Lately some of the old trauma has poked its head out of whatever deep stinky place it was hiding. It rose to fill all of me–shallow breathing, pain in my chest, a feeling of despair and dread that didn’t fit the situation.
The mental health community calls it “Activating,” as in ‘Your trauma was activated.'” I call it Triggery Badness. It’s the overwhelm of physical symptoms that I Am In Danger! but without the actual event matching up to it, as in no actual bear standing over me, mouth open ready to eat off my face.
We have this amazing physiology. Internal systems that are set up to protect us, to prepare our bodies for fight/flight/freeze/fawn. Parts of our body sense imminent danger. Depending on our temperament and past experience we are suddenly ready to fight, or if you’re me, pee your pants and freeze like a deer in the headlights.
I had a few events/conversations that apparently touched some deeply buried trauma. My reaction was intensely physical. I felt pain and tightness in my chest, stomach clenched. The thoughts that rose to the surface like the message in a terrible Magic 8 Ball were “You don’t matter. Nothing matters.” Dread. Meanwhile my rational brain was saying “This does not match the conversation.”
Realizing the mismatch is #growth for me. The time between being triggered and seeing the mismatch is shrinking. I spend less time caught up in the physical sensations of my fear, less time calling myself names for not being perfect. I still have that adrenaline rush that wants to freeze me to keep me “safe” but it’s shorter.
I talked to my therapist, overwhelmed by the Unnamed Monster of my fear.
She has traveled this road In Pursuit of Mental Health with me for nineteen years. She knows me. She raised me! And what were her healing words?
“You are not defective.”
I want to be Normal. I want to respond with emotions and sensations that fit the scenario. When I don’t, I feel absolutely and irretrievably broken.
“That little girl in you helped you get through some pretty traumatic times. She made you feel safe the only ways she knew at the time. Sometimes that was by shutting down and forgetting.”
So I’m not crazy for not remembering what’s behind this, for all the times I dissociated, for all the times I hid in my closet?
“You need to talk to her, to thank her.”
She walked me through putting my palms over my heart, closing my eyes, telling the little girl in me how brave she was. How hard she had worked to keep us safe in an impossible situation. I told her I loved her. I thanked her.
I said to that small and terrified child inside me, “You can rest now, I’ve got this.”
I’m not defective, I’m growing. I’m just not finished yet.
and that’s okay. In fact it’s normal.
The Bring Your Own Drink Conversation: What is a situation where you wondered why you reacted the way you did? Is a part of you trying to tell you something you need to listen to?