I am capable of dealing with overwhelming situations!
I’ve gotten through many situations in my life that I thought were overwhelming at the time. This past summer, I worked as a camp counselor, and there were times when we had 17 campers were running in five different directions, tripping, falling, and crying, while parents arrived to pick other campers up, and other campers were in an intense, friendship-breaking argument over trading pokemon cards, and someone else had to go to the bathroom… it was a lot, but I dealt with it at the time, and over time it got easier! I can handle several things going on at once. It’s part of learning to do the job. I can deal with each, prioritize, delegate, and politely excuse myself from things that aren’t pressing. There are ways of dealing with overwhelming things, and I can do them.
I was also working at a program recently that involved selling lots of items stacked high in a garage-sale sort of event. Things topped over somewhat regularly, and we had three things fall over within ten minutes, two with broken glass! It was very stressful! But you know what, I got through it. I dealt with each fall, asked others to help, washed the broken-glass dust off my hands (no one was hurt), and then asked the person in charge if I could take a break and if we could have more help in my section. Problems solved! I think I was able to deal with it then because of how good I got at dealing with lots going on at once over the summer.
I am also capable of dealing with overwhelming things in the sense that I’ve made it through trauma and many, many reminders and flashback-y events. I have survived all of those, too, and have improved in the ways that I deal with them.
And even when I don’t deal with things in the most effective ways, I am still dealing with them.
Yes, it may be challenging, but I am capable of dealing with it!
(This is about trauma and talks about death, with mentions of self harm and suicidality.)
I’ve had lots of upsetting things happen recently — my mom lost all the hearing in one of her ears suddenly, my uncle was dying and then died, my grandmother was in the hospital and then died — those are the main ones, but my great uncle also died, my aunt’s neighbor died, my family has been very chaotic… taken all together, within a month, it’s traumatic.
I’m used to PTSD and the anxiety, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and flashbacks as a result of that. But with PTSD, it’s post-trauma. I can use opposite action to face fears because I know (at least, rationally) that I am safe now. I can ground myself in the moment with phrases like “this reminds me of something scary, and, in this moment, I am safe.” I can point out the ways that this situation is different from the traumatic one.
Now it’s different. I’m not living in PTSD anymore; I’m living in trauma. It is happening now.
Trauma is something that overwhelms your ability to cope, something that threatens your life or that of someone you love. These events have definitely overwhelmed me: I feel like everything is “too much” very often; I’ve developed new self harm behaviors; I fantasize about dying to escape it all; accomplishing little things, or even getting out of bed and getting meals, are hard. And the lives of people I know and love were threatened and taken.
I know that my subconscious agrees that I’m overwhelmed because my PTSD (from a car accident) has disappeared. I’ve heard that having flashbacks means that your body and brain are ready to process through the trauma that you couldn’t process at the time. Well, clearly my body isn’t well enough to process old trauma anymore. I’ve had one night of traumatic nightmares and intrusive thoughts relating to the accident in the past few weeks. Just one! I suppose I should thank my body for this, for not giving me even more distress that I’m not capable of handling.
On the other hand, I have had nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and lots of strong anxiety, sadness, and other emotions about the current issues.
And when I have startle reactions, like when the phone rings, or someone knocks on my door, or I hear indistinct raised voices, or my mom texts me, those reactions are actually the response that is needed in that situation. It’s not a post-trauma startle reaction. It’s not out of place. It’s serving an essential purpose. It’s getting me awake from my slumber so that I can drive my mom to the hospital. It’s preparing myself for the news that my grandmother died.
This trauma is happening now. It’s awful. Here are some other things I’m experiencing that help show what this trauma feels like.
Constantly high anxiety
Checking the facts and finding that the intense emotion is justified: people are in danger.
Screaming when startled
Not knowing what will happen
Feeling like my world is collapsing around me
Trying to maintain any sense of constancy in my life
Things so chaotic that I don’t know when I’ll next eat
Expecting my life to be turned upside down and inside out multiple times in the near future
Having to always be ready to drop everything for my family at a moment’s notice
Waking up to my mom calling me saying she’s in the emergency room
And not being fazed by it because it’s become so commonplace — constant danger is the norm
Dissociating so much that I can’t read more than a couple of sentences
Dissociating the moment I consciously try to stop avoiding emotions
Dissociating in order to survive — because if I don’t, my emotions are unbearable, and I get very suicidal, or can’t eat, or can’t get out of bed — so, dissociating is keeping me alive
Needing to use my crisis survival skills toolkit many times every day
Almost always wanting to die
Crying when I didn’t call my mom because I think that if I don’t call her, someone will die — and then having my grandmother die the next day and confirming my worry
Not knowing where I am
Not being able to participate in a normal, casual conversation because everything reminds me of the awful things going on, and I don’t want to talk about them
All of my thoughts leading back to the trauma
Saying “HELP” inside my head or writing it on paper or my skin frequently
Wanting very badly to be able to escape and not being able to