Comfortably Numb

Roger Waters, Louisville, Kentucky, June 10, 2012

Let me begin this post by stating that I despise anxiety.  I would rather deal with depression any day of the week than deal with anxiety, even for a second.  It is an insidious thief that robs me of my usual abilities to cope and to function, and it leaves a mass of insecurities, doubts, and negativity in its wake.  It takes all of the joy out of the present and all of the hope out of the future.  More days than not now, I am able to keep this thief from stealing my happy and my belief in myself and in my dreams and goals, but other days, like today, it breaks through my carefully constructed barriers and robs me blind.  I truly despise it.

The triggers for today’s theft are ones that I cannot put into words, for the thoughts and feelings are too jumbled and raw, but they are ones that I know all too intimately, as does one other person who knows me better than anyone else, my pen pal.  It was his admonishment to “work on your anxiety and stop worrying so much” that led me to write this post, in the hopes of both explaining to those fortunate enough not to deal with anxiety to better understand what it is like for those of us who face it head on and to arrest the thief that invaded my mind once again.  I can only hope that I get this right on both counts.

When my anxiety is triggered, and my coping skills elude me, it overtakes my mind and my body in rapid succession.  One negative thought multiplies into so many that I literally cannot think straight, and my muscles contract to the point that I feel like I have been in a boxing match and come up on the losing end.  When I cannot stop it in its tracks, it leaves me feeling very much alone, ashamed, and frustrated, as it transforms me into someone I do not even recognize or necessarily even like.  At times, I feel like I am watching it play out, as if having an out-of-body experience, and I cannot protect myself from it.  It is maddening, literally and figuratively. 

So, after fighting a losing battle for most of the day, I did what I usually do when I can do no more, I confided in my pen pal and then took off for a long drive down River Road, which is a sacred safe haven that I described in detail in an earlier post entitled, appropriately, “River Road”.  As I drove along the winding road, the darkness provided a shield from the outside world rushing past my car windows and the music emanating from my satellite radio enveloped me like a security blanket.  I quickly lost myself in the songs that played in the background, and the motion quieted my restless baby soul almost instantaneously.  Next to trail running, which I would not advise doing in the dead of night, it is the most soothing elixir there is for what ails my mind, body, heart, and baby soul. 

One song that came on as I drove was Pink Floyd’s classic, “Comfortably Numb”, which is one of my all-time favorites.  It evokes fond memories of my Dad who introduced me to the musical genius of Pink Floyd at a very young age, and it reminds me of when some of my college friends and I rented a VCR and the VHS tape of the film, “The Wall”, and watched it on a loop all night long during our sophomore year.  “The Wall” itself is a brilliant depiction of what it is like when childhood trauma is the springboard to madness and of the trials and tribulations of a troubled soul trying to navigate adulthood without a compass.  If you have not seen this film, I cannot recommend it enough, as it resonates with me on a variety of levels.  The character Pink is a cinematic hero of sorts of mine, but I digress.  Back to the song itself. . .

As I listened to it for what has to be the thousandth time, at least, I found myself craving that sense of being comfortably numb, even for a bit.  Sometimes, I just want to stop thinking and stop feeling, and I just want to be still.  It is something that I have wished for over the years, stemming back to when I was a little girl who just wanted to feel “normal”, as I often felt emotions far too deeply and was labeled “overly sensitive”.  This seemingly simple wish can seem to be impossibly out of reach during the height of an anxiety attack, though, and the harder I try to still myself, the worse the anxiety gets.  With the song ringing in my ears and the lyrics spewing forth from my mouth, I realized that much like a flailing person who is drowning, I needed to stop fighting and resisting the anxiety and still myself.  So, I stopped at my secret spot along my route where there are swings, and I started swinging in the dark until I felt the comforting calmness begin to replace the frenzied thoughts and feelings of the anxiety.  I had become comfortably numb.

The worries and doubts linger, but I am able to better protect myself from being overwhelmed by their counterproductive and destructive attempts to undermine who I am and what I want to achieve.  I am emotionally and physically exhausted, but I am safe once again, as I regroup and remember that I’ve got this.  I hope that some more music and a few hours of sleep offer me more solace from the pain, and I hope that tomorrow I can begin again without anxiety as my companion.  I have big dreams to fulfill and better days ahead indeed.

That’s another story  . . .

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