When Depression Makes Me Numb, Not Sad

Author Article

When depression makes me numb, the lack of feeling anything is, paradoxically, a terrible feeling.

People who don’t experience or understand depression are often told it’s not as simple as feeling sad. This is truer than I can adequately describe; there are many facets to depression. One symptom I wish more people understood is feeling numb. A sense of hollowness — like a dull, numb lump — often defines me when I’m really down. It’s a shitty, zombie state of gray flatness. Life passes by and you won’t bother to wave at it because you don’t really care. In fact, you just don’t really feel anything.

How does numbness link to depression? Well, one explanation I find helpful is that, when the strain of depression is extreme, experiencing emotions feels exhausting. There is no joy in my favorite activities or excitement in making plans. I don’t feel the same outrage at things that should anger me, nor do I bother to get annoyed at gripes. It’s all too much.

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From numbness to nothingness.

The frightening thing about feeling numb is that it’s the cruel cousin of despair. A deep indifference to oneself and to the world is a step towards believing neither is worth fighting for. Your existence feels detached; you think you’re inconsequential. This is a dangerous, fragile space, because your perspective on the value of life is horribly distorted. The consequence can be a sense of inertia and apathy, or even worse, self-destructive behavior and thoughts.

When nothing in life feels meaningful or worthy, it is alienating and dreadful. Your relationships and work may suffer, as those around you may interpret your attitude as being deliberately indifferent or distant.

For something that feels like nothing, numbness is a godawful thing.

Finding feeling again.

When you’re in a dark place, try to remember that it will get better. I know you probably bully this thought into a corner of your mind. I know it can sound patronizing or glib. Numbness is a hard nut to crack, because it inherently defies the will to feel.

There might be one special thing that gets you out of the numbness prison — whether it’s seeing a friend, watching South Park or baking biscuits. I hope you find it.

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