My husband and I just watched the Jodie Foster movie, The Brave One. (Warning: This post may contain spoilers.) In the movie, Jodie Foster’s character, Erica Bain, is traumatized when she is brutally beaten and her fiance is murdered in a vicious attack. The movie was a little too depressing to watch more than once. But it originally caught my eye as it chronicled the life of a woman after trauma and told the story of how she strives to cope with the fears that arose. Her response to the trauma surprises herself. This is evidenced in the quote:
“I always believed that fear belonged to other people. Weaker people. It never touched me. And then it did. And when it touches you, you know… that it’s been there all along. Waiting beneath the surfaces of everything you loved. “
You can speculate and guess how you would cope with traumatic events. But I believe you can’t truly know how you would cope in any experience unless you are in it. Sure you can look at your character traits, you can look at your past experiences, you can speculate, but you can’t truly know.
In a million years I would have never thought that I would react to a series of events in my life the way I have…
How I am able to cope fluctuates and has a great deal with how in control I feel. When I begin to feel circumstances around me are out of control I begin to panic.
Things that surprised me about how I cope are:
- The fact that sometimes I don’t cope well at all. I hide under my covers and try to block out any and all noise and sound. This surprises me as I always felt that I was a mentally strong. I’m a survivor for sure. I’m more than that. I’m an achiever. But I have been known to run and hide for 15 minutes, or even for an hour or two.
- How judgmental I have been in the past. I honestly never felt I was a judgmental person, and have always felt very accepting of other people. Still, I couldn’t understand how someone could let their house get so messy, or their personal appearance could get so unkempt at times. I now understand that things can sometimes get so overwhelming that even the most organized and well-intentioned people can have simply had a hard time keeping up with life.
- How judgmental people can be – The saying “do not judge me until you have walked a thousand miles in my moccasins” has great relevance here. Trust me, you can’t really truly understand unless you’ve been there.
- My temper – At times of high-stress little things will cause me to feel angry. I’m not really angry at the event, but it is the lack-of-control I feel that I have on my surroundings that anger me. When I lose my sense of control anger surfaces. So one of the primary symptoms for me of a panic attack is anger.
- That sometimes “thinking my way out” of it is so hard. I believe in positive thinking. I believe in the power of thoughts to change lives. I believe that how you think determines your life. But still “thinking my way out” of these feelings of panic can sometimes be so difficult. When one’s body reacts, and when things trigger emotions they can cast a heavy cloud that is a little more difficult to dissipate. That being said, I believe you can easily think your way into a depression. Anyone could think of plenty of things to be depressed about. It is much easier to stay out of depression than to get out of depression. Controlling your thoughts is the key.
- What can set these feelings of lack of control off? The most common thing is fighting kids. It drives me nuts that when I can’t control the noise level or contention. Normally beautiful sounds can also trigger these feelings. Things like the sound of a baby laughing. It is a sound I love, but it will trigger feelings of great loss within me as it transports me back to a time.
- How strong I am – I have learned that I am a strong person. That I have a fighting spirit. That I can survive. But I can do more than survive. I can live. And not only that I can help others live their life more fully.
Things that I used to do:
- Fear – I no longer fear. I am not afraid of people. I’m not afraid of circumstances. I got to where I would want to confront my stocker and look him straight in the eyes. I no longer wanted to flee. I wanted to be the one in control. In the end, I became that person in control.
- Purge the trauma – I threw up many times a day for years and years. Don’t get this wrong. I wasn’t bulimic. It wasn’t something I wanted to do or tried to do. It just happened. I tried all sorts of things to keep the food down. But it just kept coming back up. I came to realize that it was as if my body was trying to purge the trauma. It was trying to purge the memories. Once I got to a certain point of healing it began to ease up. Now I can go for weeks at a time. (This was dramatically helped with some nutritional supplements as well).
- Not eat – OK, this is one that I admit I am still working on. But we are nearly there. I got in the habit of not eating. After all, why eat if it wasn’t even going to stay down.
- Not sleep – it took hours to get to sleep, and finally when I slept it was for an hour and a half at a time. That was even with medication. I was on some form of sleep medication for nearly twenty years. About four months ago I began a specific nutritional supplement that made it possible for me to go to sleep on my own and I actually slept for six hours straight. I remember vividly the night I fell asleep and awoke eight hours later feeling refreshed. It was a miracle. Now, thankfully, I can go to sleep easily and stay asleep for four hours even when not taking the supplement. I now am able to turn off those thoughts that would keep me awake at night.
So, readers, I ask you:
Have you found yourself in situations where the way you reacted surprised yourself? If so, in what way?
What coping strategies have you found you rely on?
Additional Resources on Trauma and It’s Reactions See:
- Common Reactions to Trauma (pdf)
- Trauma and It’s Affects
- Understanding Stress – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects
Originally Posted: Feb. 8, 2008. At one point this article was housed at WealthWisdomandSuccess.com and transferred to LeisaWatkins.com to consolidate my content. WealthWisdomAndSuccess.com is now a property we no longer own.