Numbed Out

drugs2People everywhere are numbed out. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to deduce this. And it doesn’t have to take severe trauma to get to this point—though trauma definitely begs the numbing.

We are an over-medicated society and I’m not even talking about actual medicines. ANYTHING that we turn to in order to dull the ache in our hearts definitely qualifies as a numbing agent.

I’ve tried just about every numbing agent over the course of my traumatic and dysfunctional past: food, alcohol, painkillers, books, television, busyness, hoarding—just pick one. I’ve probably tried it. These things don’t have to be hardcore-addictions in order to qualify as numbing agents. Anything that will take the edge off counts.

We all have our pacifiers.

Our society is moving at a psychotically fast pace, and it’s no wonder people turn to so many pacifiers in order to self-numb. Even if the relief is only temporary, it’s worth it in order to forget about that closet of unresolved pain, grief or difficulty in our lives for just a few more minutes.

We all look for those quick fixes.

A few years ago at Riteaid, I offered to buy one of our local homeless men a drink. It was a hot day. I thought he’d pick a water bottle or something, but guess what he picked? A bottled Starbucks coffee drink. His second pick was a caffeinated energy drink.

I SO get it. I do.

I’ve been down to the last $5 of our checking account on a stressful day and what do I think?

“If I can JUST get a coffee, I think I can make it through the rest of the day.”

And even though coffee is one of the more functional body addictions, that extra rush of serotonin and adrenaline definitely help my soul as well. When I haven’t had a coffee, I feel like a baby that is overdue for her bottle. When that first sip of caffeinated goodness courses down my throat, my body heaves a gigantic sigh of relief. Mmmmmmm…There is comfort in the numbing—a false comfort YES, but a comfort nonetheless.

Coffee is definitely one of my pacifiers.

What about technology? Been to any coffee shops, restaurants, or stores lately? Seen any zombies staring at a screen? Yah, me too. Neurological-reinforcement needs aside, staring at a tablet or phone screen is definitely an effective numbing activity.

What would happen if those people took a few minutes to unplug instead and do a self-assessment of their bodies and emotions? They would probably discover they are buried—buried under too much to do, too much to think about, too many tasks and relationships crying out for attendance.

Life is just too much, too much of the time.

So what do we do?

We numb out.

That extra cup of coffee helps us push through and function for five more hours, when what we really need is sleep. That drink after work fills us with a warm fuzziness that somehow obscures the poignancy of the stress and allows our body to relax for a few minutes. That favorite TV show allows us to live vicariously in another person’s story for an hour and briefly forget about our own struggles and stresses.

Suicide is the ultimate numb-out.

No going back from that one. Suicide isn’t talked about nearly enough. It’s like the great misnomer. The reality is that NORMAL people silently struggle with this issue a lot more than most realize. I know this because I was one of the silent strugglers. And I know others close to me who have struggled and even attempted to end their own lives.

People are emotionally drowning all around us at the grocery stores, coffee shops, gas stations, and the rest of the places we frequent each day. Even at church. People everywhere have lost hope. We just don’t see it. We don’t see it because we are all caught up in the same crazy hamster-wheel of life exhaustion and overscheduled activity.

If we don’t downshift a bit—we will never see these people. We could even become one of the silent strugglers if we don’t attend to our own hearts.

I missed one such silent struggler in my own life about five years ago.

Each morning when I would drop off my children at school, I would notice my heart was continually drawn to the head custodian. He was a faithful man who took great care of the school grounds, as well as the children around him. He radiated with kindness and gentleness—his spirit was just sweet. I felt safe around him. I felt better about dropping off my kids at school just because of him. He mattered. He mattered to others and to me.

For months I felt prompted to go tell him how much he mattered, to tell him how much I loved having him there, to tell him thank you. But I didn’t. My mind rationalized that it would be better to buy him a gift at the end of the year instead and enclose a heartfelt thank-you note.

Then one morning, he was just gone.

He was one of the silent strugglers. He was a Vietnam Vet who probably wrestled with the daily effects of depression and PTSD. One day he just couldn’t take it anymore. So he took his life.

I didn’t know he was struggling. But God did. And my heart still aches each time I think about how things could have been different if I had talked to him. What would God have done in that moment of conversation? Would he have opened up to me and shared his struggle? I’ll never know. But I have experienced enough God-moments to know that sometimes it just takes ONE conversation to change a life.

I missed it. I missed him. The elevator door opened and I didn’t step in. Then the doors closed forever. I talked my heart out of what it knew.

We, as a Western culture, have largely conditioned ourselves to bypass our intuition (spirit knowing) in favor of rationalization. It’s yet another reason why we miss the silent strugglers. We don’t listen to our internal voice.

We are all just so numbed out and stuck in our brains.

The busyness of daily life fries our brains and zaps our energy. We speed through the day and then crash into bed exhausted. Then the alarm ZINGS us awake and we start the whole daily maze over again. It’s no wonder we numb out when we can and zoom through our days on autopilot mode. The heart will have to wait.

But wait…the heart can’t wait. It needs attending.

We can circumvent and numb the pain as long as we like, but eventually we WILL come face-to-face with the truth. Unresolved pain will continue to fester until we allow the bandaids of numbing to come off, so that we can attend to the infections that lie underneath.

Awareness is the first step to freedom.

Don’t you want to be free?

Becoming aware of the numbing in our lives is the first step to healing. It’s like coming out of a trance. Waking up. It’s the process of returning to normal sight after our eyes have been dilated.

Things gradually become clearer.

Denial is our greatest adversary. Busyness is a close second. Did you know that the Chinese characters for the word BUSYNESS mean a “death to the heart”?

Let’s stop killing our hearts. Let’s stop numbing. Let’s start paying attention.

It’s time to look inside.

What is buried inside of you that is crying out to be heard? Are you one of the silent strugglers that no one sees? Even if no one else sees you, you are SEEN and KNOWN by the One who formed your heart. And YOU matter to HIM.

You matter. Your heart matters.

YOU are worth the investment to become whole again.

Let Him resurrect your heart.

“…Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’” (John 11:44).

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1).

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).

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