“It never really seemed to bother you. I mean, we’d be playing on the playground, and then you would just stop. And I could never tell if you were happy, or you were sad.”
Season 9, episode 16 Beverly Hills 90210
October has felt long.
Each day, each week, the new and old places of stress for me, for people I love, for people I don’t know personally.
At an earlier time in my life when someone would ask hyperbolically how I was getting out of bed, I would have laughed and shrugged my shoulders.
The choice suggested in the question was inconceivable to me then.
This month there have been days where I couldn’t get out of bed.
Days where I couldn’t put my feet on the floor, or support the weight of my head with my spine.
Days with uninterrupted migraines ten or twelve twenty four hour periods in a row.
Days where I didn’t sleep or go to bed.
Days where I completed everything planned.
Days where I worked for eighteen hours.
Days where I was gentle outwardly while cutting myself with my finger nails.
Days where I couldn’t complete a whole breath.
Days where babies were soothed by me.
Days where I have sunk into myself so far that I didn’t recognize my responses or their causes.
This quote above is shared between two friends playing battleship.
Each have faced significant loss of different kinds, and have struggled to cope.
The one passes in their coping a little better.
Questions of the day quickly move to anecdotes from the past, and an image of recess is provoked.
The one friend comments to the other, I’d watch a moment stop you and not know what I was seeing, or, as importantly, where you were.
This exchange pulled me into it, because I hear so many interactions that sound like this one.
There’s a described distinction between two people’s versions of the same moment.
There’s an acknowledgment that unanswered, and unresolved questions remain.
Those reflexes within us don’t just go away, but they do change in how we view them.
In one take, we may marvel at our ability to bounce back, and in the next feel alienated by that summary.
What I’ve heard in the last three days from myself is open permission to not exert myself.
My mood has been steadier because I’ve attempted less, and what I’ve distilled comes back to this quote I pulled out.
What does this moment that I’m caught in feel like to those watching me slip away?
What tools do I draw on to help me emerge?
When is it ok to modulate between triggers and a rest from what triggers me?
What can I not yet move past, or invite someone to experience with me?
What is different since “square one”?
At least these things, listed below.
From day one, to day I stopped counting.
1) Nervous system
The nervous system is always the last word. Whatever it says is the most relevant to hear.
Boundaries are what we use to assign limit and definition to people, places and things. Without them no emotional availability can be gained.
3) A time to not talk
Talking uses energy, and not all support can use my energy. Support can exist that doesn’t need me to participate or increase my insights.
4) A limit to vulnerability
Armor is a tool when situations and risks are unknown, or known as unsafe. Being defended is not a bad thing when there’s something asking for my protection or containment.
5) Never just one thing
I am never only upset by one thing. And, I will never know fully all of the connections.
6) Informed Consent
When I can’t have control, I can have information. I deserve to make decisions about situations that I place myself in with information shared transparently.
7) Big T Trauma isn’t just the biggest thing
Trauma isn’t measured in size it’s measured in significance. Sometimes we need to hide what that is or was, and that has no timeline.
8) Your skills are not just for you
The things we learn taking care of ourselves have an effect on other people, and can support them too. Using them is how we trust they work, even if we use them to support others.
9) All true
Get comfortable with words like and, also, partly, and I think so. Internalized knowledge doesn’t fit cleanly into one grouping.
10) I thought I was done
It’s ok to grieve the permanence of trauma. Changes to your brain and your nervous system need time to integrate, and new experiences mean more integration.
11) All I can feel
All is not a consistent amount.
12) Know it by heart
Learn something well enough that you can call on it automatically. Repeat and repeat and repeat. At some point it will just happen.
13) Learn what it looks like
In our mind’s eye and our body memories, we can envision the skills and tools we never learned, and yet crave with all our essence.
14) Ask for what you need
Practice saying out loud what support means, and then practice believing that someone could be able to provide that. Practice so that you can keep asking when what you need isn’t provided or offered, and when the capacity isn’t there.
15) Express now, judge later
When you can not edit your reaction, you can hear what you sound like to your body. What does your body know that you would judge?
16) Your corner of the floor
Shrinking can we a tool for making an interaction most manageable. Whatever makes us need smallness can drive us to shut down, maybe because we need separation.
17) Some parts you do by yourself
The help we can only give ourselves, with the help others can give us, together become healing. Both can give us choices, language, and opportunities to learn self trust.