I'm a big f*cking feeler. Always have been. My therapist calls me "highly sensitive." My mother calls me "oversensitive." My exes call me a "drama queen."
I can't even watch the news for five minutes without feeling like I'm losing my mind. The negative, harrowing images of our war-torn world, the slew of abused shelter animals staring at you with their massive pressing puppy dog eyes and the graphic stories of police brutality just feel like too much to handle. The disturbing visuals get burned into my brain, and I fixate for weeks, sometimes months, at a time.
One time, I had a very vivid image of a skinny homeless dog from an animal rights PSA stuck inside my brain for an entire year. It was so bad that I had to see a doctor and take prescription medication so I could have some relief. Intense I know, but that's me, sweet kittens: intense.
I have to be careful about watching movies. Friends can never understand why I turn down offers to watch brilliant Oscar-nominated dramas with them on a Sunday afternoon. They don't understand that going to the movies is not a relaxing Sunday experience for me. I have to mentally prepare.
The sadness, the deaths, the heartbreaks depicted on screen penetrate right into my heart and I ride the entire emotional rollercoaster of the film alongside the characters. It's exhausting. It takes time for me to recover after a heavy movie. I can't shake it off and say, "Oh it was just a film."
I used to hate feeling so much. Life is so f*cking hard when you're a walking open wound that lets in every tiny speck of dust. So about four years ago, I decided I was going to seek relief from my feelings.
I hopped in my little yellow Volkswagen and took a pretty little trip to the crooked Russian psychiatrist (read: glorified drug dealer) I was seeing at the time. I asked him to put me on the highest possible dose of antidepressants.
I was already on a mild dose to help quell the dark images of the dog that was stuck in my head ruining my life (I know, I'm making myself very f*cking dateable here) but I wanted more. I wanted to not. Feel. At. All.
And good ol' Dr. Feel Good was more than happy to medicate me into complete and total numbness, so long as I paid him $350 for the 10-minute appointment.
Six to eight weeks later, I found myself with this unfamiliar ability to watch movies without shedding a single tear. The relentless feelings of irrepressible lust and over-the-top sexuality that had consumed me since I was a kid (I'm the original horny bitch) were entirely gone. For the first time in my life, I had no sex drive. And not only that, but I had no dark, scary thoughts. I didn't have the electric shock sensations of anxiety.
I felt completely and totally emotionally numb.
And sh*t got weird. Real weird. The first bizarre thing I did was change my hair.
I went blonde.
I'm a true, authentic brunette. Like, my identity is directly connected to being a raven-haired, hyper-complex girl of the mother f*cking NIGHT. There is nothing blonde about my personality.
But for some little reason, I was suddenly fueled with a desire for highlights.
And then, I wanted more highlights. Before I knew it, I just couldn't get blonde enough. I was a blonderexic, and I spent a small fortune of measly salary at the salon. I ended up going super Barbie blonde.
Not a single person in my life felt comfortable with me as a blonde. It wasn't the liberating "I'm cutting my hair FOR ME" kind of thing. It was jarring and unsettling.
And then the blackout drinking started.
I used to binge drink in my late teens. But the epic anxiety I felt the next day was far too much for me to handle, so once I entered my 20s, I began to calm it down.
But all of a sudden, I was emotionally numb and I wanted to get f*cked up again. Like, super f*cked up. Like, mascara tears, make dire mistakes, sleep in my contacts lenses and wake up with a slew of regrets f*cked up.
I blacked out several times per week and woke up without the shame shudders and anxiety attacks and the horrendous demoralization that used to plague me after a night of heavy drinking in the past. I woke up like nothing had happened and went on with my day.
And then came the toxic romance.
I'm naturally a sweet, gentle soul. I hate confrontation like most people hate waking up early. I was never the girl who fueled the fight. In fact, I avoided all fights like the plague.
But suddenly I was the instigator. I began to pick extreme fights with my girlfriend all the time. Nothing she did was right. I looked for reasons to get angry.
I was cold, callous and insensitive. I pushed all the dark buttons, the kind that once you've pushed them, there is no turning back. Your relationship will never recover.
And then came the workaholicism.
I had a highly emotional job working with at-risk youth at the time. I'd always loved my work, but I started taking my extreme work habits to the next level. I would push, push, push, push through hours and hours and hours of hard, back-breaking work, only to come home at the end of the day entirely unaffected by it.
And while I used to go home at night heartbroken, feeling nothing but pure empathy for my teenage kids, now I was able to shake it off.
And then came the aloofness toward my friends.
I've done some bad things in my life. I've lied to my mother. I once stole butterfly clips from a local boutique. I've cheated on a ton of math tests. But through it all, I've always been a damn good friend.
I pride myself on the fact that no matter what I'm going through, I always come through for my friends in their times of need. I'm the den mother: I've bailed friends out of jail. I've forced them into therapy. I've bitched out big, scary men defending their honor more than once.
But suddenly, I didn't feel the same intense empathy toward them that I used to feel.
My best friend in the world, Ruba, was going through a particularly rough time and needed me more than ever. I shut her out entirely because I didn't feel her pain with her like I always had throughout the entire course of our friendship. I didn't feel anything.
This is the thing I'm ashamed of the most.
Because I was numb.
Everything came to a screeching halt around 3 am during one sordid night out. I've always heard that "nothing good happens after midnight," but I beg to differ. Sometimes it's those awful late night f*ck-ups that put us in check.
I found myself in the middle of the pavement in the street, my fried blonde hair entangled, engaged in a heated fight with my girlfriend. It was brutal. I pushed her. We looked at each other and took off in different directions knowing that sh*t had gone way too far.
I've never had a remotely violent, aggressive bone in my body. I couldn't stand to hurt a fly. I was that weird kid in the third grade who rescued moths with broken wings and shouted at my classmates for killing spiders.
Somehow, I had become everything I'm not.
I got home that night and drunkenly gazed at my jilted reflection in the mirror. What and who had I become? Who was this strung out, skinny, bizarrely tan girl vacantly staring at me? And why, dear WHY, was her hair f*cking blonde?
This was a girl who was empty.
I stood in my little, pink tiled bathroom so badly wanting to cry. I wanted to sob. But I couldn't. The tears just wouldn't come. I was locked. But I knew in that emotionally stifled moment something had to give. I had to make a change.
I went back to the doctor and immediately started weaning myself off this outrageously high dosage of medication. I saw a new doctor who was outraged at how overmedicated I was. And when I finally began level out, I felt like I was coming out of a year-long bout of being drugged.
Suddenly, I was alive again.
It was a time of severe meltdowns. Sob sessions. Nervous breakdowns. And it felt so f*cking good. I cried about all the things that had been pent up inside me the year I was emotionally numb.
And I realized FEELINGS, and BREAKDOWNS, and MELTDOWNS, and CRYING exist for a reason. We need the release of tears. I need the release of tears. And not just because not feeling anything was so inherently unnatural to me. It was because my self-destructive, bizarre behavior was directly connected to not feeling.
I didn't realize it at the time (when do we ever?), but I was subconsciously creating drama and chaos in hopes to feel something. Anything. I was so desperate for emotions that I went to drastic measures in hopes to feel them.
Now, I realize how important it is to be connected emotionally to myself. Feelings are wonderful, f*cking fantastic things. When we're not feeling, that's when things get dangerous. And when you might go blonde.
Remember, if you're suffering from anything AT ALL, you are not alone. Here is one of the many organizations that can help you: http://www.mentalhealth.gov