Do you identify with this feeling? You’re bumbling along all tickety -boo and ever-so pucker and then you get hit by a wall of emotion? It feels like a crushing tsunami, slamming into your legs, demolishing your stability and strength and you come tumbling down (often in what seems cinema style slow-mo) to your knees? That’s the effect an emotional trigger following trauma can have. I can’t speak for all, but for me it can feel like a ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ freezing my thinking then everything speeds up and I feel as if I could drown in panic, an ever-expansive spiral of fear and negative thought patterns. It can be mild or it can feel colossal.
Sometimes I am able to recognise the tell-tale signs that I’m about to ‘be hit’ and I can shield myself with self-talk and distraction. I have developed a mantra of “Action is better than in-action”, and I have found that physically moving can literally move my head into a more positive space. Be it ironing, washing or hoovering or baking. Taking up that ‘panic’ space in my head with something constructive works for me. I’m trying to extend this into a slightly more personally regenerative area by trying to use Pilates, reading or swimming but as they are more scheduled activities they are not as good as ‘heading it off at the pass’ than tasks I can immediately focus upon. The introduction of a puppy into our lives does however mean that I can just ‘get moving’ and take her out for a walk – though I am in serious need of some decent ‘non-fuddy-duddy’ waterproof walking shoes and coat – this County has its fairer share of rain than most!
But what about those times when you’re completely blindsided and have no time for distraction techniques? Me? I tend to cry. Though I get annoyed with myself for doing so, it does act as a really cleansing way of letting the grief and fear out but it is a bit socially awkward. People often don’t know what to do or say. Believe me, I don’t need a raft of soothing platitudes, it’s almost like I’m a bottle of coke that got dropped on the floor and the only way for me to release (at the moment anyway) is to ‘leak’ … maybe I need to reframe crying as simply ‘effervescing’ – after all we as children used to say “she’s bubbling” when someone was crying?
So, what ‘blindsides’ me? Well, I’ve started compiling a list, and in no particular order and just a few triggers are …
· The chilled food cabinets in M & S … or to be more specific the memory of the smell of the food. You see there is an M & S next to Bristol Children’s Hospital and for nearly 9 months I ate ready meals and sandwiches from there – a treat some would say, but I was too scared to venture far from my daughter’s side whilst she was in for treatment this was my sustenance. But even the packaging on an M & S Spaghetti Carbonara can make me come out in a cold sweat. I swear Pavlov would of have had a field day with me!
· NHS car parks, though this could actually also be down to the exorbitant charges, lack of disabled parking spaces and too small spaces or weird barriers. I think its just car park fatigue in general that can tip me over the edge. My patience varies in strength from ‘eternal’ to ‘a hundreth of a nanosecond’.
· My children / husband being uncontactable for a period longer than expected. Now as a parent of 3.5 (part time step son) who are all 12yrs+ this comes as somewhat of a doozie. Just as they are on the cusp of spreading their wings and seeking independence I’m yanking on that parental leash every hour or so – I genuinely feel I’m exaggerating here for comedic effect – but I bet my darling offspring will shaking their disdainful heads in mockery if they choose to read this blog). It stems I feel from the understanding that you can’t tell me that lightening doesn’t strike – because it does! And if it can strike once, it can strike twice. I realise that me keeping tabs on everyone I love is completely unrealistic and I’m working on ways to master / deal with this.
· Cancer Charity adverts / promotion. It’s everywhere! We just can’t escape it. Leaflet drops, cold calling, recycling bags, adverts in magazines, TV, social media … even a cinema trip. It’s like we can never escape the reality of our new existence.
· Facebook prompts and notification from oncology groups, and this also includes photos on my phone, of her hair loss and limb loss. I find looking at her ‘old’ leg quite hard at times, as it reminds me of what she has dealt with and how much our lives have altered. Believe me, though I realise just how lucky we are and I am thankful for that – but I am sad for the extra stress and fear she now has to live with and learn to manage.
There are other triggers but you get the idea … I am learning to cope and adapt and reframe much of my responses but it is a long-haul trip and I’m not even convinced there is a destination or an end.