Rain Crashes Down

For the last several weeks I’ve been battling The Numb. It’s spread over my life insidiously, filling the lows like rain does puddles, and shaving off the highs of my days leaving me flat and disconnected from feeling. The world around me seems slightly distant, as seen through a window from inside. It’s clearly out there but sensory input is muted by glass and walls insulating me from feeling.

I have coping mechanisms, but they aren’t working as well as I wish they would. My go-to methods of pushing back the numb seem blunted lately. Walking outside works while I’m moving. Footfalls literally ground me with each step. Once I’m done though, things turn flat again. Music will sometimes catch a feeling for the length of a song if I’m lucky, but then it too fades into the background. Even photography, walking with my camera to see intently and capture beauty I can feel in the world around me is fleeting, lasting not much longer than the click of the shutter.

I’ve been in this place before. In between the flood of memories, I would go flat, my sensory limit reached, my receptors for feeling overloaded. Eventually they would calm and reset, allowing me to feel again. Like now, I crave getting feelings back, reentering the world of color and variety. I know I should know the feelings will return, the numb will fade and I will return to balance, but in the middle of emotional doldrums, that’s a challenging thing to hold on to.

So I reach for the expedient thing – distraction. Reading the news, following blogs on my favorite topics (Disney, photography, travel, etc), and training for a 10 mile race in April are ways to fill time that pull my attention away from the numb even if they don’t bring much feeling back.

But then I wonder if some of the things I’m reading in the news about the state of the world I live in — war, strife, and hate — are part of the cause and the news is becoming less of a coping mechanism. The world feels less safe lately with the war in the Ukraine and numerous legislative attacks on LGBT people and our right to exist. It’s all suddenly become more personal, and I’m starting to suspect that is eliciting an old protective response.

As a child I lived in an unsafe world where bad things could happen at any moment, and even people I should be able to trust might hurt me. My world *was* unsafe, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was powerless in the face of repeated trauma. Even those who should protect me were part of it. A child can’t stand up to or get away from parents and caregivers who abuse. So I coped by finding a way to not know most of the time and by disconnecting from my feelings.

This feels a lot like the world outside my window right now. So perhaps it makes sense I’m disconnecting and numb so much, that I’m falling back to what has worked in the past.

But then suddenly today out of the blue came the most powerful grounding tool I can use. While driving to pick up my wife, rain came crashing down.

Rain Crashes Down

Heavy pelting rain is a whole body, multi-sensory experience for me. The sound of the rain fills my ears, if it’s heavy enough (like tonight) I can even feel the sound. The smell of the air changes as it becomes heavy touching my skin in a cool, humid caress. The water in the air absorbs other sound, and so the rest of the world goes quiet. The light dims and diffuses, giving my tired eyes relief.

That brief, unexpected rainstorm picked me up and slammed me into the ground. I sat and watched the water run in rivulets down the car windows as I waited for my wife. Drops would form into beads, which would merge together and gathering critical mass course down the glass. They washed away for a while my overload. The numb parted and I can feel again.

I hope it rains tomorrow.