Stress is sneaky.I go through the day and think that I am doing great. I walk out the door at my internship and get in my car, start the engine and begin the drive home. After about ten minutes there starts a buzzy feeling in my brain and I start to feel the stress that I had been blocking all day start to come forward.
I do fairly well at the internship. I don’t have any panic attacks, except the first day. I communicate with others and have made some friends. But as soon as I walk out of the door everything comes forward and bashes me in the head. Which brings up the need for “the great how to decompress before I go home” quest.
I have tried listening to books on the drive home that make me laugh, I have stopped to go for a walk, I have stopped an just looked at nature. But so far I am finding the stress just builds up until I have to hide for a short while and just escape. But escape just relocates the stress it doesn’t actually make it better. Some of it is in finding a peaceful place to be in my mind. And for that I need to clear a space.
At the moment I am at residency for school. Surrounding by a large number of people that I do not know. At the same time I am also surrounded with people with whom I have developed a friendship. All the new faces and all the people that are around me have triggered some of my anxiety and panic that I feel in crowds. What I have decided to do is to carefully choose in what things I will participate and then to spend time in my room “nesting” feeding my soul and healing. Putting together the things that I need to do for the semester. Clearing away the things that need to be put into order and contemplating how to bring home the peace that I am finding.
Breathe in and breathe out. Find the center ground and stand in the space that I have designated as sacred. And let the feelings roll from me until I am back to the center. Then reach out and wrap the feelings of peace that being here at this place brings me.
I know that I am not alone in sitting in the comfy chair and not wanting to change things. But lately there has arisen a need that I must fill that I am afraid to fill. Which means that I have put it off and now I need to act.
I am faced with a room full of demons to cross. I can see the objective ahead of me but between me and my objective are years and years of negative thoughts and statements. The thoughts are my own. The ones that say “there is no way you can do that.”;”You have tried to do this in the past and failed.”; “Why would they want you?” and so forth. The statements are the things that people have said that amount to the same thing. What ever the reason for the person had for saying it doesn’t matter. It has stayed in my brain waiting to be dragged out and paraded around.
The totally rational part of my brain will disagree with the information that is between me and my goal. But the larger part of me, the insecure and newly hatched confident part, cringe and try to hide. Totally accepting defeat before the battle begins. And though I know that I would do very well at what I am attempting there is still the fear that all those things I was told during the depths of the survived trauma are true.
It is like being faced with a life or death situation and someone is telling you to choose. And all you can do is stand there in fear until you take that initiative and open your mouth and say “yes, yes I am going to try.” At the moment I am between the devil and the deep blue sea. And I know that like starting this blog all I need to do is say “yes” or in this case hit the send button.
In this case I am attempting to apply for internships and put myself out there. Which I need to do to graduate. But that means leaving the comfort of my obscurity and the comfy chair of non movement. And putting myself in a position to be turned down.
It is all about crossing the room and turning on the light, realizing that the lies were just lies, and that I am more intelligent and powerful than I think.
When I was young I experienced a lot of trauma. And as a result there are a lot of things that have a trigger on them that let me know I am doing something that is similar to what I was doing when the trauma happened. For example dusk is a killer for me. The time when the light is there but isn’t all at the same time. Very dangerous time for me. I get panic attacks or I have a hard time being with people or I just plain stress out. I always have a light on to make that transition easier. For that time when we lived without electricity. I would just lay low until it was dark. When it is dark I function just fine. It is the in between part that is hard.
But one that I am especially proud of overcoming, mostly, is driving. I can drive to town (about 15 miles away) without very much difficulty at all. No panic or anxiety. But farther than that and I would have problems.(This due to trauma on a long drive.) I have always had to have someone drive me. That can be problematic. You don’t want to stress out your friends and yet you need to get somewhere.
This is where watching the television show Monk paid off. He manipulated his surroundings to suit his needs. He would alter, regardless of the circumstance, what was there for what he needed, or for an environment in which he could function. I try not to inconvenience people as much as possible.This is where we differ.
Overcoming this particular fear took some deep looking at. I had to look at what I was afraid of. I was afraid of the car breaking down while I was driving and not being able to get help. So I got AAA for myself. The next thing that I could take care of was getting a disposable phone. Not one with a plan or anything, just a cheap phone. Now if something happened I didn’t have to worry about being stranded. I could contact someone if I started to panic or if something happened to the car. A small sense of safety was established.
Then came the practicing. Driving a little farther every time I went out. This was an incredibly liberating thing. I was driving myself to where I need to go. I had established a sense of freedom. The day I drove a friend to a place I would normally have had to be driven was celebratory.
This led to my other fear, The Highway. That also was overcome in the same way. I am not ready to drive cross country. But I can make it the hundred miles across the state.
So many of my fears and triggers are yet to be faced. There are still so many have things that I don’t want to look at. But it is nice to know that even my friends who don’t have trauma backgrounds have things they need to overcome. Sometimes it is nice not being special.
Being afraid of things is not something new. I have always hated being in crowds. At one point in my life I was fearless. I would travel alone and go to new places and do things that I was amazed that I would do. I later thought about how I could do those things. And the conclusion I came to was that I had nothing to live for. So it didn’t matter what I was afraid of because I didn’t care.
Then I found something to live for and suddenly I very much wanted to be alive. I very much wanted to stay safe. And all those fears that I had been ignoring came roaring up to the forefront. I would drive to work, which was a hundred miles round trip. But I was always just this side of panicking. I would listen to books while I drove to keep me from being afraid. And when it snowed, I drove so slow I stayed off the highways.
After I stopped working I stopped driving so much. I didn’t go out as much and I climbed deep inside myself. I allowed all the things that had been just on the edge to become very much the center. These were things that I had learned to view as unsafe because of the trauma. Situations to avoid if I wanted to stay safe. But those situations did not exist anymore. I was truly safe.
Over the last many years I have been slowly reclaiming myself. I can now drive longer distances from home. I can go to many places I could not before. But there are still many things that I need to take a safety buddy with me. Someone to help me if I start to panic. Crowds, regardless of the safety buddy, still take careful planning.
What I have found is that when I stop doing something it becomes harder to do it again later. And the longer I allow my fear to dictate to me when I do something. The harder it is. I have spent time sitting and contemplating about all the opportunities that I missed, and all the things that I want to do . But that did not get me very far at all. It actually moved me backwards.
Now I try to look at it not from a perspective of the past but one of what can I do now. This time of year is difficult for me on many different levels. And I am trying to work either with or past those difficulties. But the point is that it is a forward movement. I cannot sit and think of the past or I accomplish nothing and miss the present.
Today is starting and I am going to move forward. And if that means cleaning out the cobwebs on something that I have long wanted to do, but have not, then that is what I will do. Today is new and I have some new things to try.