I am having sciatic nerve pain from a mildly herniated disc in my back. This means my entire leg hurts, from hip to toes. It also means, because of the pinched nerve, that leg is several degrees colder than the other one, and that the entire surface of that foot is numb. Like Novocaine numb.
When I was young (and foolish) I wrote a poem about being alone in a group of people, watching everyone else having fun, and feeling so all alone (in the crowd). OK, universal teen angst. Still, I wondered whether it would be good to be just numb, dumb and not knowing there were alternatives and differences. Would that not be better?
Since I am now living with numb (albeit literally and not figuratively), I can now definitively say the answer to that is NO. The popular perception, among those who don’t know and have not experienced it, is that numb is comfortable, while the reality is that numb is NOT comfortable. You would think it would be, because there is no pain there, but still, the body knows that numb is not normal, and it lets you know something is wrong in ways that are hard to ignore. The numb place wants attention (is this not what most us are secretly wanting when we emotionally go numb??) and it craves feeling, such that you find yourself massaging it, stroking it, and otherwise trying to make it feel better. Some of us do that in our emotional numbness, too- we smoke, take drugs, screw around, or try to drink it away – all without success.
What works to counteract numbness is FEELING – and sometimes feeling is painful. Compared to numb, painful is still better. Painful is on the road to recovery and healing. Feeling is healing. Numb is dumb.