I used to shut down all the time. I didn’t even know that I did it...didn’t realize that I had any choice in the matter.
Shutting down is a big component of my depression.
Shutting down means that when emotional pain like sorrow, anxiety, sadness, fear, or any of their playmates show up, I go numb.
Through the years, I think I “perfected” my ability to shut down. I learned to shut down before the pain emerged. Eventually I just kind of stayed there. Shut down. Sort of numb and empty all the time. This is a picture of what depression is like for me.
I know it seems odd, but I truly had no awareness of shutting down. I didn’t know that I played a part in it. I just wrote it off as depression. I never dreamed that there was a way to stop shutting down or at least recognize when I was.
I probably learned to shut down in childhood. It’s a defense mechanism that we develop when we can’t deal with or make sense of trauma, abuse, neglect–emotional pain of some variety.
We develop the emotional shut down to protect ourselves. It’s quite brilliant actually….especially when you realize that we were just kids. And yet we came up with a way to remove ourselves from the pain that we were unable to cope with and powerless to otherwise shield or protect ourselves from.
The part we didn’t know as children and perhaps well into our adult years, is that we do have to go back and feel the emotional pain and trauma that we were protected from in that moment. It doesn’t go away simply because we refuse to think about it. Worse than that…it festers and threatens to explode into our present. Every day we have to work very hard to keep the pain quiet.
So guess what I have been doing for the last 8 months?! Going back and unlocking those painful, infected memories, allowing them to surface and be felt and grieved.
Admittedly, this is painful, hard work. How could it not be?
But the reward for doing this work is freedom! You get to have a real life! You get to be present and available to what is going on in your world today. You are no longer trapped and entangled in the mess of yesteryear.
I simply don’t have a enough words to express how beautiful life can be once you allow your pain to surface, be dealt with, and then released.
I am still processing the wounds of my past, but I’ve already tasted the sweetness of real life.
May you be blessed with courage to take a step forward on the journey of healing today.