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January 7, 2020

Trauma Anxiety is different than generalized anxiety and here’s why that’s so important.

Trauma Anxiety – The Diseases of Missed Opportunities…. Amongst Others.

Trauma Anxiety is the disease of the missed opportunities. I’ve missed so much of life and the joy of sharing it with others – the shame became unbearable… I have missed so much along the way secondary to trauma anxiety and sheer panic: far too many of my children’s football games, school performances, special ceremonies, family gatherings, trips, weddings and funerals, incredible opportunities and many of my chances for success – too many to count. And when you do, depression creeps in to remind you, you really are a failure. Because the cognitive mind ( the pre-frontal cortex ) is wise. It knows your being irrational…Yet the fear response centre – damn alarm system won’t shut off, often to the point that there is no safe place left to hide.

It haunts me now – those would haves, could haves and should haves:  What would my life had looked like without this? How much is enough to garnish a legitimate breakdown?  Would my family have loved me more or less, had they known from the beginning? Would my friends have tried to support me and my pursuit of healing and justice or continue to remind me that I was too big for my britches and to take my respective seat? Would my church have offered me to mic to speak of my trauma so that the other congregates could share theirs as well or would they had still sought to silence me? Those thoughts can be haunting.

It’s no surprise that my panic button kept sending me signals to freeze and abort mission.

In all fairness to myself, I did what I thought at the time, would keep me safe even though admittedly it didn’t because eventually there is no safe place to hide from yourself.

Avoidance fuels depression and what I once perceived as boundaries and protection became a very lonely place of self inflicted isolation as the alarm sounded,

And the consequences of pulling the damn fire alarm, the mess left to clean up.

That mess of feeling like a failure, self deprecation, self criticism and condemnation from self and others for pulling the it. I smelling smoke for gods sake – it’s ridiculous what we do to ourselves and others, for doing that they think is the right thing to do, in that circumstance.

The judgment and ridicule and questions about why – I gave up and stopped showing up and depression, panic and night terrors crept in through my brokenness.

And one may speculate that I at best have social anxiety and at the worst – I’m selfish, inconsiderate, unreliable and lazy, in my experience, it’s been mostly the latter,

But Anxiety disorders from trauma are not anticipatory anxiety and I wish the hell someone would explain the difference to folks. Ive tried meditation but with PTSD it didn’t keep me in the present moment like it does for anticipatory anxiety. It brought me back – to a time that reminder me I was not safe in this body, where I was trapped by forcing me to focus inward on bodily sensations, specially my breathing. If you have ever been held down against your will, your heartbeat ringing in your ears as you gasp for breath and pray to be teleported  away from your body,  and block it from your conscious mind because it’s that scary, that is what meditation felt like to me. It removed my dissociative barrier that had protected my mind for decades and thrusted me into all those emotions that I had managed to suppress…. Yes it helped me later when I was healed, when I wasn’t reliving my trauma daily but dare I say I was so triggered initially to be flooded with a lifetime of feelings, emotions, memories all at once, it that I almost ended my own life. That pullback into those dark moments felt like a demonic force. And once I let them in, they stuck around to haunt me relentlessly,

So trauma anxiety is not some foreboding doom of the fear of what if… What if? It’s already happened.

Fear sometimes is our primal instinct to return to safety. Other times fear is a MOFO that won’t allow you to.

Fear is meant to be temporary and it guides us then passes rooted in those earliest of brain mechanisms, stemming from our most primitive brain development to escape danger by any means necessary.

Fear is an automatic response.There is no reasoning, only survival, and I suspect that if I am terrified, of snakes BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY ONE BEFORE and their poisonous, I SHOULD BE!

That fear response will enable me to do what I need to do, to run like the wind or freeze and hide, depending on the size and number of predators in my midst to not hang out and pet them and that works well when there is no snake. But what if that king cobra sleeps next to you in bed every night?  That’s the difference.

It’s often difficult to make sense of  human brain’s complexit and it can be difficult to understand the impact of the  past on the present with rational thinking for many reasons but mostly because those instincts resist change and not because it is trying to sabotage you. In fact, it’s intention is the opposite, it’s aimed at your protection to begin with but it doesn’t always end up that way, beacause a life lived afraid is unhealthy.More often than not, it can limit you mere survival to simply carry on with even the most very basic activities of being alive, instead of actually LIVING a life.

That’s trauma anxiety takes on a monster of its own, cloning into generalized anxiety, panic attacks and crippling depression for both.

Those bells, sounding those damn alarms – they never shut off!  Honestly….Why would they?

Keep that smoke alarm going off in fight, flight, freeze, fawn in the amygdala – the primitive survival response centre of the brain, going off all day, every day daily – batteries die…And quite frankly so do you… slowly and insidiously.

That innate part of our brain that allows us to survive danger is only meant for extremely short periods of activation- like escaping a house fire, running when being chased by a bear or lifting the weight of a truck with your tiny body, to unpin your toddler underneath.

That’s how powerful a response it is!

Imagine the flood of Adrenalin that requires for those brief instances?

Now imagine that never shutting off?

Those high levels of stress hormones wreak havoc in the body.

However, we ignore our physical head to toe symptoms. Instead we try the off switch and reset button. We put in ear plugS to drown out the voice of fear. Or we leave the source of what we think, is causing all that noise of that impending sense of doom in the the first place, thereby avoiding what feels like danger, even if it’s only perception.

I suspect limbo can feel a whole lot like more like hell, as much as life does sometimes.

I’ve been there – where the only safe place left for me, to out run fear was to run directly into a Mental Hospital, after all other avenues lead to dead ends.

My rationale brain knew the consequences of avoiding – panic attacks, flashbacks, unrelenting and crushing depression and hopelessness – but the survival mechanism could NOT reason with it. It needed help to rewire and I did and I have zero shame for showing up to battle for my life, for heal and for healing.

I understood exactly what was happening when I chose science over the science fiction in some self help books.

The brain is a powerful thing, thought for thousands of years to be formed and unable to change in adulthood. What we now know from neuroscience of the brain that is indeed; malleable.

With neeuroplasticity it can change and adapt with CBT, DBT, EMDR, Mindfulness Meditation, Opposite Action and Biofeedback, often combined with Medication many other etceteras that work, all depending on the person. I needed to move my trauma from my body in music, dance and writing and speaking  about my experiences has helped me do just that. And by deflault my writing helps others who are still not quite there, believe that they can get here too .

With consistency, alot of hard work and repetition we can re-wire this circuitry and that’s GOOD FREAKING NEWS! We can break those old patterns, toxic core beliefs and regulate our emotions. Like in any other part of our body or life even in life I suppose – it requires changing our habits that contribute to its demise.

And a reminder that no one said it would be easy. It’s damn hard work much like exercise which I’m not a fan of either.

If we want to start working out after years of being sedentary the first few weeks of tension, discomfort and the pain of one’s muscles RESISTANCE to this change, will feel unbearable.

But overtime the results become evident and the burn diminishes.

But those old unhealthy behaviours- they have got to go!

That takes commitment, perseverance,strength and white knuckle willpower to not press the escape button. But lets face it the easy button was never easy really anyways was it ? At least not for more than a few moments.

I am here to tell you I have been there, and come out on the other side and so can you. I stood frozen by fear for decades and you are not, nor were you ever once alone.

We all have fears.

Anyone who has ever told you they are never afraid – they are lying.

Eery great motivational speaker, who’s changed their lives and the lives of others began with 2 wise minded decisions from a place of reason:

1) Acknowledging their fears, facing their own demons and interrupting the voice of the accuser in their minds trying to derail them, with intentions, truth and a whole lot of “ get ye behind me satan.”

2) Embracing the call, even in it’s uncertainty and channeling it all (the good and the bad. the failure and the wins, the fall and the rise) into a catalyst for great change.

Honestly, regardless of who you think Jesus was – he was historically a bit of a bad ass and yet even he WAITED 30 years to honour his calling; then STILL spent 40 days in the wilderness, being brainwashed by the enemy as we often are too-as we sit alone with our humanity, fear, doubt, temptations, depression, anxiety, dark thoughts while being plagued the voice of the accuser in his head, day and night; you are not crazy. You are human!

And more then that, time passes whether we participate or not and we can never get it back.

Don’t lose anymore precious time or sleep to fear. Dare to step out of fear and into freedom, despite all the evidence it gives you to run and hide – thank it for trying to protect you, then insist it move out of your f**king way, so you can do what you came here for!

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