“Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones. This precipitates unpleasant emotions intense physical sensations, and impulsive and aggressive actions. These posttraumatic reactions feel incomprehensible and overwhelming.”
— Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
On Monday, January 10 (two days ago) at 10:10 pm, I received an email from my kids' school saying that it was going to be closed Wednesday thru Friday due to inability to "adequately staff campuses" due to COVID. In an instant, my mind was transported to March 2020 when schools shut down because of COVID. My stomach tensed up, my shoulders began to rise, and my head physically felt tension. The next day (yesterday), after spending three hours fighting with two different pharmacies to try to get my son's ADHD medicine refilled, (which was unsuccessful...I think the prescription must be floating in the internet cloud somewhere between the two pharmacies 🤦) I texted my husband to tell him that we were just going to be without medicine. He replied "We can do it" which should be a completely supportive statement, but instead, I lost it and called my mom crying.
So now for some back story... In March and April of 2020 when the world shut down and we were all doing school at home, I went through an emotional breakdown. My husband is an assistant principal, so he had to be at the school a lot of the time and I was at home alone with all three of our boys trying to juggle homeschool and my full time job. During this time we realized my son's ADHD medicine was very negatively affecting his personality...something that we hadn't previously noticed because he was in school during the day. His psychologist had just moved, and we hadn't been established with a new one yet so we couldn't get the medicine changed. Also, his counselor had changed offices and was no longer able to see him, so we had no one to consult with about his big behaviors. I was stressed with work and the unknown of COVID, trying to use my teacher skills to homeschool my children, and got extremely overwhelmed. It was a true series of unfortunate events that led to out of control behavior, me yelling a LOT, kids being disobedient, me walking the neighborhood crying to keep from exploding on my children even more, and downward spirals for all of us in the house. It's not a time of my life that I'm proud of, but it led to a LOT of personal growth, counseling for me, medicine for my anxiety and PMDD and a deeper understanding of trauma through becoming a TBRI practitioner.
During this time, I felt a lot of animosity towards my husband because he was able to "escape" the house to go to work while I was "stuck" at home working AND "teaching" the kids. So, when he sent the text yesterday that said "We can do it", I immediately flashed back to March and April of 2020 because I knew that he would be at work today and I would be working from home while I had the children with me...there was no "we". Fortunately, we are all in a MUCH better place today with our knowledge of COVID, mental health and coping skills, and I'm "working from home" with another friend while our children all entertain each other building a fort in the backyard.
So, what was the point in me telling you all of that? Right now, a lot of people are feeling triggered on a daily basis. The email from the school was a trigger, the text from my husband was a trigger, and the issues with ADHD medicine were a trigger. If you do not have knowledge of triggers and the fact that trauma is stored in your nervous system, then you (or your children) may appear to be overreacting to small events. I definitely overreacted when I cried over my husband's text yesterday, but the reason I did was because my body was reliving the trauma of 2020. Bessel Van Der Kolk has written a book called The Body Keeps the Score that is all about how the body physically stores trauma and the brain rewires itself in response to the trauma. It is a very scientific book that is not a quick read, but I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about trauma.
I was going to go into a long explanation about triggers and how they affect your nervous system when I stumbled across this blog that describes it so well! So, I'll leave a quote and a link to read the entire article.
"Trauma effectively imprints the stressful event in the brain. The memory of the traumatic event is stored in the amygdala, which ensures you do not find yourself in this dangerous situation again. However, the amygdala doesn’t save the event as if it was a story – the amygdala stores the emotional significance of the traumatic event as experienced by our five senses. So the memory is fragments of visual images, smells, sounds, tastes, or touches." - Rhonda Kelloway, LCSW, SEP
See the full article HERE.
So, because we're all triggered right now, lets all agree to increase our grace and understanding. Increase your grace and understanding of yourself when you feel overwhelmed by small things. Increase your grace and understanding with your children when they meltdown over seemingly insignificant events or changes. Increase your grace and understanding with others when you interact with them at the store or church or work or restaurant. And PLEASE do not think you are alone in your struggles and triggers. Know that we are all doing the best we can, and if you need help, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at For the Sake of One!