You know you are in the middle of a Post-Traumatic Stress episode when absolutely everything feels bigger than life. You feel unmanageably anxious, scared and sad and you know you have too little left to give emotionally to face any job currently being required of you. When an otherwise ordinary task feels impossible and you feel paralyzed or frozen and you can’t make your body respond to your mind’s requests, you are being given a head’s up that something is going on emotionally. Your body, heart, and soul are trying to tell you something.
The message goes something like this: I have felt this before. Probably several times over a period of maybe many years. Again and again, I was not safe and I was forced to face more than I had the skills or information to deal with.
That is my definition of PTS. My solution is to 1) Name to yourself what you are feeling. “Today, this feels too hard for me to do. Where are the grown-ups around here?” 2) Figure out what you CAN do and go through your list of friends, family, and acquaintances and ask for help. 3) Parcel tasks out, set some aside for another day, sort out what you CAN do and focus on that only.
If all you can do is go to bed, be sure the kids are safe and lie down. Maybe on the couch so you can challenge the feeling after a nap. Maybe you have to ask someone to take the children for several hours or a day. Maybe your partner has to come home from work early. Maybe you should try to go to work. Work can often be where it is safe to be an adult because while at work you slide into a familiar and adult part of yourself that you trust and are comfortable with.
What makes it doubly difficult when you are totally unable to cope and face your world, is when others do not understand. You look weak or lazy or as though you are malingering. Or even worse, like some disturbed crazy person. When that is not the case at all!
What you are is a person in great distress whose body and soul and mind are remembering times when there was real danger all around you. And right now your body and soul and mind think the same thing is happening that happened in your past. You are telling yourself, “There is a huge amount of unknown here. I do not have all of the answers and I don’t see anyone else stepping up to help me.” Your next move needs to be to ask for help. Because back then there was no one to ask. But today there are people who care about you and will reach out if you ask them to.
No one else knows what is going on inside you until you tell them. When you ask for help you say more about what you need: “I need the children to be safe and looked after for a few hours because I am feeling unable to cope. Can you please help me?” Or, as in my case, “I desperately need help with the mess I have made for myself on two accounts with my computer. I freeze. I am totally unable to keep myself in the chair long enough to try to problem solve. Please sit with me while we do it together.”
Post-Traumatic Stress: (my words) Feeling unable to cope in a situation that actually is safe because it triggers felt memories from time and time again when it wasn’t safe. Examples could be violence at home when growing up, repeated trips to hospital with something life threatening happening, fighting in the war, violence outside of the home when growing up, repeated danger from known or unknown sources, amongst many others. Be curious about what you have had to face throughout your lifetime. Be sweet and gentle with yourself about challenges you have faced or times it has been impossible to face a challenge and you have shut down or backed off.
Soldiers during war survive only because they trust their buddies. I survived myriad emergency rushes because I trusted the doctor’s and my many angels both here and on the other side of the veil. Children survive violent childhoods by being brilliant and creative. You can survive today by sharing your story and asking for help. I think of big, strong, warm, kind arms surrounding me, holding me tight and not letting me go and softly murmuring “You are safe. You are loved.”