When depression makes me numb

Posted: 7th July 2017 by Elizabeth

The lack of feeling anything is, paradoxically, a terrible feeling.

People who don’t experience or understand depression are often told that it’s not as simple as feeling sad. This is more true than I can adequately describe; there are many facets to depression. One symptom that I wish more people understood is feeling numb. A sense of hollowness – like a dull, numb lump – often defines me when I’m really down. It’s a shitty, zombie state of grey flatness. Life passes by and you won’t bother to wave at it – because you don’t really care. In fact, you just don’t really feel anything.

How does numbness link to depression? Well, one explanation that I find helpful is that, when the strain of depression is extreme, experiencing emotions feels exhausting. There is no joy in my favourite activities, or excitement in making plans. I don’t feel the same outrage at things that should anger me, nor do I bother to get annoyed at gripes. It’s all too much.

From numbness to nothingness

The frightening thing about feeling numb is that it’s the cruel cousin of despair. A deep indifference to oneself and to the world is a step towards believing that neither is worth fighting for. Your existence feels detached, you think you’re inconsequential. This is a dangerous, fragile space, because your perspective on the value of life is horribly distorted. The consequence can be a sense of Inertia and apathy, or even worse, self-destructive behaviour and thoughts.

A deep indifference to oneself and the world is a step
towards believing that neither is worth fighting for.

When nothing in life feels meaningful or worthy is alienating and dreadful. Your relationships and work may suffer, as those around you may interpret your attitude as being deliberately indifferent or distant.

For something that feels like nothing, numbness is a godawful thing.

Finding feeling again

When you’re in a dark place, try to remember that it will get better. I know you probably bully this thought into a corner of your mind. I know it can sound patronising or glib. Numbness is a hard nut to crack, because it inherently defies the will to feel.

There might be one special thing that gets you out of the numbness prison – whether it’s seeing a friend, watching South Park or baking biscuits. I hope you find it. Here are some things that help me:

  • Therapy! Finding help is a brave and worthy thing to do. It can empower you to get through tough times.
  • I find being in calming, natural environments can help. People and busy spaces feel overwhelming, so a quiet walk in nature can be very soothing.
  • Music is undoubtedly one of my greatest comforts. The right song can feel powerfully empathetic and help to nudge me out of numbness.
  • Helping someone less fortunate or doing a good deed is heartwarming and energising.
  • Reminding myself of things I really care for is good: my family, friends and cats.
  • Reading blogs or articles about other people’s experiences is helpful.
  • Moving around a bit. It’s often hard to be bothered with exercise, but in an ideal world, it is a good source of invigoration.

If you’re feeling low, I hope you feel better soon. You are not alone xx

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2 Comments

  • Jerrry 26th September 2018 at 1:40 am

    Re: From numbness to nothingness. Your description of numbness, of feeling detached from those around you is very familiar to me. I struggle some days to keep a conversation going. My mind goes blank. Other times, I’m full of words and work to keep the conversation lighthearted. I have bipolar disorder. Thanks for helping me better understand what a feeling of numbness is all about.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth 26th September 2018 at 4:21 pm

      Hi Jerry, I’m glad my post could resonate with you, thank you for taking the time to comment. I can relate to those days of feeling unable to even feel anything – and other days, I put on a mask and try to cope. What really helps me is talking to those who relate. Go well x

      Reply

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