Heads-up, 7-up, or a table for one?

Life is filled with trauma.  Every day, hard stuff happens, and we struggle to cope. I initially posted this right after my son started kindergarten.  Today, he finished first grade, a point we never thought he’d reach.  Unfortunately, the effects of the trauma it caused continue on.  A number of important people in my life are also coping with trauma these days, and the challenges impact them every day.  My post looks at trauma.  How can we cope?

In my last blog (“192 hours until kindergarten starts”), I talked about the beginning of kindergarten for my son, KD. As expected, I was a both a little sad and happy. Then I went home and took a nap.

I also had a reaction I didn’t expect. All parents are a little bit nervous about leaving their “angels” at school for the first time, right? A few more hugs than usual are given, right? A few tears are normal, right? I feel that I took it a little beyond where I should have. I didn’t freak out, but I had a little, gnawing feeling in my belly that said things weren’t OK.

It took a while, but I think I’ve figured out why. During the first three years of his life, KD had a ton of health issues. I’ll spare the details, beyond sharing that he had 4 ICU visits, and we spent 5 or 6 nights/week in the steam to help him breathe better and cough less. We were constantly on red alert. Although his health is stellar now, there’s something about starting kindergarten that’s reminding me of the nervous feelings I used to feel on a nightly basis. I’m not exactly on red-alert, but I’m certainly hovering between orange and yellow.

As much as it’s driving me crazy to feel this way, I’m also trying to be easy on myself. My brain has been hard-wired from years of trauma from him being sick, and when my buttons are pushed in a certain way, my impulse is to take him and flee for safety. Fortunately, logic has also kicked in, and this leaves me with the power to make a choice: take him home or leave him behind.

Most of the time, making decisions based on our past experiences is good judgment. If we got mugged walking down a dark side street, we’ll probably walk down brighter, busier streets in the future. Or if we got a ticket for speeding and not wearing our seat belt, we’ll probably slow down and wear our seat belt in the future (or at least for a day or two.)

Other times, it really doesn’t serve us. Even if we have the impulse to do one thing, we’re better off resisting and doing nothing. If we need a job, we’d better go to the interview, rather than skipping it because we’re anxious. Just because I have the impulse to take KD and home-school him again, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I’ve taught in the past, and it’s a past I’d rather not revisit. (And even if I tried to, I think that my wife, having home-schooled KD until last week, would change the locks and puts bars on the windows to stop me.)

So what are we left to do when our impulse is to run away, but our brains tell us we have to stay, even if it feels awful? The best choice is to try to be easier on ourselves and do extra things that we know are good for us. Some of us go to the gym more, and others spend time with friends. Some of us take naps (something I’ve done every morning this week) and others of us do yoga or Tai chi. Some of us write in our journals, and others clean house. And I guess some of us just walk around in circles, until we land at our computers and talk about our dramas on Facebook. If it’s good for us and helps us cope with our emotions, rather than run away, do it. (I’m also aware that there are times when, even though we know staying to confront something is good for us, we’re unable to because of past trauma we’ve experienced. When these situations present themselves, it’s likely that some extra support from an experienced mentor, pastor, or counselor will be necessary.)

Of course, doing what we know is good for ourselves isn’t always enough to feel 100% about the decision. But I’ve taken my advice and done a few of the things I’ve suggested, and it’s helping. He’s finished a week of school and loves it. Leaving him behind was the best idea possible. Now, if only I could get him to sleep past 5:24 a.m. (which has happened 5 days in a row) and get rid of the pesky cold I’ve caught, I think I’ll be good to go.

One Response to Heads-up, 7-up, or a table for one?
  1. elizabeth
    June 11, 2015 | 4:36 pm

    Overcoming fear and anxiety is one of life’s biggest challenges. Meditation, therapy, yoga, recreation, thought changing, laughing and so on helps.

    Sounds like you are implementing some of the above.

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