Personal / therapy

Numb

I honestly didn’t want to write a blogpost today.  The main reason being that I’m not in a peppy mood, but why should blogging only be about happy thoughts when reality is that human beings experience a full range of emotions?

My current emotion = numb.  I participated in a suicide debriefing at work today, which is a meeting where we review a recent suicide, process grief, and provide support for staff members involved.  I have been open about my feelings surrounding patient loss (here, here, and here), and experiencing this sort of numbness is somewhat new to me. The intellectual part of me feels inclined to look up research articles to find meaning behind this numbness, however the emotional side of me lacks motivation to perform the work.  We may sometimes experience a mixture of confusing, unfamiliar emotions, which may contrast from what one might perceive to be normal or expected.  But that leads to criticism for feeling a certain way.  How nice would it be to have freedom to be yourself and feel a certain emotion without being judged?

Yesterday, one of my newer patients wanted me to tell her where her anxiety is coming from and I replied, “I’m actually not sure, but perhaps you have an idea what might be triggering it?”  My patients often expect me to identify the reason behind a specific emotion, but I find it difficult to formulate my thoughts without the patient’s own input.  If I switched roles right now and sat in the patient chair and the psychiatrist asked me where I think my numbness is coming from, I’d say “I feel too overwhelmed and there’s no room for extra stress in my life.”  (Then, the light bulb goes off in my head).  I have too much going on in my mind and don’t have the reserve to tolerate more emotions at this current moment.  Hence, feeling numb.  Now that I think about it, feeling numb isn’t much different from the hours I spent watching House of Cards last night (Note: it’s out of character for me to watch that much tv on a regular basis).  Either way, I am trying to avoid some unsettling feeling that I’m not quite ready to process.  However, I’m bracing myself because I know the time to process the difficult emotions will eventually come.  Until then, I still have two more seasons to watch.

20 thoughts on “Numb

  1. I’ve noticed that of all my blog posts, the ones that get the most views are the ones that contain the most angst…and I think those posts help people feel less isolated with their pain. Thank you for being so open and real – it’s very refreshing! I’ve shared your post via Faceobok & tweeted it as it’s such a worthwhile read. Take care!

    • Hi Dyane – again, thank u so much for your support and for sharing my posts…it means a lot! esp since you’ve done so much to raise awareness, provide support, and share your experiences and what has helped u in your quest to maintain stability 🙂

  2. Thank you for blogging while you are feeling numb! The word picture that came to mind as you tried to identify where the numbness was coming from was that of the electrical breaker panel in my house. when one of the circuits overheats, rather than keep going and catch on fire/ it trips the breaker and allows the wires to cool down…Sounds like your inner emotional breaker started to heat up and wha-la…disconnect. DM

      • Which is also why I’ve read that sometimes people who are high achievers (and the last person you would expect) suddenly start experiencing panic attacks and burn out .(I think it has something to do with adrenal exhaustion) As a first born and former, work-a-haulic I pay attention to what’s going on in my inner world now and have learned to build margin into my life. Grabbing a nap when I can is not necessarily a sign of being lazy..it’s making sure I don’t overheat 😉

        • i like how you say “former work-a-haulic” because in many ways diverting all attention and energy into work is a form of distraction from all other aspects of one’s life. glad you were able to shift towards focus on your inner world and self-care.
          PS. i’m going to use the circuit breaker analogy with my patients 😉

  3. I love the honesty. This is the 3rd post I’ve read today talking about being ok with not being ok. Taking the dark out into the light. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi John – thanks for your comment! it’s good to know that people are being more open and honest with their emotions…definitely helps lower the shame that many experience. if anything, i believe it’s far more abnormal to be overly optimistic and happy ALL the time.

  4. I really liked this post because it hit me at 2 levels – both the doctor and patient. As a neurosurgery resident I remember coming home after a 40 hour shift (which was like a battle – one emergency crani, 15 consults, 6 new admits, 2 ventrics) feeling completely numb….its an emotional flooding and I think the brain shuts down in self defense. I have also suffered from depression probably since I was a child retrospectively (my family tree is plagued with it as well). I am completely comfortable with it and talk freely about it. When I am at my worst, the lowest point of a Major Depressive Episode numb is exactly what I feel. Numb and paralyzed. Emotionally Paralyzed. I don’t know if your patients have ever expressed that but when the anhedonia and the indecisiveness and the worthlessness gets to its pit…..there is nothing left put numbness. Thank goodness for good doctors like you and a good medication that helps me.

    • thank u so much for your openness and honesty. OMG 40hr shifts??! and i thought my 30hr shifts during internal med were bad (now i really have no reason to complain). i can definitely appreciate your description of feeling emotionally paralyzed, esp for anyone who has experienced their darkest and most severe episodes of depression. glad to hear you’re on a med that helps u. my patients have described this numbness as it relates to trauma, so i can see how being numb might be the only way they can go about functioning in their day to day lives. though i sometimes hate going through these various confusing emotions and processing them, I am also thankful at the same time because it gives me a window to better understand and appreciate what my patients go through.

  5. Ah the numbness, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel
    Hello numbness my old friend
    I’ve come to talk with you again
    Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while you are sleeping
    And the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of numbness

    I agree with DM, it is an overload of the internal circuits; it’s the point when breakers pop and fuses melt, either in branch circuits or the main circuits. I’ve also compared “it” (the numbness) to an amputation without anesthesia. It was Nature’s way of protecting my brain from the reality. Though in the longer term, (my particular situation) the numbness only lasted about 12 months, before it wore off, (I almost wish it had been longer) and the “phantom pains” appeared. For me the numbness also acted as a shield from the platitudes that a well meaning society can throw at someone who’s numb. The one platitude for the “numbness” that hurts the most is “Time heals all wounds”, time doesn’t heal the wound or restore the amputated limb. Time may allow one to soften and adjust to life without the relationship to the deceased, but its a personal time schedule, not society’s schedule. “The Compassionate Friends” on face book, have had many great discussions and takes on the numbness you are experiencing, and how we deal or don’t deal with it. We also talk about “putting on the mask” to hide the pain and numbness. If you can I would suggest friend requesting them

    I understand the use of television to sedate the numbness of loss. We haven’t had TV in our house for 9 years now, but we do have HULU and NET FLIX for my wife to veg out on occasion.
    Please keep the posts coming, they are very good.

    • Hi Bob — I truly appreciate your comment esp your description of your own personal experience with numbness. I keep learning more and more with each of your comments and discover ways to apply them to some of my patients’ lives. i am looking up the Compassionate Friends page right this moment so i look fwd to learning even more there too. Hope u had a nice vacation

      • Hi Vania, Helping those, who help others, is one of the “gifts” I’ve received from my sons passing. I’m still searching for gifts and your post(s) have brought some to the surface. Vacation was wonderful, me and my wife, saw Adam Lambert and Queen, in Prague Czech Rep., did some shopping therapy (my wife more than me), feasted on local cuisine and beer, and visited the Sedlec Ossuary (a little heavy but soul cleansing as well) in Kutna Hora (a UNESCO world heritage site). How was your vacation?

        • Hi Bob, that sounds like a wonderful vacation! And yes, you definitely have helped me, as I’ve mentioned in previous comments 🙂 My vacation is work & play (conference in AZ) and had the opportunity to reconnect w/ friends who are here in AZ as well which has been nice

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