A Photo a Day to Keep the Numb Away

Normally I don’t notice how numb I can be throughout the day. Time slips by as I go about my daily tasks and routine. I’m usually without awareness of disconnection from my emotional experience. It’s not until I encounter something which elicits a strong emotion that my general numbness becomes apparent. Those strong feelings are bold, scalding coffee cutting through my foggy emotional morning. When I’m paying attention, and attuned to my internal emotional state, I find I crave strong emotions much as night owls jones for their morning coffee.

Mug lined with the remains of a Latte

I’ve written often about my emotional numbness before. You can find mention of it in “The Bridge” and other posts here, yet I still have trouble holding on to the knowledge that numbness is a symptom of PTSD. When I know I’m overwhelmed and numb, I have various tools to help me come back to the world of feeling – cold glass on my face, a walk outside, a cup of hot coffee or tea, snuggling with Thurman or one of my stuffed animals. These all help most when I’m overwhelmed, but none truly gets me unnumb.

Early on working through my returning childhood memories, I found journaling the most effective way to process my experiences. Peeking into my life back then you’d find me in a coffee shop with my headphones on writing in my journal. Unknowingly I was using my two secret weapons to climb out of the pit of unfeeling into the world of color, emotion, and light — music and creative pursuits.

Four Old Bullet Journals
A collection of old journals. Did you notice I like Teal?!

Music is a constant in my world. It not only keeps me present, but it brings emotion to the surface on its own. I’ve discovered some artists and music types work better for me than others to elicit an emotional response. If I’m writing, ambient chill and non-vocal trance open the floodgates without disturbing the flow of words onto the page. If I’m drawing or taking camera walks, my playlist expands to include electronic pop and vocal trance. So there is often music playing in my headphones as I walk, or at my desk as I work to write. Playlists are like the handle of a lumberjack’s favorite axe there’s a well worn groove that fits me perfectly.

And yet, I am numb and disconnected from my emotional experience more than I want. I crave connection with my feelings, and to keep the numb at bay. So, this year I’m going to try something a bit different. I’m going to lean into one of my creative pursuits in a new way.

Leaning purple flowers
Even the flowers say I should lean into photography…

I’m going to do a 365 photography challenge — posting a photo a day on Instagram. Taking photographs forces me to see the world in a different way. In order to capture a photo that has meaning, I have to pay attention and feel whatever my subject is. If I don’t feel I can’t make a good picture. Seems like a challenge for someone who is numb right?

Fortunately, there is some untold magic for me in holding a camera and trying to find the image I want, in trying to feel the emotion I want to capture. When working to see strongly, to be open to the world of light, the numbness begins to thaw. I’m unaware it’s happening until the tingle of presence washes over me. The process reminds me of Arthur Dent learning to fly in “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.” He forgot to hit the ground when he was falling, and so started flying. When looking for an image that speaks to me, I forget to bump into the numbness and instead soar into fervor and sentiment.

So every day that I can this year, I will focus on finding at least one image that sparks a reaction in me. I’ll capture and share it with the world in hopes that this repeated action over time of finding feeling will make it a habit. Perhaps a photo a day will keep the numb away.

Poppies on a Northern California hillside
Perhaps this can be the first catch-up photo of the day!