O.K. Are you in pain? Has trauma crept up and steam rolled over you?
Was it fast train wreck or a slow dawning, like a pot of water slowly reaching boiling, that “Things are NOT O.K.”?
How are things ever going to be good again? Well, they may or may not ever be, but, here you are now, and that’s where the healing takes place. You are right here, right now in “ The Present Moment”. Right now, is a sense of urgency, because “We all obey pain.” (Marcel Proust)
What does the pain and trauma need? Rest? Acceptance? Decisive action? A responsibility for follow through? Some kind of therapy?
Here are some of my thoughts on the road back from crisis:
A friend going through a crisis once told me “We all have tragedies; for some it could be loosing a child, for some it could be not owning a Gucci bag” (It took me a couple of years to find the latter, but her loss of financial and social status was deep and soul scarring.) We think that because we hurt this badly, no one could understand what we are going through. There is no hierarchy in trauma. It hits us at gut level, and it affects us all in our own way. It affects us all intimately and profoundly.
I remember having a college friend die suddenly in a wreck. I was strong, helping everyone else until the funeral, and then broke down during the funeral. For many years after I spent a long of time saying good-bye to people in common social events, so I could feel I had spent every last moment I could with someone, just in case I would never see them again. It took me many years to realize that that 1.) I was clinging, and 2.) my clinging farewells were a little excessive, and had become a little annoying/embarrassing to my friends, so it was time to get on with my life and let this go.
Trauma brings us into an unreal world that forces us to recon with our situation. Often times we start judging others or ourselves. We jump to saying: “ I should have”, “They did it to me”, “If only”, “Why me”? This is the first thing that should be let go of. Crisis isn’t a normal state, and it should be temporary.
Having the attitude that getting to another state of functioning should be your primary goal, not judging yourself. Compassion for yourself, letting yourself off the hook helps direct your energy to a more productive state. Beating ourselves up emotionally just ropes us into whatever emotion grabs you. Some of us get stuck here in anger, sadness, rage, worry, fear, depression or panic. This can cause so much extra pain, but some of us need to sit in our mud puddles splashing until we are “over it”.
Sometimes people are so stuck in the shock mode that they are not “in their bodies”. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” Being physically in the present moment helps with this. I remember sitting at a stoplight many times orienting myself to my physical senses when my mind was racing with anxiety. I would stop and focus myself to feel myself sitting in my drivers’ seat and holding on to the steering wheel and what that felt like. I would look around me and take in my range of vision. I would slowly breathe and listen to what was on the radio or check on the kids in the back seat. The light would change and I had had my moment of “meditation”.
Some of us, O.K., all of us reach for something to comfort us under stress. Maybe it’s caffeine, to allow us to keep going even when our body starts to tell us “Warning, Will Robinson! Shut down is imminent.” Maybe it’s excessive sugar when our life’s not sweet enough. (I reached for convenience store doughnuts when I had to euthanize my cat.) Endless Internet surfing or gaming, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, retail therapy, and binge eating sounds like a normal list of addictions to me. We reach for comfort to help us deal with uncomfortable emotional states. There, yes, I said it. We start judging ourselves that we are helpless for not having enough will power to “conquer” our addictions, when maybe, not only is that counter productive, but not going to the actual causes. When Life has been seriously out for a while this becomes our way of doing things, or our habits. This seems like normal. Is this the normal you really want?
Being aware of being restless and having cravings are the first step to finding actual answers. Your body is a team player. It is giving you signals to divert disaster, but we beat it up and judge it. Our modern western culture tries to focus on “mind over matter”. There is a place for training to survive and endure, and there is a place for “Ah, that feels good!”- Like coming home, and now I can relax and really breathe.
I figured out over time that I lived for the concept that “Life is hard”. Again, and again I was choosing the harder path when the solution could be “Keep it simple!” I could be making my life a lot less stressful in the course of my normal daily life!
Many of our stressors are psychological, real or perceived real.
“They depend on me.”
“My emotions are too much to deal with.”
“They will be angry or disappointed with me. (-and leave me)”
“I’ll have to go without.”
“No one else will…”
We have expectations and expect certain outcomes. It all comes down to choices and the courage to make them. Sometimes the fear surrounding your choices is holding your stress to you. Here is the emotional piece, the relationships. … And it is always about the relationships. Loosing someone, power plays, people that “sap” your energy, these are expectations and interactions that affect how we perceive our relationships. Stress can be real or perceived, but it affects us the same.
We now segue into boundaries. Boundaries are the walls that protect and define our relationships and us. At the threshold of stress, we can lash out at others or withdraw inside ourselves. With time, a few pieces of your puzzle will be back in place. It will make a prettier picture and you will be better able to handle events with more grace. Until then, know you are in a state of flux and you can let yourself off the hook, you are going toward normalcy. When the battle has been too long or too much, too fast, there may not be energy to maintain your relationships and your health. We reach for will power and determination.
Here’s a note to those in established relationships. You may expect your significant other to give you 100% support in your journey to normalcy, but that may not be realistic. Realize you are changing your side of your (plural) relationship. Because you are tethered together, when you move off the expected trajectory of your relationship, you are pulling them with you. They didn’t exactly choose this outcome, so it would be normal to expect some resistance. If your relationship is healthy, they might bring you a desert when you are trying to avoid sugar to cheer you up because that used to be the norm for emotional support. But this sabotage may be more subversive when they are stuck and need to make changes, but become “a bear” instead of changing their diet, for example. If they are loosing a “drinking buddy” to help them not deal with their own issues, you can count on resistance. Pick your battles, and as I learned, don’t “bean them over the head” with all the passionate information and advice you are unfolding. Sometimes giving them a “heads up” that you are in flux and “please, be patient” with you is all they need to flow better with your change. They are just trying to process who you are now! You are actively changing, and adapting to survive. If you start to realize that this is not a healthy relationship for you anymore, spend money on a counseling session with a certified therapist to talk over your options.
Some strategies that have helped me are: going slow on purpose, affirmations, breathing, doing healthy “self care” with exercise, getting enough rest/sleep, reasonable choices with respect to diet and supportive, nurturing relationships, and acceptance for your current situation. Bodywork and massage can also an excellent choice for self care. The more extreme the crisis mode, the more it is imperative to use as many healthy strategies as possible within your means to get real results to gain hope and results. Having an end strategy in place for stressors gives you a mental health break. I will post more on my strategies in coming posts.
Grace and peace to you on your journey. -Mandy