Life is hard for me today. I feel exhausted and sad and I’m waiting for the wave of darkness, that has been looming right under the surface of the past weekend’s busyness, to swallow me whole. Don’t get me wrong, my weekend was awesome! I spent most of it with lovely people and didn’t even have time to (over-)think about my impending doom – was that the problem, maybe..?
It’s difficult for me to find a balance between saying yes to life and everything that’s good and also making enough time for myself, which allows me to process all the (mostly good!) things that have been happening. If I rush from one activity or social encounter to another, then that surely keeps me busy and prevents me from crashing or thinking about why I could be sad, but it also keeps me from checking in with myself to see how I’m actually doing. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it – why the hell would one need to specifically make time for such an on-the-nose thing?!
It’s also not so easy for me to say no to things that I know will do me good but that take time out of the me-time that I desperately need. Me-time isn’t bubble baths and face masks for me, but rather time to process, for coping strategies and reconnecting with myself. When I’m constantly on the go, I often lose touch with me – hence the need to actively check how I’m really doing. When I’m in “action mode”, meaning that I have plans that I’ve been looking forward to and which I’m pumped for, my default setting is “happiness and positivity” and therefore everything I set out to do will be taking place in the spirit of that setting. Not to say that I’m not actually happy as I go about my day, but the setting usually makes it impossible for me to tap into any negative feelings (which is good in a way because it prevents me from going to a dark place during an event I was counting on enjoying – good vibes only, if you care for clichés 😁). Losing touch with myself takes on many forms but it all comes down to me not knowing what’s going on: am I actually having a good time? Am I hungry? Do I want to do this? What do I feel like doing? Would I rather be at home? Am I comfortable?
My knee-jerk answer to all of these questions is usually the infamous “weess net”, which is Luxembourgish for “don’t know” and probably the one sentence (if you can even call it that) I use the most when asked for my opinion in a detached state.
It’s true that a lot of times, I’m genuinely having a good time with the people I’m with, so I don’t really care about where we should go next or whether we should do this or that, as long as I can continue to hang out with them (and as long as none of the proposed activities scare the living sh*t out of me, obviously). In this case, “weess net” would actually be a legitimate answer.
Other times, I feel completely detached from my body and feelings and I simply have no clue whether something causes me joy or whether it’s making me feel indifferent, if I want something or not and where I want to go from there. I should note that this type of detachment usually only happens when I’m in the presence of at least one other person and rarely when I’m by myself. Detaching from self has happened to me about a million times and it’s definitely not new. What’s new(-ish) is the realisation that this probably happens as a way to protect myself from potential harm and/or as a coping mechanism when faced with an anxiety-inducing situation. Detaching is an attempt to protect me from going to a dark place while completely submerging me in such a dark place in the process. It puts me in a terrible spot because as soon as I detach from my emotions and wants and needs, I have no other choice but to keep pretending that I haven’t just disconnected from myself. I mean, how do you explain to people that you don’t have access to yourself in that particular moment and that you have no idea when the connection will be restored?!
Error: could not connect to Carrot network. Please try again later.
Having to pretend to be guided by feelings when there are in fact none except for dullness and numbness is quite a challenge. It makes me feel like being trapped in a cloud that makes it impossible to think clearly or know things which, in turn, makes me move slowly and indecisively and in a what’s-the-point kind of way because all I can convincingly do in such a moment is freeze.
There’s no love in moments like these. No warmth. It’s a giant bubble of nothingness and not knowing. It must be terrible for whomever I’m with when it happens, because I probably seem as cold as ice (given that I’m not a very good actress).
The only feeling I can easily tap into when I detach* is the feeling of sadness and pain, while the mean little voice inside my head keeps telling me to stop being this way, that this isn’t normal and that I should just get over it already. Needless to say that beating myself up like this has never done me any favours before!
At some point, I was thinking (or hoping 😉..?) that alcohol consumption would prevent me from detaching from myself but I can’t actually say that it has the ability to make things better. All it does is make me feel indifferent about detaching emotionally without however preventing the detachment itself, which is only slightly better because it makes the little bullying voice shut up for the moment (until a later time when it comes back in full force **).
Emotional detachment can occasionally be useful as a means of self-protection, when dealing with people that require too much energy from us or when we find ourselves in toxic situations that we can’t immediately get out of for one reason or another. So, the reaction (= detaching from emotions) makes sense as a response to a somewhat threatening situation.
However, it doesn’t make sense when its occurrence (and intensity) is in no way proportional to the actual amount of psychological “danger” we’re finding ourselves exposed to when it happens.
It does make sense in the context of anxiety though, which is characterised by the mind and body’s reaction to a perceived danger which, again, makes sense from an evolutionary point of view – if I find myself being threatened by a wild animal, I’d better be ready to fight or run for my life! – but isn’t very helpful in objectively unthreatening everyday situations.
I’m not quite sure (yet!) how to remedy this tendency to disconnect from myself, but I’ll make sure to add it to my list of (childhood) patterns to unlearn.
What’s one more item on the list, am I right? 😎
* I already wrote about this feeling once, in a previous blog post.
** Read more about why I occasionally like having a glass of wine here and please keep in mind that numbing (with alcohol or anything else) is never a long-term solution!