Coping Method #4

Image by mariachily

This is so fundamental that I almost decided not to do a post about it.

Don’t forget to breathe.

Taking deep breaths and concentrating on regulating your breathing can go a long way toward helping you calm down, whether it’s from a flashback, panic attack, caffeine overdose, or the anxiety caused by recovering an awful memory.

There are lots of breathing exercises out there. It’s a good idea to learn one now so that you have it in your coping methods for when you need it.

The one I do I developed on my own, but I’m sure there are things like it out there.

I start by finding a place where I can sit with a nice, straight back. I hold my hands in front of me, bringing them toward my shoulders when I breathe in, and pushing them away from me and touching my fingers together as I breathe out. I also kind of blow the breath out, like I’m about to whistle. Something about the sighing sound it makes is calming. I don’t know why the hand motions help me, but they do. There are lots of good, scientific reasons that breathing like that can help you calm down. They’re easy to find, so I don’t think I need to talk about them here.

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time or the location to do breathing exercises like that. Fortunately, we’re always breathing and we can always work on regulating ourselves so that we can calm down.

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Coping Method #1

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Image by Katie King

***Warning — Self Harm ***

A few days ago, I had a new, well not new, an old forgotten memory, pop into my head. This has actually happened a lot to me. Usually, I get signs that I’m remembering something before it happens. Often, I have bad dreams ahead of time, feel anxious and depressed. This time around, I was just kind of “down” for a few days. Being “down” or “having gray days” as I call them, isn’t uncommon for me, so without the other indicators, I wasn’t bracing for impact. And it hit me like a bus.

I’m not ready to talk about (read: type up) what came back to me. In some ways it wasn’t as bad as other things I’ve remembered, in others it was a doozy. It has me mixed up and conflicted, depressed, anxious, full to the brim with shame and self loathing.

Yet, I’m doing much better today than I was then. Over the last couple years, I’ve learned how to begin letting go of the negative feelings that come up with these hellish memories. But, before I get into the bigger process of how I started healing from all this, I want to talk about the more short term ways of coping with having one’s world rocked by the sudden retrieval of painful memories. I’m sure the list that I keep in my head would be good for other things too, but keeping myself from doing anything stupid right after I’m forced to relive moments of childhood trauma tends to be my reason for going to my list.

So, I shall talk about my short term coping methods in no particular order.

First:
Make a cup of tea.

It’s a simple thing, easy to accomplish even during a panic attack, shaking body, what have you. DON’T put water on to boil. Use the microwave. I say this for several reasons. First off, the microwave can get a single cup of water hot about eight times faster than heating up a kettle of water. The sooner you can be sitting down with a cup of tea to sip, the better. Second, if you’re at all like me, it would be easy to forget about a kettle on the stove (unless you have a whistling kettle, which mine isn’t) because of the torrent of dark emotions passing through you. Third, a hot kettle is a really great way to hurt yourself if you aren’t paying attention. I accidentally steam burned the back of my left hand a year ago, and still don’t have the feeling in it back entirely. Fourth, a hot kettle might be a very convenient means of self injuring when in such a state. Stick to the microwave.

Make a ritual out of preparing your cup of tea. Focus on every aspect of what you’re doing. Dip the tea bag up and down while it’s steeping. Add milk and sugar (i.e. make it taste good. I like maple syrup in my tea). Watch the milk swirl into the tea. Focus on what’s happening with what you are doing in the present.Then sit and sip your tea. Try not to dwell on what’s freaked you out/triggered you/stressed you out. There will be plenty of time for that later when you’ve calmed down.

I usually use an herbal tea during times like this. It seems like a good idea not to add caffeine to a freaked out, shaking, hyperventilating body. That doesn’t mean you can’t make coffee or a stronger tea. This is just what I do. I suppose you could even pour yourself a glass of milk or juice, or even some water.

I recommend against alcohol. My grandfather always says that the minute you drink for the way it makes you feel rather than for the taste, you’re entering into alcoholism. This makes good sense to me, so I choose not to use alcohol for anything that smacks of coping or self medicating. When I drink a glass of wine, I want it to be because I enjoy a good Merlot  and not because I’m hating myself.

I hope this helps!

Just Remembered Something Bad

It’s a cold, windy day here, and I was taking a hot shower before work, when I had another memory come to me. It was so bad, it had me sitting in the tub, rocking and gasping, feeling like nothing will ever be okay again.

Just like that, my day is shot. I can feel that I’m hovering on the edge of a panic attack. My chest hurts, breathing is hard, and there are sharp pains in my stomach.

By itself, the memory was bad enough. I’m having trouble handling not only what I was doing in the flashback, but the physical sensations that are coming along with it. Taste is a big one. I feel ill. I thought I was maybe ready to write about this stuff, but this one… I don’t know if I can do it.

Worst of all, somehow, is the fact that what I remembered doesn’t make sense with what I thought I’d figured out about what all happened to me. It suggests that my timeline for the partially remembered rape as a young teenager is either wrong, or that it happened more than once. Possibly once at eleven and once at twelve.

All the order, the pseudo-control that I’d given myself by working out when all this stuff happened just went out the window.

Why am I remembering this stuff? I know I wasn’t doing well before it all, but couldn’t I have just lived a screwed up life without having to relive this kind of horror?

I can’t do this. I have real life adult responsibilities, my job and my schoolwork to take care of. But I just want to curl up on bed and hide while the flames in my soul burn my heart to ashes.

I hurt.