Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Anesthetic Effect

When I was in on the coast of Oregon last summer, I had a very memorable experience (well, many, but this was one of the more memorable). I was in Yachats State Park, one of the most beautiful places ever, a long, rocky beach with amazing waves and scenery. The pure beauty of the place had a numbing effect; I was in awe. Unfortunately, I repeatedly but accidentally had my foot dunked into various bodies of water or the tide, and thus had to walk with a soaking wet foot, which is something that would normally irritate me to no end. Not only irritate me, but probably ruin the entire outing and my enjoyment of it. But, to my surprise, I was so hypnotized with the beauty of the ocean around me, I didn't even notice. I was aware it was there, but I didn't care. I called it being "anesthetized" at the time .Not anesthetized to the good , of course, just the bad. And I was amazed. It was the first time I had ever been able to not notice something that was bothering me.

And then it happened again today. And I feel this is a notable enough occurrence that I need to document it, if only to remind myself that it is possible. We went to climb Bradbury Mountain today - Nate, Rob, Janine, Amber and I- as it was a beautiful fall day and we were all in the mood to see some foliage at the top. Bradbury is a very easy mountain, it's probably a 20- 30 minute walk up, with relatively little incline, at least compared to most mountains. So nothing very difficult, although you do have to stop a few times to catch your breath (or I do).

Three quarters of the way up, all of a sudden, my knee, for some inexplicable reason, began throbbing in a way that I had never felt it do before. Ever. In fact I've never had any sort of knee problem ever. It was intense, and it was so out of character. Thankfully we are almost at the top! We reached the top, and Nate and I sprawled out on an available piece of rock overlooking what has to be one of the most beautiful vistas I've ever seen. Reds and yellows, oranges and greens dotted the landscape of about a million trees below us and out to the horizon. It has to be seen to believed. It looked like a watercolor painting. I haven't been up there in fall in many years, and I was not dissapointed. Finally, it felt like fall in Maine, something I have missed for so long!

I was hoping that after sitting for several minutes, my knee would return to normal,. but I quickly found that was not the case. However, something that was for me truly different happened. I didn't panic. (I am still working on that not panicking thing. I am afraid this immunity to it is going to dissapear shortly. But I will work on keeping it!) I was too engaged in the beautiful landscape, and in taking pictures of the beautiful landscape, to give my knee much attention, even though I was aware it hurt. I did everything I normally would have.
When I started walking down, I felt like I had no idea how I was going to get all the way down a first, but I got into a rhythm and into a conversation and was able to not think of it, and just walk. I still smiled at the blue sky and the leaves around us once in a while,.

When I got to Rob's car, my thoughts were again not on panicking about my knee - as they would have been and have been every single other time I've gotten or felt hurt in any way in basically my entire life - but on what a fun hike we had just had, and the conversations we just had. Again, remarkable.

Same thing at Whole Foods - I was able to joke about and even laugh about the situation, in the company of friends. I am aware that this is probably what a so-called "typical" person probably does on a regular basis without thinking too much about it. But it's huge for me. My usual response, and one that will probablt come out sooner rarther than later, is to as I said panic, an beg everyone around me for reassurance that it will get better. Not a response I enjoy having, but nevertheless the truth. But I was actuallt relaxed about it. Me, injury, and relaxed in the same sentence is like... well, it's never happened before. It was so weird, but so nice.

So again, I attribute it to the "anesthesia effect." I don't have a better word for it. For only about the second time in my life (and the first time for something that was relatively major, at least compared to wet socks), the beauty of a physical landscape and the feeling of connection to my friends actually my overcame my feelings about a physical sensation in my body. I was calm about it.

Man - where can I get myself some more of that? It is my hope that by detailing it I will remember it and it will be more likely to happen again. I wouldn't really bet on that, but it would be nice. This is the kind of person I WANT to be. So far though sheer willpower alone has not been enough to make me that kind of person, although I've gotten better than I used to be.

To me , it all comes down to human connection, and the feeling of being connected to others - or nature - or both. When you've got somethign that fills your heart and spirit, the bumps and bruises of life don't hurt so much. As an Aspie. feeling connected to others is something I've long struggled with. But more and more, I see why it is worth the battle.

Tomorrow, on the other hand, is another story. I can't give any guarantees that this state of mind will last. But it would be nice if it did!


  1. This is just fantastic news, Kate, and a great read, as well. I believe it is so very important to honour such events in our lives. Learning new ways of "being" in the world, honouring our connections with friends, with nature, with the magnificence of life, itself, seems to be a vital part of your journey just now (as it is for us all).

    I'm so glad that you choose to write and share your experiences with us all. Thank you, my friend!

  2. This is so great to hear, Kate! I'm happy that you've experienced this and hope that you continue to.

  3. Funny you should write about this topic; I am noticing the "anesthesia" effect in my life at the same time! A major stressor is looming this week, and after experiencing a recent unintentional anesthesia effect, I am anticipating that perhaps I should readily invite the next one in!

    Thank-you, Kate, for your insightful thoughts.

  4. This was a great read, Kate. I'm glad that nature and your friends lifted you up over the difficulties.

    I experienced something like this after my daughter was born (almost 18 years ago). For reasons having to do with childhood trauma, I tended react with fear and anxiety over being awakened in the middle of the night, and it was very difficult for me to deal with lack of sleep. Of course, with a new baby, being awakened regularly was a given, so I was a bit nervous about the whole prospect.

    From the very first night my daughter was home, I was so inspired by her beauty and by her uniqueness as a person that it overrode all of my previous trauma responses. It's not that I liked getting awakened. It's not that I liked being tired. It's that it just plain didn't matter, and since then, it's never been the huge issue it once was. I think it's similar to what you're describing. I like to think of it as the "inspiration effect." :-)

  5. Thanks to everyone for posting. Rachel, that's an interesting story, thanks for sharing it. It's a very good analogy. And I think I like the term "the inspiration effect." :)