When the foundation of your entire life dissolves in an instant how will you react? Each of us has pillars in our lives that are the foundation for our identity and what gives most of our actions meaning. But when that pillar becomes unstable or disappears entirely, what action will you take? It can be a career or business change,the loss of a family member, diagnosis of a serious illness, or dissolving of a romantic relationship. There may be times when we may even allow ourselves to attempt to develop some insight into that moment, while immediately peeling back from the intensity of the sheer thought with a comment like “I cannot even imagine” what that would feel like. We obviously all react differently to traumatic events, however in my case, the reactions my body and mind experienced were echoed by others who had experienced something similar. This was a welcoming thought in hindsight, but in the moment it felt like I was having a completely unique experience. Here is what I can remember. If any of these feelings strike a chord with any experience you have had or are having, perhaps the tools that helped me hang on during those times will be of help to you.
I wake up. The room may still be dark or the sun may have begun to shine, time has lost meaning at this point except as a placeholder for appointments. Have the kids to school by a certain time, get to work by a certain time etc. For a glorious split second as your consciousness begins to awaken you are just thankful that you were able to fall asleep. What a curious thought? Why would someone be thankful that they fell asleep? This simple question engages your memory and from there the pain begins. Your memory releases every terrible element attacking your reality. It rushes through your bloodstream and immediately fills your body with an extreme caffeine like rush of toxic emotions. You start to remember where you are at, where you are sleeping, what the circumstances are that brought you to this place, what did go wrong, what can still go wrong. Pain, Fear, and Anger just start swirling in a constant cycle that will be seemingly endless. Endless until the next moment your mind reaches the same level of exhaustion where it literally can no longer operate and you surrender to sleep. Then finally a pause. Not exactly resting, just a pause, until you reawaken in a few hours and ask yourself : “Why am I thankful I fell asleep?” and the living nightmare begins again.
However now you are awake and in full understanding of the pressures that have overwhelmed you. It may be 3AM with hours before any unnecessary alarms will ring or 9AM with alarms all snoozed and disabled since you have nothing left to give. Your body is pumping with negative adrenaline, however you are unable to move. The thought of having to get dressed, say hello to a human being, simply standing up seem completely insurmountable. So you lay there, mind revving through emotional patterns. Crying with disbelief of your situation. Fear at thoughts about what the present and the future hold. Anger at whoever or whatever you perceive as the culprit for this situation. Each stage of this cycle can vary in length and intensity, but the sheer speed of thought is unbelievable. For me these 3 stages would complete their process between 2 and 8 mins on average, continuously. At times there might be a pleasant pause lasting a few seconds, to the point where you fool yourself into thinking the pattern has finally broken down and your body and mind are regaining control over themselves.However this is an illusion- it is the ascension of the roller coaster and all of a sudden you are filled with the terror as the clicking stops and you plummet back into a free fall followed by twists and turns that whip your sense of self until you are completely disoriented of your existence. Does it ever end? You have no idea. You assume it must because you are neither the first nor the last to survive this circumstance. However your experience is utterly unique. Your psyche is attempting to process emotions at a speed and intensity that is most likely impossible. Eventually the engine runs out of fuel and you collapse into a period of utter mental exhaustion. Your brain finally burns out and it must sleep. It is not peaceful nor will you feel rested, but it is however a break from this carousel. With it comes the slight hope that perhaps tomorrow will be the day when your psyche regains control.