What do I mean when I talk about wanting to disappear?
The title of my previous blog included the words, ‘… when you just want to scream or disappear’. Sometimes the screaming when stressed is easier to understand than the disappearing. You’re probably familiar with the desire to disappear when you feel ashamed or humiliated. Anxiety is one of those states that can lead to an instinctive Houdini-style manoeuvre.
The need to escape stress, and the things that trigger it, can be very strong in some people. Some of us just drop off to sleep when stress producing events crest the horizon. Last year, my daughter-in-law sent me a photo of my 4 year old granddaughter in her hospital bed awaiting surgery – with her dad dead-to-the-world in the bed next to her. Fortunately the bed was vacant. The caption read: “Some people can sleep anywhere”. It’s possible that the anxiety of the moment forced part of his system into shut-down mode. (This can of course have the effect of hugely increasing the anxiety of the partner who remains alert in those intense moments… but I digress.)
It’s not always about sleeping, of course. There are many ways of ‘disappearing’ or shutting off from the overwhelming feelings. Depression also holds the Academy award for taking us away from the weight of anxiety that our brains assess as unbearable. Depression wins in lots of categories, but at least some of its achievements are for numbing us down when the feelings become too much. Instead of feeling too much… we just feel nothing at all. If we were to ask ourselves, ‘What is my disappearing trying to do for me?’ (try substituting the word ‘depression’ for ‘disappearing’ if that is closer to home for you), the answer can be quite interesting. Could it be providing some relief from the intensity?
This could be seen as yet another way our internal players try to help within the system. Say a quick thank you to depression for doing its darndest to remove you momentarily from the untenable. Hmmmm! Sometimes the short-term lodger decides to stay on long-term.
Depression (and any other modes of disappearance) might be activated to help but might instead make matters (like relationships, self-esteem, feelings of wellbeing, ability to engage in work and society) worse. Have a go at this communication with your internal escape artist…
Hi there depression/disappearing part! I realise you’ve been trying to give me a break in times of turmoil over the years and I’m grateful for your efforts. I acknowledge that I’ve not been very reliable in offering compassion to myself when needed. I do want you to know however, that you are actually overwhelming my whole system and my whole life. So I’m asking you to step back. I’m going to consciously offer myself (body and emotions) the rest and repair that I need so you won’t feel the need to numb me in ways that knock-on with other negative effects.
The part that works to make you disappear, might really appreciate the acknowledgement and the rest. Perhaps you can even offer the golden handshake; retirement, poolside, with one of those drinks with an umbrella, might be just what the doctor ordered for an overworked emotional state.