Most of us never plan what we would bring if we only had a few minutes to leave our home. Or where to go if it wasn’t safe to stay in the same town or city. But when the detective asked me over the phone if I could leave the city, “until he calms down,” I knew where to go.
With my car already packed with the few belongings I’d been able to toss into trash bags before I left, I got on the freeway that would take me out of Los Angeles and on my way to my great aunt and uncle five hours north.
Before they both continued to Wenu Mapu (the Land Above), they lived in one of the small towns that lay tucked between the Bay Area and Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After driving past cornfields that stretch like the ocean into the horizon, buildings that look like a set from a Western movie, and a grimy-looking bar called the Rusty Hook, I made it to their street just as it was getting dark.
As I pulled up in front of their house, I saw they were already outside waiting for me. I opened the car door and immediately melted into my aunt’s outstretched arms. “Hijita linda,” she said, stroking my hair just like my grandmother had done when she was alive. Without a word, my uncle gently ushered us inside where chamomile tea and sandwiches were waiting on the kitchen table.
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While it’s easy to question the horrible things I used to live with all those years ago; not being able to leave the house whenever I wanted; always being watched and stalked (so much that it became too much for my employer and they decided to let me go); physical and emotional abuse; constant stress and fear; anxiety and depression– it doesn’t surprise me.
There’s one thing that it’s easy to forget in this dominant culture, and that is that we are nature. And through nature, we’ve been given responses to survive. But when you can’t fight, and you can’t escape whatever is causing you pain, your body turns to a different response: numbing.
In this culture, I learned to believe that quitting or walking away means failure. That being in survival is part of life and something everyone goes through. So when I experienced abuse and trauma, in some twisted way, I applied the same thinking. I believed my only option was to learn how to live with it. And no matter how much pain it caused me, I never questioned it.
I only questioned myself.
I’m the reason he gets so angry.
I’m not strong enough to heal from this trauma.
This anxiety and constant stress is because of me. It’s all in my head.
I’m not strong enough to snap myself out of this depression.
But these beliefs didn’t come from me. Not originally.
I had once been confident and happy. I’d been one of those people who said, “It would never happen to me,” when I heard stories about domestic violence. Also, I had learned from a young age to understand my body through Indigenous knowledge my family passed on to me. I knew living with anxiety, depression, and trauma was a result of this culture, not that we didn’t have the ability to heal.
But when we have a person or culture standing behind us, telling us that there’s no other option and that, in a way, it’s our own fault we suffer. Eventually, we believe them.
So we stop fighting.
We stop trying to run from it.
And we numb.
WATCH THE FREE CLASS: The #1 Reason Why People Get Stuck When Trying To Heal From Stress and Trauma
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While our ability to numb is a powerful survival response, it’s only meant to be temporary. It’s meant to help us get out of a situation, not get ourselves comfortable with it. It’s also dangerous. Living numb for some time will twist your perception of reality.
It wasn’t until after I got out of the abusive and toxic relationship that I realized how bad it had been. And it wasn’t until after I healed and no longer had any anxiety or depression that it became clear to me how much it had affected and altered my life, even changed my personality. The person I’d been when I was numb and just trying to survive was not the real me. I only believed it at the time.
If this is what you’re going through, please know it’s not your fault.
We live in a world that constantly enforces the belief that living with pain is normal. You learn to manage your anxiety and depression, not heal what’s causing it. You learn to cope with stress, not understand how to let your body finish its cycle so it doesn’t have to stay in your body.
That’s why–– no matter if it’s about relationships, trauma, stress, or the way you live each day in this culture–– even if it feels wrong or hurts you, you believe you have to make it work and learn how to live with it.
The problem is when we numb ourselves from pain, we numb ourselves from other things as well: love, happiness, joy, and all the pleasures of living here and now.
It’s been over seven years for me now. Seven years of not living my life numb from the pain my abusive ex and trauma was causing me. I wanted to share this story because if you’re living with any pain right now, know that it’s not meant to be that way.
There are people (even if you haven’t met them yet) who want to treat you well and love you. And anxiety, depression, and all the things that come from living with trauma… you shouldn’t have to learn to live with it.
You shouldn’t have to numb yourself from any pain.
This month is Native American Heritage Month, and in honor of kuyfi kimvn, Indigenous knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down for generations, SLG will reopen for the last time this year on November 15th.
What I teach in this online healing program is what helped me heal, and what has helped people in almost forty countries do the same, so if you need help, I hope to see you in there.
I would love to hear from you in the comment section below… Are numbing yourself from something? If so, has it been going on for some time?