Since November, my family has spent an enormous amount of time (and money) at the doctor’s office. We’ve had a run of Influenza A, Pneumonia, Mono, as well as our fair share of the sniffles. I was hoping the warmer weather would bring welcome relief from the doctor’s office but so far, that hasn’t been the case. My youngest daughter woke up last week not feeling very well. She had a headache and sore throat, that soon went into body aches. The body aches turned into chills and a fever, and before long we were at the doctor with a strep throat diagnosis. Within a few days, this was passed on to two other children and we had made several more trips to the doctor and the pharmacy for antibiotics. Popsicles and ice cream have been consumed in large quantities and there have been many days spent on the couch snuggled up in a blanket.
So it shouldn’t have been surprising when I woke up with a bit of a headache. Yet, my initial reaction was to reach for the ibuprofen and ignore the warning signs my body was trying to send. I didn’t think much about my headache, because the ibuprofen did it’s job. It masked the symptom and I felt pretty normal for a few hours. By lunch time, I started feeling my body aching and I felt a little cold. I chalked it up to stress and work and cooler temperatures, and again reached for the ibuprofen to numb those achy feelings of physical discomfort. As I caught a glimpse of those pills in my hand, something inside me stopped. It was as if there was a little part of my being that was saying “PAY ATTENTION! Your body is trying to tell you something.” When I stopped and took a moment to listen to this voice, I knew that I was sick. Not just a case of the sniffles, I knew that I had strep throat too. I didn’t want to pay attention to the signs, but they were there all along. If I had been paying attention instead of numbing the symptoms, I would have recognized my need for medical attention sooner. Yet it was so easy for me to numb out.
It got me thinking…my entire life has beens spent numbing, hiding, disconnecting from myself. From a very young age, I learned to ignore what was really happening in my life. I learned how to numb out with fantasy, food, and a variety of other substances. I learned how to look outside myself for answers.
Disconnection was way I learned to survive. It’s the way I learned how to cope with things I didn’t like in my world. I ignored anything that was uncomfortable and pushed it out of my mind. The more I ignored, the easier it became. Soon, disconnection was all I knew. My life became one big game of “how to avoid pain”.
Disconnection was at the core of my addiction. I was treating the symptoms, ignoring what was really happening. I was disconnecting instead of stopping and allowing myself to feel hurt, sadness, anger, frustration or a host of other emotions. I was taking the proverbial ibuprofen every time I felt the slightest ache or pain. I bought into the idea that if I stayed busy enough, I wouldn’t have to face the truth of what my life was really like. Sometimes I disconnected with “good” things. I numbed out, masked what was happening inside by taking care of my family, serving others, focusing all my time and attention outside of myself. I stayed busy. Busy with work, busy with family, busy with endless to do lists and projects. Sometimes I disconnected, masking these feelings with negative and self destructive things like unhealthy relationships, drugs, alcohol, food, and sleep.
Whatever the case, whatever the reason, when I ignore what is going on inside of me, I am disconnecting from myself. I’m numbing feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. Disconnection has kept my life painful and complicated. Instead of feeling fear, I push it away.When I dismissed my headache, and chose to take some ibuprofen to numb, I was disconnecting from myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to connect to what was really happening inside, so I wasn’t allowing the opportunity to heal. I would rather stay in an endless state of numbing than to face the problem head on.
The moment I stop resisting what is going on, I open myself up to new possibilities that weren’t available to me before.
When I stop resisting, I can connect to the parts of myself I’ve been longing for. Listening and paying attention to my body allow healing to begin. When I don’t allow myself to feel hurt, grief, or pain of any sort, I get caught up in disconnection. In trying to protect myself from the pain of a headache, I was actually making myself more sick. In the same way, when I’m trying to protect my heart (by not allowing myself to feel), I actually allow the negative thoughts and feelings to grow rather than experience them and free myself from them.
Each day I take my antibiotic for strep throat, I heal a little bit more. Each day, more and more of the bacteria that caused me to be sick is removed from my body. In life, reconnection is my antibiotic. Each day I practice this, more and more of the disconnection that caused me to be sick is removed from my body. When I experience whatever it is that I am experiencing, I line myself up with what actually is. I stop pretending that it isn’t. Denying what I feel doesn’t make it go away. I’m ensuring that it grows and gets stronger while I ignore and pretend it’s not there.
It is easy for me to fall back in these patterns because they have been my lifeline for so many years. I have ignored, pushed away, avoided, and fought back for most of my life.
Some days I get frustrated when I fall back into these old patterns. Ok…most days I get frustrated when I see old patterns in my life. But I’m learning to listen to myself and take note. I’m learning to breathe deeply and check in with myself to reconnect. I’m learning to share that connection with others. And little by little I’m seeing healing in my life. And for that I am grateful.