For the past--I don't know how long--I've lived in a state of chaos and stress. Being stressed out must be one of my natural talents because I can't imagine or remember a life where I didn't feel like a ball of stress. Today is my first day off-the-job, and I'm trying to unwind. As I told a friend last night, I think it will take a while to fully calm down and feel whole because I don't know how to live without stress.
Because of the seemingly-impossible-but-totally-not-impossible-even-more-constant stress I've felt over the past six weeks, and where it started landing me, I contacted a counselor to get help. I haven't sought out a counselor before now because I didn't feel like we could afford it, but now it had to take priority over my feelings of not spending money on that because I was in a ditch.
I've been thinking about stress a lot lately. Stress and numbing. That's because I'm so tightly wound right now that I don't know how to live without stress. And the more stressed I become, the more I numb. I recently realized that I haven't figured out how to balance my life without numbing, which is part of why I think I had to quit my job and move now--so I could focus on what is really at hand and stop numbing through my dedication to my job. My numbing tactics have been working so well that they have started causing me to care less about Ben and my relationship with him because I'm just surviving and numbing--not caring.
I want to share an exercise my counselor had me do with her a few weeks ago.
She created a three-column chart on a sheet of paper. The far left column was titled, "Things that make me want to numb." The middle column was titled, "Ways I numb." The right column was titled, "True comforts." I spent the next bit of time really thinking about what belongs in each column.
I learned quite a bit about myself, so I'd encourage you do to something like this, especially if you are in a really low-spot like I was. Some things I do to numb are also true comforts, but the difference is in how I use them. A brownie can be truly comforting. A pan of brownies is a numbing and repressing tactic (not to mention that it makes me feel worse to eat that many brownies). Reading can be a comforting technique. Reading a whole series in a very short time-period while ignoring all other responsibilities and people around me is a way I repress and numb (and then I hate all the time that has been wasted and feel worse about myself in the end, anyway). There are quite a few of my comforting and numbing techniques that cross like that: painting, playing the piano, listening to music, exercise, facebook, and sewing.
My counselor had my put a star next to things that will always be a true comfort, but never (or rarely) a way to numb. For me, those were prayer/meditation, writing, and giving service. These are things I need to turn to always. And when used in combination with my other comforting techniques, I will achieve the best response to the things that make me want to numb.
It's really hard to face the emotions that come with being married to an addict. It's so much easier to numb--except for that fact that the repressed emotions come back with even more intensity than they would have if I had just addressed them from the beginning. So I'm working on using real comforting techniques to face my life head-on. I've even discovered things I do to numb that I didn't realize were numbing until recently (such as the above-mentioned job dedication as numbing).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm on a search for wholeness. I'm learning to offer myself compassion and self-comfort. I'm learning to rely on God and recognize all that He is giving me, especially when life is unbearably hard and it's all too easy to slip into a state of feeling isolated. Achieving wholeness is so important to me: I want to feel like I'm whole, no matter what. That means I need to move from a state of numbing to comforting. And that means I have to face everything head-on--with all its yuck and unpleasantness.
My counselor told me "We have the light of Christ in us, so when we self-comfort, we can use God's power." That gives me so much hope. Self-comforting is hard. Embracing the unpleasant circumstances that make up my life is hard. But I have the light of Christ in me, so that means I get to use God's power. I'm really not ever doing this on my own by my own power. I always have Him.
Onward to wholeness!