigger feelings of emotional numbness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, which can be tied to depression and anxiety, can cause you to feel numb, too. It can cause a sense of isolation or emotional disconnect from the rest of the world. The numbness can be unbearable for many people who experience it.
Sarah Preston describes it like this, “at the beginning of the fall you don’t realize you’re falling. It’s a gradual descent, lower and lower until there’s no possible way it can get worse. That’s when things start changing. People start to notice things about you. You don’t look happy anymore. You think you’re showing emotion on your face, because you feel it in your heart and soul, but it doesn’t come out anymore. You’re too far gone. Too far down to even realize what you’ve become or where you are. You’re going through the motions – every day, one right after the other. You may feel like you don’t have a choice, but to keep going the way you’re going, because you don’t recognize it for what it is – depression.
You may even be taking pills for it, but without the recognizing what you’re doing, what you’re going through, and where you’re standing you’ll never pull out from under it. You don’t realize how far down you go. Every time someone told you that you were flat, you didn’t realize it. In your own mind, you were still showing emotions, your facial expressions were still changing. But they weren’t. You were flat. You were that person going through the motions, but never getting anywhere. The thought of ending your life has come and gone.
Do you know how many times people ask you to tell them your feelings, but you can’t because you’re not having any? In your mind, you recognize that there are certain feelings you should be having, so those are the feelings you express. But there are no actual feelings behind them. You are flat. You are cold. You have become numb.
And then one day you actually listen to the people around you. You listen when your husband tells you that you’re flat. And then you recognize it – your depression – that creeping cold, flat, numbness that has completely taken over your body. You can see it for what it is. You can look at yourself and say, this is not the person I am. And that’s when it breaks. You look at yourself in the mirror and recognize what you have become.
You smile, and you actually feel happy, because you know that no matter how rough this process is going to be. That no matter how hard depression tries to pull you back, you can beat this. You can get back to the person you once were. This is not the end. This is the very beginning. And although the climb is going to be rough, you know that you have to do it. And that one smile. That one honest to goodness emotion that you can feel is where it all starts.
Now climb! It may be a single step, but that first smile was the beginning of a very important journey. That single smile was the step in the right direction to get you from the point you are now, to believing that yes, you will be that person you once were. You will always fight with depression. Recovery is not easy. It never is. No matter what you’re recovering from. But the biggest step in the right direction is recognizing what your problem is.
I am the face of depression. I actually sent my husband messages today with feelings in those messages. I was able to express those feelings to him. And recognize that they may not be feelings that are actually true. That feeling of despair that washes over me every day on a very frequent basis is not actually how I’m feeling. It’s the depression. It’s trying to drag me back down. It is working it’s hardest to keep me at the bottom where it can keep its control over me. But no more! I will not let the depression win. I will not let it hold me on the bottom anymore.
NO. I am in control of my own destiny. I will continue to make choices that lead me on the path of self-discovery and getting back to the person I know I am, instead of the person I have become. No more will I let depression control my destiny. No more will I let the flatness rule my life. No, today, I will step forth out of the shadows and remind myself that I am important – that I too can beat this – that I can win – that I can reach the point of being…me”