“When we perceive a significant threat to us, then our bodies get ready either for a fight to the death or a desperate flight from certain defeat.”
You know the drill:
A threat is perceived
The autonomic nervous system automatically puts body on alert.
The adrenal cortex automatically releases stress hormones.
The heart automatically beats harder and more rapidly.
Breathing automatically becomes more rapid.
Thyroid gland automatically stimulates the metabolism.
Larger muscles automatically receive more oxygenated blood.
For me, it is not being able to breathe. The walls falling and trapping me. I skip fight and flight and plunge headfirst into fright.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I hear a voice whispering weakly, “Everything will be fine,” but my heart is beating so fast and so loud that I don’t hear anything. And I don’t believe it.
That’s when it happens. That awful black hole of despair in the pit of my soul begins to swallow every last bit of hope and I crumble. Everything closes in.
I am so overcome with terror that I am paralyzed with fear. People who know me are familiar with how I deal with bad, scary things.
Give me 24 hours and I will be fine. Slowly, but surely, my mind clear, my back uncurls and I can stare back at whatever it was that terrified me.
This is the way my body has decided to react to threatening situations.
No matter how I try to fight or run away, this is how I process fear.
I often wish that deep breathing or some other stress reducing exercise would work to get me out of feeling so overwhelmed. But when I think about each time this has happened to me, I realize that my coping skills have become stronger and what knocked me for a loop doesn’t quite have the same punch the second time around. It takes a bigger, scarier thing to get to me.
What really works for me is holding a pencil. Something I can write my way out of my hell.
It feels like a lifeline and a weapon at the same time. A way to plot my path back on my terms. Truthfully, I never read what I have written afterwards. This kind of writing is more like shedding layers, not poetry.
So there you have it.
If you stumble across someone curled up in a ball, give her a pencil. She will appreciate your understanding it is just her way of getting to the light.
Whatever your process is, honor it and become aware of what is going on in your mind and body. Fight, flight or fright, the more you resist, the longer it will take you to get through it. Accept it and let it take its course.
I am amazed that some people think I am fearless. They admire my ability to stay calm under fire. This makes me wonder if all of my heroes are actually going through the same internal roller coaster I am.
That is a comforting thought. I feel better already.