And the tears come

Every month, for the last three or so, someone whom I cared about has died. I can’t even remember further back than that, but it seems to be pretty much on the reg, now. It’s a part of life, right? People die. People are born, and then they die. The Bigger Big Book says that each person is given about 60-70 years to live. Maybe more if you’re a truly amazing individual. But that’s really not the norm for the kind of people that I am acquainted with. The folks in my Tribe usually don’t make it past 40 or 50. Out of the last three to die, one was in his mid 40’s and the other two were right around 50.  

So, here’s the thing that prompted me to write about this: I don’t feel much of anything. I mean, one of these folks was a fairly close relative, and the other two had been important in my life at different times. Shouldn’t I feel…sad? I think intellectually I know I am sad, but emotionally I’m pretty well distanced from that pain. 
When I entered Treatment, I was all up in my head. I had a full-on case of Analysis Paralysis.  Someone told me that I did that to avoid feeling anything unpleasant. It took me a little while to become more aware of what I was actually feeling, and I think part of that lesson involved noticing the signals my body gave me. For example, when I’m initially anxious or stressed, my stomach aches. If I ignore it, the stomach ache moves on down my digestive tract. When I’m afraid I get tensed up and instinctively begin looking for an exit. I had come to distrust myself (and wear a mask) so much of the time, that I completely ignored these signs of my mental upset.  


I was in my teens I think, when I decided that I wasn’t going to cry anymore. I didn’t know it then, but I’d been depressed and struggling with PTSD for years, so crying had been part of a normal day for me. So, I concluded at this time that I wasn’t going to let anyone make me cry. God knows how, but I didn’t cry for more than a year. People died, relationships came and went, but I did not cry. I felt like I had grown callouses around my heart. Eventually I did allow the tears to escape, but even now, they are more difficult to access. There have been times when I was terrified and grief-stricken, but the tears only came for about 15 minutes at a time. Then they stopped. 


This concerns me.


It’s no secret that I have been taking medication to alleviate the depression for many years. I have been grateful to escape the darkness that lurks in my mind via Medical Professionals and pharmaceuticals. I remember telling someone who was considering trying meds for depression that they made me feel “appropriately”. As in, when it was a sad occasion, I felt sad, and when it was a happy event, I could smile and laugh. 
Before the medications, if it was a sad time, I was sad, and if it was a happy time, I was slightly less sad. Eeyore was of course my spirit animal.

I try to keep in mind that there are always many factors to consider when trouble-shooting my emotions. The biggest factor I can come up with now is that I’ve become more aware of PTSD symptoms when they crop up. I’ve figured out several scenarios where I am very much going to be uncomfortable and that I need to try and avoid. That awareness is helpful. It also makes it easier for me to see when others may be having the same issues.


So, in the process of self-examination, each time I learn of someone who has been important in my life dying as a result of this disease, I don’t really feel anything.  The last person, I was shocked at first, but that was just because I thought she’d dodged so many bullets already that she’d never die. And then when I thought about times that we’d been together – and there were ALWAYS shenanigans involved – I couldn’t really work up any feelings.  Same basic situation with the person before her, but we had been friends during childhood…nothing. Before that was my Uncle. 


Brett was a couple of years younger than me, and for as long as I could remember, up until I was 16 or so, I would spend at least a week with him on Grandpa’s farm. We were very much like brother and sister. We swam in the lake, fished, caught nightcrawlers for said fishing, climbed trees and even cleaned out an old pig house (like a very small shed) for a fort.  Brett was where I learned the amazing skill of rolling off of the top bunk directly onto the bottom bunk. Those were the days. As I think back, I miss that period of my life. I miss the carefree time out in the country, being as much of a tomboy as I could stand, and knowing that I was a part of
I’m not sure if that all even has anything to do with my uncle, necessarily. I am saddened to think of my innocence then, and how far I ran to the opposite extreme in my active using…years. Maybe it was the fact that I could count on, every summer, getting that break from my reality.  


So, yeah. I wonder about my lack of feeling. Is it a result of having had so many painful and traumatic experiences, that I’m just not (yet) able to open up that part of my consciousness? Is it the old standard “IDGAF” that I programmed into myself for such a long time? And then when I ponder these things, there’s the part of me that says I need to suck it up, remember there are many people who would LOVE to have my problems (I do, and feel terrible for not being more thankful), and make a gratitude list. Gratitude lists are EXCELLENT, by the way, but they’re not the end-all and be-all for overcoming these things. 


I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this sort pf thing, primarily because I’m not sure how to remedy it, and you know the old saying “You can’t think yourself to sober living. You have to live yourself into sober thinking.”


Do you have any experience with this all-encompassing numbness? Do you “know” the right feelings for situations and yet not have them? Do you think this is part of the whole “children of alcoholics watch others to see how they should feel” thing?


I don’t have the answers, and thank God I don’t have to, today. 

P. S. 

Moments after writing this, I was informed that my only friend in this state died this afternoon. It was an overdose. She had a son that was friends with my son, and another who was 4. I am feeling now. 


Written in my cabin in the mountains.

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6 responses to “And the tears come

  1. Very sorry to hear of the loss you’ve experienced lately & happy to read about your honest navigation through it.

    My experience is that my emotions are sometimes responsive (directly to a situation or event that’s currently happening) and sometimes my emotions are a sort of subconscious cleansing (strands of stress/pain in life that on their own aren’t very significant, but have been adding up below the surface).

    I believe that we do know what’s true for ourselves, sometimes it helps to hear it from another person who can relate, just to confirm it’s true. I think if we’re meant to know then we do and if we are meant to express the feeling and move on without ever knowing, that is fine too. (Unless I’m working on a 4th step, then I do dig.)

    Regarding the tears, the shutting down and the numbness, I won’t judge myself anymore for my feelings. I try to keep it simple, it’s certainly not an exact science being ourselves.

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  2. That is a lot of loss happening and it is shocking to the senses, I think. I know with my brain being wired with trauma, depression, etc., one area that has been difficult is my emotions landing appropriately in regard to time and situation. I went through several losses in a row once and noticed numbness before bouncing around a few emotional ranges later. You may run a lot of cycles with what you’ve had going on around you. It sounds so trite or too cliché, but I am sorry for your loss. And, that last one is upsetting indeed.

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  3. I think your feelings are normal. No one you described is in the “devastating” category — a child or husband, for instance. And medicine really does cause a numbness when dealing with grief. Also, if you are at all into the “NDE” accounts, you know that the people who have passed on are surrounded by love and forgiveness, and are beyond happy. All of their confusion about this lifetime has gone and they understand their purpose here. We are the ones bereft, not them. ; )

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  4. I can very much relate to the numbness, I think it’s a defence mechanism for me. I go numb when someting traumatic happens and don’t allow myself to feel the full force of the emotion for fear of being swallowed up by it.

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