In Difficult Moments, We Must Pay Attention to Our Feelings
I feel numb. Not excited or depressed, just numb.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why our culture fosters numbness. Companies peddle products to improve our lives and market to our hungry eyes. And we may be desperate to feel anything except what our current circumstances dictate. As a result, we chase the next best thing to distract us rather than confronting the inevitable.
But we can only run from our feelings for so long before we implode.
We’re taught that numbing our feelings is easier. In reality, this just makes things more difficult later on. Numbing our feelings has become second nature, rather than leaning into our uncomfortable vulnerability.
Those of us with chronic illness have gotten really good at compartmentalizing our feelings. With every traumatic event we experience, we’re forced to put our feelings on hold in order to survive. We’re often so focused on what we’re going through that we negate the emotions attached to the event. And when we do, it sometimes feels like we’re reliving the traumatic events.
Typically, we play our hand close to our chest and keep our poker faces on. The reality is that we all carry a silent struggle no one else knows about. We need to start normalizing difficult emotions and allow ourselves to feel them.
Life with CF comes with so many layers of grief. We must feel the pain and sorrow caused by our bodies functioning differently, which requires an adjustment in our lives. Career changes, unfulfilled dreams, and loss must be felt in order to heal from our wounds. Only then can hope awaken within us.
In addition to feeling grief, I notice that I become numb around difficult anniversaries of traumatic events. The four-year anniversary of my double-lung transplant is coming up next week, and I’ve been distracted as a result.
For me, being numb means I feel like I must stay busy at all times. Research shows that busyness can actually be a trauma response.
My body can’t relax. My thoughts run rampant. It’s even hard to focus as I write this. I’m functioning on autopilot. And I’m hypervigilant, more aware of every threat, perceived or real, that is thrown my way. These behaviors protect me from feeling the heavy emotions of a bittersweet day.
I’m easily triggered, I have underlying anger, and I’m generally annoyed. I hate feeling like this. And I know the only thing to fix it is to open my heart and release the tears that need to cleanse my pent-up emotions.
When we find ourselves becoming numb, we should take it as a sign that we’re avoiding our feelings. In order to face them head-on, we must have the courage to be vulnerable. Society pressures us to have a superhuman complex that says we can’t show our emotions because it’s a sign of weakness. In reality, those who are the strongest express emotions as a true act of bravery.
Numbing our feelings isn’t healthy. While it temporarily takes the edge off feeling painful moments, it also prevents us from truly feeling the good ones. We can’t have true joy if we don’t deeply feel the pain in our lives, too.
There are a few things I do to avoid making myself numb. Perhaps they might work for you, too, if you are in a similar situation. For example, I seek time with God to help lighten the weight I’m carrying. I go to therapy. I surround myself with people I can safely share my feelings with. I allow myself and others grace. I pace myself, feel the feelings, and then take a break.
This process is a marathon, not a race. The bravest thing we can do is feel the essence of being human when the world convinces us to do otherwise.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.