First off, thank you all for your well wishes and comments on my previous post. I really appreciate your messages! Now, onto today’s post…
A while ago, a blog friend sent me this question:
I don’t know a lot of other MDD/borderline-ish folks in my life, so I was wondering if you might be able to try and describe what emotional pain is. I’ve been depressed for most of my life to varying degrees so I’m basically numb all of the time. It’s really hard for me to understand what emotions feel like, even simple ones like happiness. Everyone tells me I’m suffering, but I just have no understanding of what that means. Like you, I struggle a lot with suicidal thoughts, etc – but I’m so…out of it, that it’s just a wooden sort of, “oh, well, I don’t want to be alive anymore”. My question in short is; what do you think emotional pain and/or emotional suffering feel like?
Here is my answer…
This is a tricky question simply because what is emotional pain/suffering to me does not necessarily resonate with others. Everyone has their own experiences in life and measures their suffering accordingly, so everyone’s experience of suffering will be different. I’ll explain my personal experience with emotional pain/suffering as best I can.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of “emotional pain or suffering” is waking up in the morning wanting to cry because I’m not dead. Notice I said “wanting to cry”. That’s because when I’m in the throes of depression I lose the ability to cry. When a healthy person thinks of emotional pain the first thing that might come to mind is crying or sadness. Because I can’t cry then, that emotional pain takes another route. What would have been crying becomes what I can only describe as heaviness. I feel very heavy, movements become difficult. The less I move the better, because every move causes an increase in emotional pain. In addition, I feel on edge, and I can only further describe this as a feeling of wanting to rake my insides with my fingernails and bleed. It’s a severe form of discomfort.
However, I guess that’s the more severe form of emotional pain for me. The prelude to that would be an annoying feeling of “something’s not right and I can’t put my finger on what it is”. I’m actually feeling that right now (more on that later). I’m used to numbing out my pain or ignoring it, so when I’m feeling pain at first what I feel is just confusion and not knowing exactly what is wrong with me but knowing that I’m not “just fine”. Eventually, this results in an explosion and a sticky mess of emotions, but I’ve gotten better at managing it by staying on top of what I feel and writing in my diary.
It’s very easy for us to fall into a routine in life and just ignore emotions. Eventually, we get completely out of touch with what we feel. Way back when I was with M I remember she used to ask me all the time to identify exactly what it was that I felt. She wouldn’t let me get away with just saying “I’m doing good” or “I feel bad”. She wanted me to go into detail, to explain, to use words and phrases like “I’m angry”, “I’m frustrated”, “I feel inadequate”, “I feel elated”, etc. It’s only now that I understand why she did this. Whenever I’m actually feeling emotional pain but I’m not in touch with what I’m feeling I go automatically to the state of mind my blogging friend describes: the “wooden sort of, ‘oh, well, I don’t want to be alive anymore'”. Because I have no idea what it is that I’m feeling, but I know it’s painful, I automatically think about death and dying.
What’s so bad about this? Well, it leads to suicidal thoughts, plans, gestures, etc. And the thing is, it can be avoided by stopping ourselves and asking What exactly is it that I’m feeling?
But, going back to what exactly is emotional pain to me, in conclusion: it’s a severe form of discomfort. When I feel like this nothing feels right, literally everything feels wrong and I want to change everything, scream at the top of my lungs, dig my nails into my skin….all of this leading to that all too characteristic heaviness and feeling like I’ll explode if I make a single move. And, to avoid that, I ask myself what is wrong with me and I try to pinpoint the problem. I write….a lot….everything that comes to mind….and eventually the source of the emotional pain comes to light (usually).
So, if you’re up for it, what is emotional pain/suffering to you? Would love to hear your input.