Does numbing our pain achieve anything in the long run?

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We’ve all been there. We’ve all been in a place so painful that the desperation to not feel said suffering completely overrides any desire to self heal in a healthy and proactive way.

Whether this be through alcohol, drugs, comfort food, oversleeping, self harm or any other method that is used a coping mechanism, these are all argued to have a negative impact on our mental state of mind and make the real root of our problems more difficult to treat as a result.

My way of coping was among the most common…

Β I used to self medicate with alcohol

Why I hear you ask?

  • Well first of all I was a student, so the drinking culture certainly played a part in normalising my laissez-faire attitude towards consuming it.
  • Secondly, while there was a period where I received CBT therapy at university, I regret to say that I did not take it seriously enough as I should have done at the time. I simply saw my situation as one where no amount of talking or setting goals would help me.
  • Finally and perhaps, the most obvious reason – I drank because of the stress involved in completing and handing in assignments. Particularly in my final year!

On average, I would binge drink about three to four times a week. Β Like most other students I guess! Except, in my case at least, the drink was a simple and uncomplicated way of escaping the feelings that I kept bottled up inside of me. It was a way in which I could escape reality. and numb the pain for a while…

Yet, would I even still be here if I did not have that temporary form of escapism to turn to when I needed it? Honestly….I do not know. Some days, I even doubt it.

Let me make myself clear. I would in no way recommend someone to turn to unhealthy ways such as over drinking to handle their mental illness. I do however ponder where I would be had I not had the drink to turn to when things got tough.

This is not to say that I felt like this all of the time. I can remember many nights out where I genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the company of friends around me. Yet that feeling of difference and being the ‘odd one out’ always ensured that depressive thoughts were always at the back of my mind.

Nowadays my relationship with alcohol is one I like to compare to an acquaintance of a friend you’re not quite sure about. You engage with them civilly and smile politely at their rather unfunny jokes. Yet you never completely trust them. Just like I can never completely trust myself not to go overboard when it comes to going for a night out and promising myself that I’ll just have ‘one or two’.

So what about you?

Do you or did you used to have unhealthy way of dealing with your demons? If so, do you believe that any good came out of it? Or was it a depressing affair that at best delayed you in getting the help you needed and at worst, put you in a darker place than you were in before?

44 thoughts on “Does numbing our pain achieve anything in the long run?

  1. Really interesting post! It brings to mind something one of the better therapists I’ve worked with said to me: “we do the best we can, with what we have and what we know”. This was said in the context of me reflecting on some of the horrible methods of self medication I’ve used over the years (I too have been there with alcohol). Sometimes mental illness really is a game of survival. We survive by any means possible and we learn better more healthy ways to cope. I hear what you are saying

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good way of thinking about it. Maybe our unhealthy coping mechanisms are just part of our individual journeys until we find another way which isn’t so self destructive. That therapist you had sounds like they knew what they were talking about πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had, and still have a lot of different coping mechanisms. I feel that it’s the only way I know how to survive at this stage of my life. Maybe one day I won’t need to just do what I have to in order to get through a day. Great post. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hey Rayne. Thanks for your comment! I agree to be honest. We do what we have to to survive. Especially if you have experienced anxiety and/or depression from such a young age. If I were half as knowledgeable about my illness back then as I am now perhaps I would not have been so reckless about it. Who knows.

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  3. I’ve been there with binge drinking and cutting myself. I feel like it ultimately delayed in me getting help because I delayed feeling my emotions all the way. I understand what you’re saying, though, and sometimes I still get the feeling that I might not survive another day if I didn’t cut *right now*.

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    1. Hey Ela. I understand where you’re coming from also. Honestly I’m doing so many things now such as meditation, maintaining a health diet etc that I wish I had started years ago. I look back and wonder why I did not do so before sometimes. These methods are essential in managing my illness. I hope you’ve found your own ways of managing yours! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One of the most important parts of learning from the choices I have made is to not judge myself for my past actions. I did what I did. I did the best I could in that moment. I forgive myself for my mistakes and I start again.

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    1. Oh I completely agree with you there. It’s something that I am still intermittently guilty of however – I’m getting better though I think. It’s amazing just how refreshing it feels to be able to let go of the past.

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  5. I have social anxiety, and I would say at my lowest days, I end up going to sleep very late and then oversleeping because I feel like there’s no real reason or motivation for me to get up early. It doesn’t help with how low I feel about myself. I just end up feeling overwhelmed and upset at myself for letting things get so bad and then I start feeling like even doing the smallest things, like making a phone call or going grocery shopping, gives me more anxiety than usual.

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    1. Hi justanervousgirl. Some of the things you’ve mentioned also make me anxious – particularly making phonecalls! I can manage it usually but there are some days when I ask my mum to arrange an appointment or something for me. Thankfully she’s really understanding when it comes to stuff like that!

      Being hypersensitive can be really horrible. While I do consider myself to be in a better place now than I was at university, I still have those moments you describe. They’re rare but they happen. I think meditation really helps in that it allows you to be less critical of yourself when you do make mistakes. I also try to remember the mistakes my friends/family and colleagues make to remind myself that it’s completely normal and nothing to feel bad about. I don’t know if these will work for you, but my point is that as hard as it can be to see sometimes, there are small things you can do to alleviate some of your symptoms πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oops, I didn’t mean to hit the reply button for my last comment as I wasn’t finished writing all my thoughts.

        I would say the biggest challenge with having social anxiety is often setting many goals for myself, or planning many things out in advance, but when it’s time for me to have to deal with the stuff I planned, like showing up to an event I intended to go to or meeting someone about a volunteer opportunity I wanted to try out, I’m just a complete mess. And when I don’t succeed it’s hard not to be extremely self critical of myself. This is the moment when I get into a funk of losing all my motivation for doing anything because of my failure, and usually why I end up wasting time until very late at night and then oversleeping the morning after.

        Like, today I was supposed to meet someone to discuss a volunteer project I want to be involved in. I was on my way there, but then I asked to reschedule when it became clear the train was going to make me more than a few minutes late. I keep thinking about what I could’ve done to prevent my lateness, like leaving the house earlier. Even though the person offered to wait for me, I had declined because I have very high standards for myself and I really pride myself for being punctual. In this sense I’m maybe too hard on myself, but when I am late, I don’t even want to show up because I perceive being late to an appointment makes me look unprofessional and rude.

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    2. In regards to meditation it’s not even necessary to leave the safety and comfort of your own room. In my case I look up narrated videos on youtube to do it. I recommend you try out the ones below if you want to it a go. Though be aware that it may take some practise on a near daily basis before you feel the benefits of it. It took me at least a month before I reached that sense of inner peace! On the plus side they are less than half an hour long so it should be easy enough to fit into your daily schedule πŸ™‚

      While I am by no means an expert when it comes to social anxiety (Even if I do have the disorder myself!) it sounds like you’re setting goals that may be too taxing on you? There’s nothing wrong with pushing your boundaries, but it can backfire massively if you fail. I’ve made that mistake before myself. So I’d also suggest perhaps scaling back some of those goals if possible. If you do fail, remember what you did right – even if it is the most minuscule thing. All of this can go a long way to retraining your mind in my experience πŸ™‚

      P.S – Sorry for not typing up this response under your latest message. For some reason my comment section is not giving me the option to do so!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Very interesting topic. Comfort food is the coping mechanism I mostly use. I eat a lot of fast food and I tend to eat more of it when I’m feeling depressed. It definitely isn’t good for my health as I already have high cholesterol. I think eating comfort food does more damage than good.

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    1. I think there is a good balance that can be made when it comes to comfort food. Namely I think it’s okay to eat it now and then on bad days. Sometimes a little bit of self love and indulgence can be a good thing. However it can easily turn into a habit and that’s when the problems begin. I ate a fair bit of fast food when I was at university and I completely underestimated the effect it was having on my mood. Have you found ways in which to deal with the issue or is it still a struggle?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s basically stems from my mood/depression because when I feel down a lot I will eat a lot of fast food. The last couple weeks I’ve made a breakthrough and actually feeling well again which is a huge relief. Medication is important for my wellbeing. I’ve been on anti depressants for the last 13 years and need them to function properly. One day I hope to come off meds but for now I really need them.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Very interesting post..made me think there are people just like me.. I try to cut myself or overdose with sleeping pills.. but then the people in my life start coming before my eyes.. It’s horrible actually, when you actually want to leave this all behind what you created but the ones you love.. and the memories you had with them coming before your eyes… and you want to live, live for them, but you can’t..thats what I have been doing lately.. I live for them, not for me..atleast that’ll and is keeping me alive for awhile.

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    1. Hi hopeloveliveshare. Thank you for providing such an honest response to my entry. It sounds like you’re in a very dark place right now. While I can in no way say that I know how you feel as everybody’s experience with mental illness differs substantially, I can say that there are so many people out there who have experienced what you’re feeling right now. Some of those people have gone on to learn how to live with their illness and go on to live healthier and more happier lives.

      A common problem I come across is that these people have had to try for years before they find a healthy method to conquer their illness. Myself included. I’ve hardly won my battle, but with my own ways of dealing with depression, I can usually handle a depressive episode by daily meditation, being productive, exercise, taking up new experiences etc. Lately I have a mantra I repeat to myself in my head when I have a really dark day. It usually goes something along the lines of ‘ I am not feeling well today and that is okay’, rather than ‘I am weak’ or ‘I am a failure and I deserve to die’ for instance

      I’m not saying any of this is relevant to you as you may have already tried these things. But what I am saying is that if you end things now, then you completely forgo any chance of a happier future. Death is pretty final. Yet while there’s life, there is surprisingly, in my experience, always hope. A year or so ago I couldn’t have imagined myself saying any of this! Times change I guess.

      Hopefully I’ve not come across as too preachy or anything. Your loved ones keeping you going is something, but I really do hope you find something that helps you manage your illness. Don’t forget that last part, Depression is an illness, and like any lifelong illness it can be managed πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much.. I started trying meditation just because you suggested it the last time..(since there is no one to teach me I am using this app called ‘Headspace’) to be honest I feel small differences because the way I think have changed and the way I feel this world have also changed.. I am calmer than before..( I am quite a rebel and a anxious girl..I think a lot..and by lot I mean a lot!!) and now I feel suicide is not the answer to all of my problems…thank you once again..
        keep writing!
        I love reading your posts..! ❀
        And its true I am in a dark place..like they say darkness is just the absence of light..and I am on my way to find the light! or to be honest I found a way.. πŸ™‚

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    2. I am so happy to read that meditation has had such a drastic and positive effect on you! Also while you can go to classes I would not say you need someone to teach you how to do it. It can be self taught, and apps like headspace ( which my then therapist once recommended to me) and narrated youtube videos are a great help for beginners!

      The only potentially tricky part now will be doing it on a regular basis. I try to do it at least 3/4 times a week for about 15/20 minutes at a time. I hope that that light continues to get brighter for you with time and dedication πŸ™‚

      Also thanks for the words of encouragement! While it easy to lose motivation at times, people praising my writing is often more than enough to get me going again πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah..i would love to read more of your writing ( sorry I stalked your gravatar thinking I would find some other links to your work but I couldn’t..) do you have any other websites or works?
        Thank you so much once again.. πŸ™‚

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      2. I’m afraid that, as of now, this is my only writing platform. Though it is really nice to know that you’d like to see more. Alas, if I had the time I would like to write more content (maybe even short stories-I’ve only delved into this a bit so far!)but at the moment working full time is keeping me busy unfortunately. Also apologies for the late response! I recently celebrated my birthday and after that I had a bad episode of depression. But I’m back writing again now. Thanks again for your continued support! πŸ™‚

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      3. Belated birthday wishes <3! Are you okay now? You should really write more, but that's okay, take your time and don't stress yourself too much.. Your comfort and health matters more than anything! πŸ™‚ Maybe you can try Tumblr? or Wattpad( for your short stories? ) It would really help though.. πŸ™‚ Take care.. πŸ™‚

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      4. Thank you πŸ™‚ I am feeling better after having gone away for the weekend. As for the writing, I have a few things in the pipeline so I hope that you enjoy reading them when I get them done! Also cheers for the suggestions πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I did every narcotic to cope and when that started destroying my life I turned to alcohol which was slightly more sustainable than heroin or coke but became just as destructive over time. I’ve heard that your emotional development stagnates when you drink/drug to cope and I can certainly say I still have the mindset of an 18 year old and I’m almost fourty. So I now try to deal with it in more positive ways like excercise, positive self-talk and prayer & meditation.

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    1. Hey newoutsider blog. I’m glad to read that you’ve managed to replace narcotics and alcohol with more positive ways for dealing with your mental health issues. It can’t be easy. While I can’t speak for narcotics I find that even just drinking alcohol is a risky game for me. Yet on bad days, it’s a gamble I take and I am working on reducing my intake at the very least.

      I’ve not heard about how your emotional development stagnates when you turn to unhealthy methods to cope but it does make perfect sense. I might have to look into that!

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      1. Thanks for your comments depressionistheenemy. I can honestly say that on bad days (like today) I am very much struggling not only with the reflex for narcotics but for alcohol as well – in fact, the latter is what I am likely to give in to because it is “the lesser of two evils” or better socially understood. The old timers of AA will tell you that absolute abstinence is the only option for a problem drinker (defined as whether you see your drinking as a problem). Of course cutting down cannot hurt and in some cases it is medically the safest route unless you are under professional supervision. The story about not growing emotionally I heard from councillors at one of the rehabs I was in but I’ve also met many addicts/alcoholics who seem to me very “young” for their age (which can sometimes be a good thing in my opinion) – I haven’t seen any scientific studies though. Your message finds me on a day that I’m feeling very self destructive (even like hurting others) so thanks for that because it’s good to know I’m not the only one dealing with psychological shit. We need to learn to not make mountains out of mole hills (emotionally) and that is where the maturity comes in. But today I’m using all the wrong coping mechanisms. Keep well my brother and remember there is a loving god out there for you.

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  9. I love this – I thought I’ll give you my perspective. Currently I am at a stage where I am now naturally so numb to many things. Something drastic had to happen to feel this way. But with it also came a natural euphoria that you can only experience when you start to appreciate the little things as if they’re the greatest without attachments to them ( I had to force myself to do this at first).

    I have changed from the gloomy and always depressed one to the carefree one “with the smile” – very rarely I am disappointed anymore as I now care less about my own desires and I had dreamed for this moment all my life as that was a weakness. I do have my very dark days when i can curl into a ball for lack of feelings and numbness. But putting my emotions aside have encouraged so much rational thoughts that it instantly elevates me as I remember I am now in control. In my case balance is the key here as there is a very thin line between numbness and euphoria. I’ve learn’t a thing or two from people with Bi-Polar disorder, but they have a gift that they cannot control, it’s sad.

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    1. Hi Nicdelrey.

      Thanks for your very insightful response!

      I can relate to that sensation of numbness you describe. I experienced it only the other day. While preferable to feelings of self loathing, the inability to feel anything at all is something that only increase my sense of derealisation – which is something I am working on (I may write a post on it in the future).

      It’s interesting that you care less about your own desires. It’s a perspective I’ve not put a lot of thought into. Society puts so much pressure onto people to ‘achieve their dreams’ etc. Yet, maybe you can be just as happy by just ‘being’ if you understand what I mean. I certainly am when I meditate. Just living in the moment for 10-15 minutes is a euphoric experience in itself!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I fell into the trap of self-medicating with alcohol to the point that I couldn’t even fall asleep without two or three drinks after dinner. I’m still working on tapering back to something reasonable and healthy. I’m not sure I can find anything positive in my drinking–it costs too much and provides too little relief. But I don’t entirely regret it either. J.

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    1. Hey Salvageable. It’s good to hear that you’re working on your reliance of alcohol. It’s interesting that you point out the little relief that it actually provides. I am of the same opinion. Yet I can’t help but believe that it will provide instantaneous relief when I am feeling low, so it’s a vicious cycle.

      Nowadays I try to remind myself of the consequences of drinking too much before I go overboard with it. When I get a hangover, my anxiety is pretty bad too. Sometimes it works and sometimes I am too far gone to care. Like you, it’s a work in progress!

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    1. Thanks you jodymichele! I try to be as honest as I can with my writing. Especially when it comes to analysing quotes and what not- I think that’s down to having that kind of mindset and because of the fact that I studied English Literature for three years at university! I hope you’re well yourself πŸ™‚

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  11. I must say that I never recurred to any of those and I suffer from depression since my teens. I’m 43 now still depressed. Many things cause me depression but the most important one is the fact I can’t control my illness, i can’t control my life or people. I don’t eat or drink or take drugs i just feel numb and some days I hope I die so it all ends. Unfortunately I’m aware of what causes my anxiety and depression but like I said there’s nothing I can do to fix it I can only try to survive in one hand and try not to drive insane on the other hand. I can’t cry anymore, I can’t express myself these days… My way to deal with all is being angry with the world.

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    1. It’s a pretty interesting. . I used to deal with it the same way as you do. Until I went to university and this the whole new world opened up to me! Honestly it’s probably for the best that you haven’t gone down that path. I can also relate to the anger stuff. While I would be hesitant to call that a coping mechanism personally speaking I can see why it would redirect the attention away from yourself and towards others.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. If alcohol was my thing, I sure would have been super into it but thankfully it has never been. Numbness has been my companion and on days I couldn’t numb my feelings, I just felt it all and cried until I was numb again. But I’m a runner and I guess that’s what has kept me alive till now. And lucky for me I currently have safe places to run to when everything becomes overwhelming. Changing environments for me is like hitting the reset button. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better; it just feels different. And different is better than numb and shitty.

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    1. Hey hellenmasido. Thanks for your insightful thoughts on this topic! You see in my case, while numbness is preferable to feeling the world of pain that comes with having a mental illness, it’s not a state I can really induce. It either happens or it doesn’t. I’m glad to hear that you turn to running to deal with it. Obviously it’s a far more healthy alternative to drugs etc. I also happen to believe that there is truth in the saying ‘variety is the spice of life’. I might write a post on that in the future.

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  13. I can certainly relate to your comment about alcohol being that friend that you have that you don’t really completely trust – you laugh at their funny jokes – and for me when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Quite an interesting perspective. Not to mention a friend who gives you headaches and takes all your money and makes you more depressed. My experience has made me make better life-choices (I’m not in my 20’s anymore), and has made me wiser too.

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  14. Marijuana is my go-to drug. I smoke several times a week because it simply takes the anxiety away for me. It helps me think about other things than work or school or how my depression is messing up relationships with my friends and loved ones. I use it to escape and numb my feelings. I recently started smoking a few months ago and I’m not really proud of it. I want to get to a point where I don’t have to use it anymore but for now it’s keeping me from having a nervous breakdown.

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    1. That is completely understandable. It sounds like it is a form of escapism for you and there is no shame in using it if it helps you. Like you I wish I were not so dependent on something to make me feel better about myself. But until I can formulate and implement a better way in which to care for myself, having a few drinks occasionally (sometimes more than occasionally I admit) will have to suffice. Also thank you so much for reblogging my other post. It means a lot πŸ™‚

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