The causes are a complicated series of emotional and psychological abuse, faulty beliefs about my right to have emotions, and pain avoidance, to name a few. I spent years trying to avoid the reality of pain by numbing myself. Then, (surprise, surprise) I woke up numb, disconnected almost completely most days from my emotions. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to make a sound decision without even truly knowing how you felt about the options, but I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t turn out well.
I didn’t, of course, realize any of this at the time, but the damage was being done. I was grasping in the dark for answers to what should’ve been simple questions. It’s been a painful road, and I’ve grown, changed and been humbled by the experience. I could stamp a hopeful happily ever after right there, except that it wasn’t just me who suffered. As bad as the personal pain was, there’s a worse pain on the other side, and that’s the pain my pain caused to the ones I love. When your emotions are disconnected—or at the least when you’re in a fog of feeling and not feeling—you must begin to look like a crazy person to the people around you. You’re in, you’re out, you’re pulling, you’re pushing. Of course people are going to be confused and hurt, and perhaps even leave. I mean, life lessons are important–the things we learn in our pain are often our clearest, most lasting lessons–but a life lesson is an unsatisfying substitute for our most meaningful relationships.
I could try to explain that my pain was legitimate; that I came by it honestly, but it doesn’t change the fact that I hurt people. The pain inflicted on us affects us and has real consequences outside of us. It’s the friggin’ gift that keeps on giving—or maybe taking. But we hardly ever see or think about that at the time—we’re usually so emotionally and logically used up by our pain we aren’t thinking much at all. Sorting through the debris has been a frustrating experience.
I look back at the simplest decisions I made during the last few years and it’s almost comical to see how far off they were from what I would have done in my right mind. I once watched a split-screen video of a talented cartoonist drawing a well-known character. On the left, they were drawing in the normal way, on the right, they were trying to draw that same character blindfolded. The first one was magically great. In the second, the lines didn’t meet, the eyes were in funky places, and the color was two inches too high on the page. That right side’s what it’s like to look back at my life for the last few years. I’m over here feeling things and connecting emotion to logic, and blindfolded me’s back there making his best guess where the lines go without even realizing he’s doing it or why. I can’t imagine how some of my actions and reactions must’ve felt to the people closest to me. But in some cases, I don’t have to guess. I know how badly I hurt people.
Since the emotional blindness ended, and I came to myself, I’ve celebrated joyously and grieved deeply. I don’t remember who said it first, but I do know it’s never hurt so much to hear it now: hurt people hurt people. When you finally see it, you scramble to fix it, usually only making things worse. And “Oh, that wasn’t actually… me” feels like a lackluster punch against a roaring giant. Their pain is still real. All you can do is repent and hope for mercy. Sometimes, if you’re the luckiest person in the world, you can fan that spark back into a flame. But, no matter what happens, I’ve learned never to take the love of another for granted, and to give a thought for those I’ve closed my own heart to because their hurt, hurt me. To the Chads in my life who had no idea they were being such tools—a fresh start.