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Do you ever have days where you don’t feel happy, you don’t feel sad, you just feel nothing? A numbness has overcome you and a thought drifts by “Get up, read a book, do some exercise, do something”.
You visualise moving your arm or trying to stand up but then feel a weight increasing on you. Your shoulders become tense; your head heavy… too heavy. You need to lay down. The weight forces your eyes closed as you try to resist sleep. Another thought crosses your mind “Don’t sleep, you’re wasting the day. This won’t help, it never does… get up”. For a brief moment you consider listening but that invisible weight pushes you down further. It’s too late now, you’re exhausted and so you lay there. You’re paralysed in the grip of depression with no desire to do anything about it.
A common misconception about depression is that someone who suffers from it just ‘feels sad’. Whilst that may be true for some, that may not be the only way it affects someone. You may feel sad; you may feel angry… or you may feel nothing. This is my experience of depression and for me it is by far the most debilitating. When you feel nothing, you feel no desire to do anything to try and change how you feel.
When you’re angry you may shout, you may hit something. Likewise, when you’re sad you may cry. You have more desire and energy to do something about how you feel as you’re feeling it quite intensely and want it to stop. You may reach out to someone to talk or express yourself through a creative project, such as a drawing (or writing a blog!). However, when you feel numb there is no outlet. There is no driving emotion pushing you to do something about how you feel, there is just nothing.
I have lost countless days to feeling nothing and just waiting to go to sleep. Going on social media to distract myself from boredom, putting on a mind-numbing show I really have no attention span for. Just waiting until I can fall asleep and go through the same routine the next day. It’s uncomfortable, but you end up feeling so crippled by feeling tired that you can’t do anything.
I don’t think everyone starts off by feeling numb, but rather it creeps up on you when you continuously cycle through feeling low. Looking back for me, I can see it came through habit, through routine. I would choose to indulge in an easy activity which didn’t require me to think much, such as playing a video game instead of challenging myself or working toward a goal. I would then feel bad for not doing anything productive.
Initially this wouldn’t last for long; I would feel low but then bounce back to feeling like my normal self. However, the more I chose the easy option, the harder it would get and the longer it would take for me to bounce back. Then the feelings of guilt and sadness started to become overwhelming, so I would try to distance myself from them. I would distract myself by going on social media or binge watching a TV show. I was opening the door and welcoming in the numbness. Then, before I knew it, numbness had become an unwelcome guest in my home. When I would ask it to leave, I would see sadness lurking behind it and waiting to come back in. I would immediately slam the door shut and ask numbness to once again take a seat.
The cycle of feeling numb continued for months on end, each time getting worse and worse until I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I uninstalled Facebook on my phone, I prevented myself from watching any video game streamers online and I sat there in bed and let myself think. Then, sadness slowly creeped back in and I found myself in tears not knowing why I was crying. I felt awful, but this needed to happen. I needed to feel something. After about half an hour of crying, I switched on my laptop and started looking up why I felt so numb and began my journey with my fight against depression.
I’d like to say “from that day I was cured, I realised that I needed to feel to make myself do something about my situation” but that wasn’t true. It made me realise that I couldn’t carry on feeling nothing. I had to take away the things that made me feel numb and it was tough. Some days I succeeded and felt like crap, some days I succeeded and felt good, and others I gave in and fell back into my routine which led me to feeling numb. It’s still a daily challenge for me now, but there is definitely progress from this time last year.
Today I woke up feeling low, so I jumped on a video game to make me feel better. However, I knew in my mind that it wasn’t what I should be doing. However, I spent half a day playing it and to top it off, I ordered a Dominos which made me feel awful as I am trying to eat better. The numbness very quickly came creeping back in when I started to feel horrible, it is well versed in knowing when to take over my mind.
However, I stopped it from taking any further hold as I knew where this road went. I couldn’t write my blog, I felt far too tired, so I went outside to sit in the sun and listened to an audio book (too tired to physically read a book so listening was the next best thing!). After about an hour of doing that, I turned on my laptop and wrote this blog post. I then took a break and did a workout outside which was a goal I’d set myself to do yesterday. I may have messed up half the day, but I wasn’t prepared to let the whole day be a write off.
This discipline that I’m working on developing came from firstly recognising my patterns. Understanding what was leading me to feel numb. Secondly, I tried and ‘failed’ a countless number of times with breaking that pattern. Initially it’s very demotivating when you fail as you feel like you’re back to square one, however you’re not. You’ve gained experience from trying and failing today, and tomorrow that will be in your head. You may win or you may lose tomorrows fight, it’s different for everyone, but what’s important is to recognise that you are trying and remember those failures. You can learn from them.
Historically as soon as I felt numb that would be it, the day was written off. However today, for the first time, I fought it off. I let myself feel and allowed myself time to work through that by choosing something easier to do but was still a goal I had for myself: to read more books… listening still counts!
I’ve learnt a lot over the last year and progression doesn’t always seem apparent, but as long as you are trying, and you are remembering those failures (even if they hurt) and are learning from them then you are progressing forward.
Recognise your pattern.
Fight against those thoughts keeping you locked in your pattern, they are not who you are.
Keep fighting, you will overcome them.