“I was enveloped in numbness, and absence of feeling so deep the bottom was lost from view.” ~ Haruki Murakami
This was something for the interim, I told myself. Something to get me through this “crazy” period of my life.
Fast forward five years and I was still doing it.
I was taking sleeping pills to get me through the many tasks at hand; I was juggling a full-time job, going to school full-time and had other busy-ness projects stirring, that I simply couldn’t get the proper shut eye I needed.
Around that time, I had heard turning 30 was going to change my sleep patterns, too, so I held on to that theory as my 30th approached and assumed sleep would allude me for the rest of my life.
I didn’t associate taking sleeping pills with numbing my feelings.
I simply felt I was struggling with sleep because I had too much on my plate.
I was blissfully, and ignorantly, popping pills like candy, ready to feel the nice ups rather than the Debbie Downer downs.
Over the years and up until that point, I had accumulated more and more pills. With every therapist and doctor, I asked for and was granted more pills to keep the numbing constant. Worried for when the time would come for a switch in brands or in having to try a something new; would it throw me out of whack? Would I be lame and/or un-fun? Because I wanted to be fun. Who wants to be boring?
I thought it was helpful for me to take something to stabilize myself rather than to have extreme highs and lows show up. The flip-side to that would be me afraid of the world, hiding under the covers, completely shutting down.
The real truth was, by taking the pills, I was just hiding from my true authentic self.
At first it was the depression and pills were offered to help me through this dark period; then there was the back pain (which felt very real at the time) with MRI’s and multiple trips to the doc to locate the cause—I needed and wanted something strong to dull the physical pain; and eventually the sleep issue appeared where I just couldn’t get rest and, “doc, please doc, was there something I could take to put me down?”
I did not associate the manifestation of the pain in my mind and body to the pain and emptiness I was feeling in my heart.
The lack of sleep was the last straw. It was all too much not being able to fall asleep, and then when I finally did, I’d wake easily with subtle movements from my partner. And when I would wake, my thoughts were not racing to my to-do’s or the workload for the next day, they were going straight to the “what-the-heck-am-I-doing-with-my-life” movie marathon in my mind.
Something needed to change.
Maybe it was the process of getting older and the wisdom that sets in or it might have been the physical toll the drugs were having on me. In any case, I noticed I needed more and more to numb the pain, and in that awareness, I felt very worried about how I could survive if these ran out.
End of the world thinking permeated my mind. I thought “back in the day, people did not need to take these things in order to get through the day, why do I need them?”
I started to think more deeply about the sustainability for my life and how I was living. I thought, is this all there really is?
I wanted to feel the sadness when I was feeling sad and I wanted to be able to laugh authentically at jokes rather than tell people the jokes were funny.
Right about this time, I started to gravitate more and more to my yoga practice, which then lead me to implement a healthier lifestyle and eventually, I came to the conclusion that bigger shifts were necessary.
For a little extra longer, I tried to ignore the elephant in the room, but I knew I needed to follow my heart. There was something more to me and there was a reason why I was brought to this earth.
At the end of every day, just before this realization occurred, I had a feeling of emptiness so deep in my bones. Intense restlessness about how I was contributing to the world at large, knowing deep down I was an agent of some great change. And this was when I realized this was cause of my sleepless nights.
If I wanted to live there and dwell in that world, I needed to make moves right now.
Just as Liz Lemon from 30 Rock says, “I want to go to there.” And, yes, I wanted to be there now, now!
Taking drugs and staying unaware was not how I was going to be that agent of change. I needed to make major shifts by letting them go and I needed to get clear about where I wanted to take my life.
I relied heavily on my friends during this period. And one amazing friend showed more often than others and it was me. I was able rely on myself to find stillness amongst the chaos and I developed coping mechanisms that had me reaching less and less.
Instead of reaching for the pills and drugs, I started to sit in stillness and reached within.
To tap into the deep inner strength that was at my core.
Still to this day, I amaze myself about how I was able to overcome this and arrive right here, right now. It definitely has everything to do with the great friends and support I have around me, in addition to relying on my personal strength.
Although, I don’t take anything prescribed by a doctor now, there were some darker periods for when they were very helpful.
I’m not a doctor, and I only speak of my experiences, but I think they serve if taken for short periods to get through some of the pain. The ultimate goal is to find therapy to get off the drugs and rely on internal strength. Some people are different and they may need more support…
Every single lovely being has appeared at just the right time, in every way, shape and form. And now, for me, I say no to prescription drugs and I say yes to friendship, to community and to Sangha.
Truly blessed to feel all of the flavors of pain and joy.
Thumbs at my heart…
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant journal archives