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How To Feel Again: From Numb To Feeling Alive



For many months I lived with such shame that I couldn’t feel or connect with others as deeply as I once could. It felt like part of my humanity had been taken away. The painful existence of living with a fake smile, pretending to feel joy while others were laughing. I went on pretending because I was afraid to show my vulnerability around my lack of connection.


People would comment, “You are so chilled.” It felt more like an insult, because inside I felt like a part of me was dead and I was merely just acting to get through each day, it was utterly exhausting. The “chilled” version of me was actually frozen, it felt as if I was trapped inside a box within myself with no way of expressing how I was truly feeling. I felt completely powerless.


The shame grew strong inside me, not wanting to let on that I wasn’t okay, and my survival instincts forced me to pretend, to just get by in daily life. I wasn’t living, I was just existing. 


Read on or click here to listen to the >>> Audio Blog Version.


Image by: Sasha Freemind on Unsplash


The Backstory to my Sense of Numbness


A lot happened over the past six months and when I say a lot, I mean a LOT! I fled from an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, where shamefully heated arguments had turned to violence. I felt like I had completely lost control of my sense of self and direction in life. I had lost control of my sanity and felt like a shell of a human.


I was fired from my job, destroyed relationships with my friends, hurt my family and worst of all, I hurt myself. I felt I needed to get away, so I packed a backpack and early the next morning was enroute to New Zealand to volunteer at a Yoga retreat that looked seemingly appealing online.


I was hopeful that New Zealand and the retreat would save me… That wasn’t the case. I was in such a terrible state that I had no clue what I was doing and how I was even functioning.


The retreat was in the middle of nowhere, 15 kms up a remote mountain from Takaka. When I got there, I felt completely isolated and alone and on top of that, the food was scarce, the room was absolutely freezing, and I couldn’t connect with the eight other volunteers that were there.


Needless to say, early one morning I jumped in the car of a stranger and fled the mountain. I had no plan or no idea where I was going and ended up having a psychotic episode/mental breakdown which landed me in a mental health ward in Christchurch. This was where I was to spend my next six weeks.


I was at breaking point. Everything compiled on top of me, and I shattered into a million little pieces.


During the time in the mental health ward, I realised that I had completely lost my sense of feeling, tracing back, it had been months, but I was so burnt out that I was operating on an empty tank of gas, in fight or flight. I hadn’t realised the severity of my disconnection, and the antipsychotic drugs were not helping me feel ‘safe’ within my body. I was completely disconnected - mind, body and soul.


When the dust began to settle and I started to surrender to the fact that I was to spend my time on the ward, a place that I once feared the most, things began to slowly shift. Little by little I started to settle and reconnect to myself, my passions and my creativity. I had a lot of time on my hands and an art room to play around in.


What I am led to believe is that the link to our numbness is the link to the disconnection from ourselves. The dissociation of a trauma or experience that was too big for our precious bodies to handle or process. So, fragments of us had to leave to protect ourselves to get through the experience.


When our bodies feel safe again, when we can learn to reconnect to ourselves and our truth. Slowly those fragments will return and integrate into our body. It takes patience, time and space to feel safe.


Coming to the end of my six weeks I felt I’d gone through a massive transformation, but the looming fear came over me once again. What was I to do when I left the ward? How would I cope on my own after being surrounded by people and support during this time? I was afraid.


Image by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash.


After the Ward


Life threw me another bombshell, after leaving the ward a friend had kindly lent me his car so I could get back on my feet. I had some house sitting lined up in a funky suburb by the harbour and decided I would stay and find some work. A few days later I fell off a horse at my uncle's farm, followed by a head on collision car accident. Fortunately for me and the other driver we both walked away with merely a scratch. I can’t say the same for the cars.


From this experience my internal world was shaken up again. I felt like the inner fragments of myself shattered once again and I could not feel safe in my body. I was shaken up from the core of my bones, and once again lost my sense of feeling. It was as if I was experiencing anhedonia, a condition linked to severe depression and antipsychotic medication which causes the inability to feel pleasure.



The next few months felt like a living hell. I felt completely hopeless. I could not sit still inside my body. I could not be with myself; the discomfort was unbearable and the loneliness and disconnection unfathomable. I was staying in a little apartment on my own and would spend most of my days just walking around aimlessly because I couldn’t relax or sit still. It was a mix of the trauma from the accident, previous memories resurfacing and the concoction of antipsychotic drug side effects I was on.


As the weeks passed, the intensity decreased and very slowly I was able to sit with myself a little more. It was hard and uncomfortable. I still felt numb, but at least I could sit still. Slowly I got myself back on my feet, made some friends, and found some work. But there was still this looming feeling of numbness and emptiness. I just felt like I was fake, like I was pretending.


The Courage to be Vulnerable


Eventually this feeling of emptiness became too much, I didn’t want to pretend anymore so I decided to reach out to friends. I was completely honest with them, explaining that I had lost my sense of feeling and connection to the world and it was challenging to engage with them or life. I felt shut off. 


One day while talking to a friend, she was the first person who truly saw me. Her comforting words gave me hope. She said, “You are not chilled out, you are frozen!” From these words I was able to cry, and she gently assured me, “see you are starting to thaw out, it takes time.”


A few weeks later I put a vulnerable and public post on Facebook expressing my experience, that I hadn’t been able to feel for several months. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support that came forth and the amount of people who also felt the same way, cut off from their emotions or a sense of grief or hopelessness for the state of the world. It both saddened and comforted me at the same time. 


I was seeking answers, but what I gained was a sense of wisdom and a gentle reconnection to my intuition. That evening something shifted in me, the message I received, “We are all in this together.” I began to ponder, 


What if by helping myself, I could help others? What if I could remember how to feel through little acts of kindness? And what if this experience was part of a greater purpose? 


It gave me a sense of hope. That by speaking out in vulnerability and truth we can help ourselves and others, we can start to reconnect those missing fragments.


Image by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash.


The Power of Choice


Later that night, I was searching for a documentary on Gaia when another one caught my eye. It was titled: Sacred Power, The Power of Choice by Caroline Myss. I immediately clicked on the video and began watching. Caroline stated that every single choice we make matters and every choice we make affects everyone. I was hit by the relisation that everything I do matters, and I always have a choice.


She explained that our personal power comes from the choices we make. When we make a choice that empowers us, we gain energy and when we make a choice that disempowers us we lose energy. We are all energetic beings with an internal power source. You could think of it like a battery that needs recharging, we need to plug ourselves into things that are nourishing and supportive to recharge us. 


When we hit burn out and reflect on our life choices, you will see a trail of decisions that led you to that point. Perhaps you entered into a relationship that was disempowering or your job felt draining. You may have gone against yourself to please others or done something that hurt another person.


Her words helped me to reflect on the choices I had made over the past year. I was sad to admit there had been a lot of choices that were disempowering. At this stage I was spending a lot of time in bed, I didn’t feel like doing anything and was still feeling a strong sense of disconnection. But in this moment, I thought to myself, “Is lying in bed all day wallowing in self-pity helping me or others?” The answer was clearly no


When I began to shift my perspective from me centric to, we centric I felt a sense of power wash over me. I needed to do whatever I could to feel a sense of joy again, not just for me, but for everyone. Because each and every one of us is connected and it's the unseen little choices we make each day that create a ripple effect and a big impact for the collective.


The next morning, I felt my usual wanting to stay in bed. The fear washed over me, and the old thought patterns arose, but today I chose to stop them in their tracks. Instead, I chose loving thoughts, even though I couldn’t feel them. I thought, what if I can slowly change the cells in my body to feel love again, just by focusing on love? It was worth a try, right? I simply said, “I love myself; I am worthy.”


Then I thought, what step can I take now that will help myself and others? The intuitive hit came right away, “Move your body.” So, I got up and did yoga. Then once again I tuned into myself, “what's the next choice?” The answer, “Go to the river.” So off to the river I went and allowed it to wash away some of my pain. As I followed the breadcrumbs of intuitive hunches, throughout my day I began to feel better and better. My personal power was slowly returning.


That day I made the commitment; every day I would wake up and make a lot of ‘little good choices’ throughout my day. I would dedicate these choices not just to my own healing journey, but towards a greater purpose of helping others. I knew that over time all of these ‘little good choices’ would build momentum for the life I wanted to create for myself. A life of meaning and purpose.


Image by Catalin Pop on Unsplash.


The Pillars of ‘Good Little’ Choices


As Caroline Myss discussed, when we make choices that are good for us, we reclaim our personal power. She provides the following guidelines for making power choices in your life. Follow this formula and you are destined to live a more empowered life.


  1. To not betray yourself or others

  2. To live with integrity and truth

  3. To know and live your values

  4. To have a spiritual world view

  5. To practice kindness

  6. To be reflective daily

  7. To be of service

  8. To empower others


By following these core pillars for empowered choice, you will begin to reclaim your connection to yourself and your personal power. Below I have also provided some guidance for simple practices that have helped me feel a sense of joy and connection again. 


Along with the power choices are the pillars of ‘little good choices.’ These are the actions I have created in my life that will support you to reclaim a sense of self, joy and purpose in your daily life. 


By implementing these practices into your daily life, you build your internal momentum (power), which connects you to yourself and the world. All of these activities aim to reconnect you to your emotional senses and innate way of being.


Creativity


To create is to generate life force energy from within. When we create, we feel connected to something beyond ourselves. We are all creative beings and each and every one of us has a creative skill to be expressed in the world. When we connect with creativity, we connect to our essence. Health and wellbeing are supported by a means of self-expression. Whatever you craft, set aside time each week to create. 


Many people have said to me “I’m not creative.” This is simply not true. As a human being you were born to create. Try looking outside of the box when it comes to creativity as it comes in many forms, some include: painting, dancing, playing music, writing, singing, craft, nature hikes, acting, photography and sport.


Purpose and Meaning


This is essential for feeling a sense of fulfillment in your daily life. Purpose and meaning is a great connector to yourself and the world. Find out what you love to do, even if you have forgotten or don’t feel motivated your inner resources are never lost. To learn more about your inner resources check out some powerful tools at Here and Hidden.


It can be challenging to find purpose and meaning when you feel numb to life, but from my experience I was waiting around to feel inspired, but it never worked. The moment I switched to doing things the opposite way around, everything shifted. I didn’t feel inspired or purposeful, but waiting around for inspiration wasn’t working. Instead, I decided to create something, anything! It didn’t matter.


This taught me that I first needed to build momentum in order to connect to purpose and meaning. After a few days of doing the things, I used to love, (writing and painting), the momentum began to flow and along came this article which reignited my sense of purpose and meaning in life.


I have always been a writer; it was there all along I just lost momentum along the way.


Nature 


Nature is medicine, it reminds us of who we are and takes us back to the simplicity of what truly matters. We are all made of stars, our being is of the same essence of the core of the earth. 


When we spend time in nature, we wash away our troubles and reconnect to pure life force energy through the plants, the rivers, the birds and the stones. Trust me, even if you don’t feel connected to nature, I ask you to plant a seed of trust that nature knows what to do.


If you can spend some time in nature each day or take yourself off camping for the weekend nature will do its thing. Even if only a tiny fragment of you feels better, it will start an internal shift. The medicine of nature is completely free, and the benefits are astronomical.


Movement


To move is to create energy in motion, it gives us the opportunity to shift stagnant energy, clearing the old stories and patterns stored within the body at a cellular level. Think of movement like a flushing out, a clearing of old information stored in your body. When you move you flush out the old and make space for new to arise.


Writing and Journaling


This process allows you to clear out the muck in your mind. The benefits of a daily journaling practice include: 


Gratitude


The daily practice of gratitude is a powerful tool. Gratitude is strongly related to social, emotional and psychological wellbeing. An article in Psychology today explains:



It can be challenging to feel gratitude when you feel disconnected from yourself and the world, but by using this simple practice you begin to shift your focus on what you are lacking, to what you have to be grateful for. Start small, perhaps all you did today was having a cup of tea or lie in the sun. Journal about your gratitude for these moments. 


Even if all you did was get out of bed to make yourself some food, be grateful that you did this for yourself, be grateful for a friend that reached out with a kind message of hope or for the little bird that flew past your window. Gratitude can be found in the most delicate of moments. 


It’s not an easy journey finding your way back to yourself. Going from numb to feeling alive, but through my experience I have learned the importance of ‘good little choices’ and how they can become the building blocks for creating the life you desire to live.


Every little choice you make, every single day will begin to become the signature of your life journey.


Did my article resonate with you? Want to discover more about how to live a heart led life?


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Heart Blessings


Erin Alexis xx







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