Acknowledge, Accept, Await
Endellion and I were chatting on Skype when I was home for lunch this week. She told me that she felt numb again. After the emotional shitstorm of the weekend, I told her that it seemed logical that her brain would shut down to process everything – kind of like a computer reboots. Her system just needs to reboot and feeling numb is like that time between shutting down and starting back up again.
Every once in awhile, I come up with some little gem that surprises me in not only its simplicity but also in its wisdom. I typed to her (without ever really thinking about it), “Acknowledge, accept, await.” She said, “Triple A!”
Endellion and I have talked repeatedly about how we feel emotions so much more than “normal” people do because for our entire lives we were not allowed to have them, so we are feeling decades of emotions and they are just intense. Emotions were dangerous and we both learned to deny and stuff our feelings. Now that we are safe and free, we’ve both learned to feel our feelings (this is still very much a work in progress because there are still some feelings neither of us can access yet) and we are both torn between wanting to be numb again and rejoicing in feeling everything.
So many times I’ve lamented to her, “I just want to be numb again because this hurts too much.” She always says, “No, you don’t want to be numb again because look at the hell you had to go through to reach numbness.” She has a point, even when I don’t like it, that I don’t want to go back there again. We paid for our numb feelings with our souls. It was too steep a price and neither of us want to go back to that that.
When Endellion started feeling numb today, it absolutely terrified her. “What if this lasts? What if I can never feel again? Why am I numb?” That is when I told her to acknowledge, accept, await.
Acknowledging our feelings (or in this case, our numbness) is an important first step when you are re-learning how to feel. For so long I had to stuff everything so for me to even acknowledge a feeling was a huge step. Acknowledging is the opposite of denying. We have to re-train our brains to do a complete 180. Yes, I feel sad. Yes, I feel angry. Yes, I feel frustrated. Yes, I feel happy. I had to re-learn all of that!
Accept – once one can acknowledge one’s feelings, one must accept them. How hard this is when re-learning not-so-pleasant emotions. I had trouble accepting sadness, anger, frustration because they didn’t feel safe for me for a very long time. It is OK to feel how I feel. As a side note, I don’t want to call anger, sadness, frustration, etc, “negative” emotions because that implies there is something wrong with them. No, they aren’t pleasant but there is nothing wrong with them.
Await – Patience is key to emotions. I’m finding that no emotion lasts forever. Also, the numbness that Endellion is experiencing right now won’t last either. The numbness can’t last because we now know how it is to feel again. Number was (and still is) a self-protective measure. Right now Endellion’s brain is shutting down her ability to feel those not-so-pleasant emotions because this weekend was a real bitch for her. Her brain needs time to recover so it shut down the not-so-pleasant feelings.
That is when Endellion realized she wasn’t completely numb. She flirted with the cute butcher at the grocery store that morning. She walked away from that encounter feeling happy and light. She realized that her brain was in a partial reboot – protecting her from not-so-pleasant feelings while allowing her to feel happiness about a flirtatious encounter.
Throughout this journey, I have been continually amazed at the brain’s ability to protect itself. Dissociation, numbness, and denial gave way to realization, return of suppressed memories, and an astonishing capacity to heal. My brain is remembering things slowly and in bits and pieces because it knows that opening the floodgates of memories would overwhelm me and lead me straight into a padded cell. I remember things in a way that I can process them and heal. Yes, many times it feels overwhelming but I have a wonderful support system in place to help when it feels like it is going to drag me under.
There have been times when I’ve felt it was just too much and that I didn’t know how I’d survive (finding out my parents and sisters all turned on me is the time that comes to mind right now) but I had wonderful friends to hold me and help me through those times. It took a long time but the time came when those feelings were processed and it didn’t hurt so much.
For now, I continue to walk this journey, unlearning the bad things that were taught to me and learning healthy ways. This is a new way of looking at those Down Days, a positive reframing. No longer will I look at those Down Days as something negative, something to be avoided. I will use those days to acknowledge, accept, await.
Triple A, baby, Triple A!