When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic

Chronic Anxiety & PTSD
Understanding Fear & Anxiety – Part 2

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health Series

When what happened leaves marks

broken-legIf you broke your leg, you’d go get it set, right?

Whether it was a little break or something catastrophic that required an operation and pins, you would feel “entitled” to go for professional help and would have no doubt that you needed it, right?

While you were in a cast, you’d probably have the good sense not to try to walk on that broken leg. Most of the people around you would be able to understand without explanation that you needed crutches to get around.  Right? It would go without saying that you had to take it easy while you healed.

EVEN if you broke your leg doing something stupid that was entirely your own fault, you would probably feel very little shame about having a broken leg – a little embarrassed, perhaps, but you’d still allow yourself to get what you needed to heal.

YET, when the problem is mental, we tend to try to soldier on alone. 

  • Maybe we think things are not “bad enough” that we are entitled to professional help.
  • Maybe the stigma still associated with the term “mental illness” stops us cold.
  • We probably find ourselves struggling with the concern that others might believe we are weak or over-reacting if we can’t seem to pull things back together alone.
  • Perhaps we have collapsed psychological difficulties with “crazy,” and we certainly don’t want to believe we are crazy!

The only thing that is CRAZY is denying ourselves the help it would take to manage whatever it is that we are struggling with so that we can get back to being our own best selves – and most of us are a little bit crazy in that way.  I know I am, in any case.

In one masterful stroke of unconscious black and white thinking, we label ourselves powerless when we are unable to continue on without help, struggling against impossible situations sometimes, as things continue to worsen — if we’re lucky.

  • Because when things continue to get worse, it will eventually become obvious that we are clearly not okay.
  • We’ll eventually reach a place where it will be impossible to deny ourselves the help we need to heal.
  • If we’re not lucky, we are able to continue living life at half mast: limp-along lives that could be SO much healthier and happier.
  • If we’re not lucky, our mental reserves will be worn out by limping along, and we are likely to reach a place where it seems as if our dominant emotion is anger, or we will slide into chronic, low-level depression – or worse.

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Calling for Backup!

I am probably the worst when it comes to calling for backup.  The oldest of five children close in age, I was thrust into the caretaker role from the time I was quite small. My life has been about helping others, not seeking help for myself!  I’m told I’m not easy to help.

But I guess I was lucky.

A gang mugging at gunpoint between Christmas and New Years resulted in a badly broken hand that stole from me even the autonomy of being able to zip up my own pants or put on a pair of shoes, combined with the snowy streets and icy steps and walkways that kept me prisoner in my apartment.

I was afraid to chance further damage to my hand, should I slip and fall – or I would have to start the healing process all over again, stuck even longer in the impossible situation I was already attempting to manage with little success.

WHY I’m sharing what I’m sharing in this article

This article will be disclosing a few items that might allow you to understand the extent of my personal post-mugging struggles before sharing what I’ve learned about what’s going on — for a number of reasons:

  • I want all of you reading to realize that I am not offering information or specious advice put forward without personally relating to some of the parameters of the problem and how easy it is for anyone – EVEN a helping professional – to slip into denial.
  • I want you to understand that *I* understand how tough it is to admit you have a problem you can’t handle without help.
  • I’m hoping that reading about how bad it had to get in my own life might encourage someone else to reach out for help themselves.

SOME of the Parameters of MY problem

For almost two solid months post-mugging, I was practically in “solitary confinement,” stuck with a temporary replacement phone that rarely worked reliably, unable to type or journal my thoughts to help me center or attempt to make sense of my experience and my extreme reactions to it.

Once the cast was FINALLY on a badly broken dominant hand and I returned home, there was no one I knew locally willing or able to take the time to help me replace my stolen medication, shop for food, bring me coffee for alertness (or wine, to take the edge off what quickly became chronic fear and anxiety), take my garbage down the icy steps and into the trashcan for pickup, or any of the many things I could not do for myself.

A stranger I’d met only by phone was kind enough to volunteer to pick me up and drive me to the hand clinic so I could get the next stage of Xrays and my removable cast.

  • The hand clinic is only available once a month.
  • I stayed awake for well-over 24 hours before that appointment — afraid that I would miss it if I dared to go to sleep, since I’ve never been able to count on waking to sound.

Even though my new cast meant I could finally take my first bath and wash my hair since the mugging over a month earlier, it was not the soothing experience I’d hoped for.  I was fearful of slipping the entire time.  I thought that fear would pass, but it didn’t.  Imagine – fear of bathing!

It did me in!

  • I lost all emotional resilience as I spent week after week almost entirely alone and helpless, thinking I could wait it out, somehow — eating peanut butter out of a jar when the ‘fridge was bare and I didn’t think I could handle what I had to do to open a can with one hand. Tears of frustration were not my friend.
  • I lost track of what day it was as I slipped into escape sleeping – and I lost 15 pounds.
  • My short-term memory, never great to begin with, seemed to disappear entirely.  Unable to make notes to help me stay tracked, I lived in fear that I would neglect to pay a bill or wouldn’t be able to jump through the hoops that enabled me to do so — and that I would end up a prisoner in the dark and cold without internet or phone access – or that my landlord would evict me.
  • My long-term memory nagged at me constantly, reruns of every single less-than-optimal decision in my entire life that might have contributed to my current situation – which left me reeling, ricocheting from regret to rage, as I worried that any success in life was forever behind me.
  • I couldn’t stand silence, and not just because I jumped at every noise outside the door or in the lobby. The negative thoughts spinning in my head would take over unless I kept the distraction of Hulu reruns playing in the background at all times — until it came time for the auto-debit to come out of my listed bank account to pay the monthly fee. It took two fear-filled days to hook HuluPlus to the replacement bank account I was forced to open so I could pay them $7.95 to get it turned back on.

It REALLY did me in!

  • I was unable to fall asleep when it was dark out, or stay awake in the daylight, which isolated me further.
  • After a college friend I felt safe confiding in said she would have to call me back and didn’t, I became afraid to admit how bad things were getting to the few people who connected with me after that — until, that is, it became impossible to have a conversation that didn’t lead to tears I couldn’t always conceal.
  • By then I was a mess, and couldn’t figure a way out of the maze.  I was afraid of making any decision at all, lest I somehow make things worse.  I knew I probably couldn’t survive WORSE.

Finally, a loving, spiritually-based friend 10 car-trip hours away called and said that, unless I absolutely forbade it, she and her husband were coming to take me back with them to take care of me and help me heal emotionally, returning me in time for my next appointment with the hand clinic.

That’s what it took to get me to admit I had a big problem I couldn’t handle alone!

I was – and still am, a bit – ashamed I didn’t have the “guts” to turn down the help I CLEARLY needed, but that’s when I began researching fear, anxiety, and PTSD in earnest.

  • When I began my research I felt like I didn’t deserve to even consider a PTSD diagnosis because I had never been anywhere near a war zone.
  • I was exploring the PTSD information because I hoped it would help me deal with what had become chronic anxiety, new in my experience of myself and my functioning.  I wanted to understand all of the mechanics of my new experience of chronic fear, and to share it with my readers, hoping it would help me keep my mind off everything else.
  • The more I read, the more I knew that I probably needed more help than I realized.  Duh! 

Maybe you do too – or someone you love (or one of your clients).

So what IS PTSD, exactly?

PTSD_Symptoms_Wikiversity_Motivation-emotion NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.

I got the words above from the NAMI website, where I started my research.

I have to admit that the idea of embracing any flavor of “mental illness” was daunting, even for me — ESPECIALLY for me. After all, ADD and sleep disorders are neurological disorders, not psychological problems, right?

The only thing that got me through the life-long obstacle course of living with ADD and N-24 sometimes was holding on to the fact that my struggles were physically brain-based.  I had no idea how attached my sense of self had become to that concept!

  • Fortunately, my still-strong observing ego convinced me to stop doing what I always tell my clients not to do: avoiding help because I didn’t feel like things were diagnostic – “bad enough” to deserve a diagnosis that could lead to the help I needed to deal with the problem.
  • Ouch!  It hurt my ego to realize that I had been doing exactly that.  I KNOW better.  But still, it stopped me.

Maybe it’s stopping you too? 

  • Maybe taking the time to read what I have learned about fear, anxiety and PTSD will help you decide to reach out for professional help too.
  • Maybe it will give some of you the words to share with someone you love that might help them make the decision to allow themselves to accept the idea that they need help.
  • Maybe one of the coaches or therapists following ADDandSoMuchMore.com will need this information for a current client with one of the Attentional struggles who seems to be struggling with more than “simply” Executive Functioning issues  – or to help a client to come.

Trauma Changes in the Brain

Our brains are designed to respond neurochemically to threats to safety. Unfortunately, in the face of an overwhelming feeling of fear, this lifesaving-in-the-moment set of adaptive responses can leave behind ongoing, long-term psychological residuals, along with attendant physical symptoms. Recent scientific understanding shows that experiencing traumatic events can change the way our brains function.

Hormonal mechanisms that originate with CRH in our amygdala (corticotrophin releasing hormone) can either relieve our stress or heighten our anxiety, depending on our emotional history.

Repeated experience of traumatic events, especially when left to fester unprocessed, can prevent healing (meaning, allowing the past to remain in the past, feeling confident that you have the strength to handle whatever life throws your way in the future).

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD — but up to 20 percent of us may. Studies indicate that about twenty percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans experience PTSD, half of which may never seek treatment.

  • But PTSD is not confined to those who experience the traumas of combat.
    It can occur in anyone who has experienced a traumatic event of any sort.
  • Science is still looking for answers to the puzzle, but right now it looks like the difference between who recovers from trauma and who is more likely to develop PTSD may turn out to have a genetic component.

What science does know now is that PTSD is a result of both the event that threatens injury to self or others, and the emotional, hormonal response to those events that involve persistent fear or helplessness.

Those at greater risk of developing PTSD include people:

  • who have experienced one set-back after another throughout their lives,
  • who have been abused as children,
  • who are victims of trauma related to physical and sexual assault, as well as
  • who have been repeatedly exposed to life-threatening situations.

Traumatic Events signal danger!

During the traumatic event, you consciously or unconsciously believe that your own life or the life of someone else is in danger. You feel you are helpless to impact the outcome. You may feel fear in the moment, or you may be in a state of high-alertness that prevents you from being aware of fear, but you certainly are aware, on some level, that you have little to no control over what is happening.

You are reacting in a manner designed to keep you alive.  And that reaction, consciously or unconsciously, threatens your feelings of safety in your world.

Anyone who has gone through (or witnessed) a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events might include:

  • Combat
  • Terrorist attacks (like 9/11)
  • Violent crimes (rape, child abuse, a physical attack or mugging)
  • Serious accidents (a car or plane wreck)
  • Natural disasters (fire, hurricane, tornado, flood, or earthquake)
  • Anything resulting in a traumatic brain injury (TBI), leaving you struggling with the ongoing trauma of trying to live a life without the cognitive or physical capabilities you thought you would always be able to count on.

When you have PTSD, you can get stuck in the “ready to act” survival mode. If you are stuck in this mode:

  • You may always be on alert, and you may be easily triggered to anger.
  • You may believe, consciously or unconsciously, that the power of anger is the best way to make problems go away, having little patience for working things out by talking them over.
  • You may even look for situations where you have to be alert or where you could be hurt as a way of regaining a feeling of power and control over your own life, or
  • You may go the other way, feeling threatened and fearful about things that may not be dangerous.
  • If you’re a citizen of Alphabet City, already dealing with one of the Executive Functioning Disorders, you may find it difficult to impossible to drive your own brain since the traumatic incident.  It becomes an additional traumatizing experience to fear that you are rapidly losing the ability to plan, prioritize, stay-tracked to completion, or think clearly. (With PTSD, that can happen for the first time in your life, too)

Trauma doesn’t HAVE to include injury

Any event that threatens life itself can kick you over the PTSD edge, even if repeated traumas experienced earlier were fairly well handled, and even if your life-threatening event turned out to be subsequently averted or without an actual risk to your life.

Bonnie_ClydeIn a situation where two gunmen were apprehended as they entered the bank by the front door, for example — while you were already in the process of pushing your toddler’s stroller out the rear exit — the feeling of being “shot at and missed” still carries traumatic potential, especially when you feel responsible for the safety and security of another.

You may handle it well, subsequently

If you live a fairly trauma-free life otherwise — and have someone who is willing and able to listen as you process your fears about how close you came — you will probably be able to accept the reality that armed robberies are rare and believe that the bank has probably increased security.  As a result, you will probably be able to feel confident that it would be safe to return to your bank, even with your toddler.

Or you may NOT!

If the experience comes on the heels of a recent car accident, a grease fire in your kitchen, and a purse-snatching at the grocery store, even if you have lived a fairly trauma-free life otherwise, you may not be able to process your reaction to what happened in the bank well enough to integrate the experience and move on.

You may remain stuck in a “fight or flight” response that seems to defy logic.

  • Traumatic experiences are not integrated at the time they happen because the body is focused on immediate physical safety.
  • When faced with fear, less critical body functions (like the parts of the brain where emotion, most types of memory, and critical thinking are processed) get “turned off” to be able to prioritize resources, sending them where they are needed for immediate physical safety.
  • The “fight or flight” response increases your heart rate, diverts blood from brain to muscles, and pumps stress hormones to help fight off infection and bleeding in case of a wound.
  • A poorly integrated traumatic experience can be unpredictable and unexpected. The unprocessed memories of a traumatic event can occur without warning, disrupting the normal flow of emotional response to the events happening currently.

As long as thoughts, memories and feelings associated with the trauma remain disconnected from the actual event, it is difficult for people living with PTSD to access their inner experiences of what’s happening NOW – and the longer the trauma remains unprocessed, the more likely PTSD effects are to continue to occur without warning.

Unprocessed trauma can erode our sense of safety. It can keep us stuck in an amygdala-defensive pattern that may induce a variety of symptoms over which we feel no control, like:

  • anxiety or depression
  • sleeplessness, over-sleeping or nightmares
  • a loss of interest in things we used to care about (or an inability to concentrate on them)
  • an increased possibility of substance abuse
  • chronic irritability or anger
  • a hair-trigger startle response, and
  • sometimes but not in all cases, flashbacks.

Flashbacks not Required

Despite the fact that TV dramas can make them seem to be part and parcel of a PTSD diagnosis, not everyone with PTSD experiences what are now called flashbacks – which,  in response to a trigger stimulus, can make a person feel like the event is happening again and again in real time.

  • There is no hard and fast rule about flashbacks, but they tend to accompany more severe traumatic experiences, or repeated exposure to traumas of a similar type – like sexual or physical abuse or the horrors of war faced by soldiers.
  • The triggers may be obvious (like a car backfiring or other sudden noise recalling the sound of gunshots — or a stranger unavoidably pressing up against you on a crowded bus), or they may be consciously unrelated, so can seem to come out of nowhere. Professional help can help you identify your triggers and recover your feeling of safety and security, which will reduce or eliminate an automatic reaction to triggers over time.
  • Some people with PTSD can develop panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of fear or worry that something bad is about to happen, even when their safety is not obviously at risk.  Panic attacks can sometimes force sufferers to recall the details of the original trauma, without actually feeling like they are reliving them in the moment.  They still increase the experience of fear.

Life itself can turn upside down

PTSD symptoms can change more than your feelings and your immediate reactions — it can alter how you live your life.

Symptoms of many types may completely disrupt your days, making it difficult to continue with any or all of what used to be the ordinary activities of daily life.

  • You may reduce or abandon attempts at self-care and basic grooming tasks.
  • You may develop a fear of wandering outside your home turf, or your neighborhood or town – or you may feel more than a little uneasy visiting anyplace you’ve never been before, even a different grocery store in a safe, well-lit area.
  • You may consciously pull away from others and overtly avoid social situations, or you may, unconsciously, escape into work.
  • You may also feel like you’ve lost the ability – or the willingness – to do the work you’ve always done.
  • You may find yourself reluctant to be in relationships at all, or
  • You may create problems with your partner and your family because you find it difficult to be with them the way you now experience life with PTSD.

You may feel that your life is forever altered and that you will never again be the person you used to be – or you may believe you have made peace with whatever you are experiencing as simply the consequence of the choices you have made, or of growing older.

But it doesn’t have to be that way —
unless you refuse to allow yourself to reach out for help.

What you can do to help you heal

Understanding is the first step – but understanding alone changes very little.

Understanding allowed ME to become determined to work through what’s going on in my own life in response to my experiences during and after my mugging — following a period of several years of doing my best to cope with incident after incident that tethered me to fight-or-flight strategies, relatively helpless to impact those situations positively.

  • It makes sense that “the straw that broke the camel’s back” had to come eventually, and it helps me feel a bit better that it now makes sense.
  • Determination and understanding hasn’t changed much for me, however. I am still afraid – but I am MORE afraid that I will allow my fear to stop me – that I will accept less than what I deserve or could have in my life as I age.

What’s helped most so far was shining the light of honesty on my current struggles and admitting it “aloud” and in public  – which has felt mortifying and scary.  It still does, actually. Who likes feeling like you are admitting you are “broken” – even when your intellect tells you that cannot really be the case?  Who finds it easy to push past fear?

Still, it has been somewhat calming to begin the process of admitting I am not – currently – okay.  It feels like a bit of a plan simply to enumerate what I know, and how I intend to proceed.  Having a bit of a plan makes me feel a bit more in control and a little less fearful for my future.

Maybe it will help you feel a bit more in control to read the following points –
maybe you will relate personally to some of the following eight items.

  1. I realize that getting my life back will be a process, and that it will probably take more time to return to mySelf than I’d like.
  2. I have promised myself that I will try EVERYTHING that has been known to help – including medication, if that’s indicated – until I recognize myself again.
  3. I have sworn that I will keep on keeping on until I can consider myself high-functioning once more, no matter how embarrassed I feel about admitting to anyone else the terrifying extent of what I am unable to handle at this time
  4. I will be especially vigilant when my former functioning begins to come back “online,” when I’m sure I will probably be tempted to allow myself to believe that it is no longer necessary to take it easy or continue to ask for and accept help, simply because SOME things are finally back in place.
  5. I will do my dead level best not to push myself faster than I can really go, or to allow colleagues, friends, or anyone else to “attaboy” me into faking a higher level of functioning than I have on board at any particular point in my healing process so that they are no longer concerned about me (or worried that I might never reach the point where I will stop needing and asking for help).
  6. I will notice and enumerate my strengths, even as I continue to be honest about my “weaknesses.” I will endeavor to notice and name black and white thinking whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.
  7. I know that, at this point, I may well have a long way to go before I can handle everything necessary once again.  A lot of systems will take a lot of difficult steps to put back in place, given how much was stolen and the sorry state of my current functioning.
  8. But I ALSO know that I will be able to handle more and more with every step I take – and that I will disclose the details of my experience to help others.

That’s what I DO – what I have always done.  It’s a large part of who I AM – and I don’t intend to give that up, regardless of my fears that “airing my own dirty laundry” might be a lousy idea for someone who makes her living helping others to cope.

Moving on to moving ON

When I return from my time with my friends and regain access to the cognition that will allow me to replace a few more items that were stolen during my own traumatic event, I’ll let you know what I am doing to continue to heal and how its going.

Rather than offer suggestions for YOU to try before I’ve tried them myself, I want to encourage you to check out what’s already available on the web.  Start with some of the Related Sites below this article, and follow links that peak your interest on those sites.

Please reach out for help if you are struggling — and please take the time to let us ALL know what you find helpful in the comments below this article, or any of those to come in this Series.

As with most health-related issues, both physical and mental, the earlier you catch it, the more rapidly you can recover from it – IF you allow yourself to accept a bit of help and continue to reach out for it, even when you run into a few brick walls (people who say no – or DO no – when you ask for their help, or people who refuse to listen long enough to really understand before they chime in with their tough-love advice, or people who are empathy-deficient).

Everything I have read indicates that – with help that truly understands how to work with PTSD – it is possible to recover from even the most entrenched PTSD in a little over a year or two – even though exposure to any of the new traumas that come with life here on earth might well mandate a “refresher” course.

If you are (or love) a veteran of combat, make sure you investigate what the Armed Services have put into place to help — and check out the links below, and on the right sidebar (scroll DOWN to the TBI links for the Bob Woodruff Foundation – also check out The Coming Home Project.)

You can get your life back – “all” you have to do is swallow your pride, reach out for help, and take the steps.  That’s what I plan to do.

If you are struggling too, I encourage you to use the comments section as a sort of support structure.  When I return, I will respond to each comment – but unless you are already someone who comments on ADDandSoMuchMore.com, you won’t be able to see your comment until I get back home to approve it (sorry, blame the darned spammers!).

Comment ANYWAY. Together, we can move ahead with power and recover our lives,
our personalities, and our Selves.

It’s not what’s WRONG with us
– it’s what happened to us –

And we can get beyond it.

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!). 

I’m thinking I’ll be ready to get back to work with a limited number of clients by the end of March or the beginning of April – and I’ll tell you honestly whether I can or cannot offer what you need.  (Former clients who have been waiting patiently since the mugging will get first dibs on my [reduced number of] appointment slots, so be SURE to let me know if you’re still interested in working with me)


You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
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Other supports for this article – on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

36 Responses to When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic

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  23. Pingback: A Brand New Year – gulp | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  24. Madelyn, This is a great plan and I hope you stick with it. It’s time you take care of ‘YOU”! Every person has their own perceptions and how they handle them, but you are not one to “coddle” yourself and you need to at least once in your lifetime so you can heal. You’ve never had trouble pushing past far outside your “comfort zone”. How I perceive your situation, I believe you don’t know what a “comfort zone” is, so when you find that let us all know?

    The majority of clients/patients do push far outside their comfort zones and don’t ever ask for help. Many of us were raised to problem solve everything on our own. So maybe a “comfort zone” isn’t necessarily the proper terminology. Regardless, this is a time for healing and rehabilitation. A time for you to take care of yourself, and I like your plan. The same plan I will share with my readers when I get up and running once again! (only technology problems:-)

    In meanwhile, know that you can do everything to help yourself … but some things heal quicker then others, and the same holds true with overall healing of an individual. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to be another form of “one-size fits all”, 3 months and one should be healed type of mentality until it happens to them. As long as we recover we don’t think it should take so long … until it happens “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”. That changed my outlook quickly and I know I’m not alone.

    Push for the proper rehabilitation, practice all the exercises as many times a day as the occupational therapist tells you to … and as long as you’ve done everything possible you can’t do much more then that. The winter with ice and snow has made it nearly impossible for many to trudge out safely unless you have great balance. If it were so safe outdoors, why would the airports be closed and the constant warnings be televised? Emotional healing takes time, and no one knows how or when that will happen. Taking the time to take care of yourself is what’s important right now. Sharing your situation is helpful for others as they know we are “real people” and something we learn never to give any personal information (and we never did before in practice).

    Thank you for writing such a great post. You are typing well with two fingers and we all appreciate all you’re doing to help others. Take care and stay safe, Edie


    • You know, Edie, those of us who probably WOULD do well to “coddle” ourselves a bit never seem to know what that might look like. (ahem – you too!) We seem to have a throttle set on “push” — easing back often feels like going backwards. And so we push until the “machinery” breaks down? Gosh, I HOPE not!

      All week, nursing probably the most dramatic cold I’ve had in a decade or more, I keep going back to bed feeling GUILTY for not taking care of business — not really knowing the boundary between a “should” and a good plan in this particular situation.

      Fortunately, my body shuts me down in sleep, so I only have to think about it when my bladder awakens me – on the way to the kitchen to down another glass of water & more vitamins, etc. But, even though I have been sleeping 12-16 hours a day, during the times I am awake I agonize over what I “should” be doing. (I know – ya’ teach what you need to learn, right?)

      I seem to have stripped all my gears but stop and go-very-fast. I think I need a LIFE mechanic! ::sardonic grin::

      SO sorry to hear you are having tech problems on your blog – hateful, huh? All the more incredible that you have spent so much time encouraging ME — thank you SO much. You have NO idea what a difference it makes.


  25. wendy says:

    I am so glad you admitted that you needed more help than you wanted to admit. It is so hard when people you know locally are either not able to, or don’t want to, help. (especially after you have been in need for a long time….that about me, more than you.)

    I AM afraid to BATHE! or take a shower. It’s so difficult. I have balance problems and vertigo, I’ve had vertigo attacks in both the bath and shower, it’s horrible, and something I do not want repeated. I’ve fallen in both. And to top it off, I’m getting over a broken foot (I did fall in the bathroom, but not in the bath or shower), so I’m terrified I will slip and re-brake it.

    I have recurring PTSD. I’m working very hard on not being so afraid to leave the “safety” of my home. Since I have vertigo that comes on with no warning, I’m constantly in that hyper-alert phase. My doctor calls it a disease of Random Punishment. Just like people in war, they know they may be under fire at any moment, they just don’t know when. We are punished randomly for no reason. My doctor also says that Meniere’s (the disease I have that affects my ears (causes the vertigo and made me deaf…I do have cochlear implants, but it’s a whole different way of hearing)…anyway he says it’s one of the worse diseases he knows of that won’t kill you, but you will sometimes wish it did. (I now have disequilibrium and some vertigo every day, and there is nothing they can to do help with it)
    I also have pretty severe asthma, that has been out of control for over a year, so that has contributed to me not wanting to leave the house. I have just recently felt it has been getting better.

    It saddens me that people have such a hard time admitting that they need help with their mental health. I don’t understand this personally. I am also Bipolar I, and when I was finally offered the opportunity to have mental health help, I was so relieved. I couldn’t live like that any more. I admit that I didn’t know there was anything wrong….how could I not huh? I had always been told I was moody, hormonal…ect. Having help with this has literally saved my life.

    When my illness took most of my independence away, again I said, I need help dealing with this….(I knew I was hurting my husband because of my fear and helplessness) My therapist gave me a safe place to talk about things without feeling guilty or judged. After just a couple of sessions I asked my husband to join us, this has helped our marriage just grow stronger and stronger.

    Even before we got married we both decided we had issues to work on separately before we were joined for life. It was a wonderful thing to get rid of that old baggage and start our lives anew. (now after almost 10 years of marriage, we still feel like we are newlyweds, even with my illnesses….and my husband has ADD).

    I’m writing you a book, I’m sorry. And it got to be all about me! I hadn’t planned that!

    I have thought of you so often after reading about your attack, and have wondered how you were doing. I had no idea you were alone for so long, that just breaks my heart. All of it breaks my heart, but feeling alone (and from what I read, a bit abandoned) had to add to the emotional devastation more than you could ever have thought. (I have felt abandoned by all my old friends, it has been so hard, but I’m building a new life….and trying to overcome a lot of obstacles)

    It is tragic that those who need to see a mental health professional, but they can’t afford it, they don’t have transportation to it, ect…are out of luck at getting proper mental health care. Also, I think it is appalling that a person who is in crisis mode (especially those who are not insured or under insured)…not suicidal or planning on harming someone else, but in crisis mode non the less, cannot get an appointment (when they finally do find a provider) because of wait times. They are then stuck with the only provider they could get an appointment with, even if their personalities do not mesh. Something has to be able to be done. (can you tell I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately?)

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    I hate that you had to go through all of this. I am happy you learned that we all need help from time to time, and not just physically.

    Be safe my dear,

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Wendy
      There is so much here that deserves focus that I simply cannot summon right now – still fighting a nasty head cold. I did want to let you know that I have read your comment and appreciate the time you spent to leave it — AND that I admire you so much for keeping on despite ALL you must deal with – still taking the time to reach out to me with compassion.

      I could tell by your “bathing” comments that you really relate to a lot of what I am sharing – thanks for that especially. It’s an odd one, isn’t it?

      I am so sorry you have to deal with chronic and “random” vertigo. It must seem as if the moment you lower your guard, life turns upside down. The chronic stress must be debilitating. I hope you are meditating or praying or doing yoga or SOMETHING to lower the stress, even though there is nothing that can be done about its cause.

      I also agree with your comments about the mental health care system – seriously broken – that’s for SURE – despite NAMI’s valiant efforts for many years now. MOST people do not realize that there, but for the Grace of God, go they!! Perhaps, if they did, they would see the problem in a whole new way and things would begin – FINALLY – to change for the better (and continue on that trajectory until everyone is able to get the help they need to thrive, not merely survive.)

      Thanks again for ringing in.


  26. Ellen Rickard says:

    Oh my gosh, thank you SO much for sharing the 8 points! I literally had tears streaming down my face by the end. All I could think was, “Take me with you!” I can’t tell you how perfectly you stated what needs to happen to get better. I know this because failing to do these very things has brought me to my knees and kept me from recovering from my TBI and post-concussion syndrome for over two years.
    I am so sorry that you were a crime victim, hurt your hand and all the rest of the life upheaval. It’s unbelievable how life can change in an instant. I’ve read your blog for a long time without commenting, but had to thank you for this post. I’m pulling for you as you recover. I’m also going to try to follow right behind you!
    Thanks again – Ellen

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Ellen — God bless you for this comment!!

      I knew I wasn’t the ONLY person permanently stuck in “strong woman gear,” but it’s nice to have a bit of first-person evidence to point to (even though it’s NOT nice to read that you struggled for over 2 years, with things ever worsening — I’m so sorry).

      Why are we so eager to take the tough road, and to encourage others to do the same — as if, left to our own devices, we’d do nothing at all? Most children are industrious by nature — maybe we beat it out of them with shoulds? <==link

      In any case, we both understand only too well how completely life-as-usual can change in a heartbeat. I’ll be praying for you as YOU heal from your traumas – one kind step at a time.

      My progress so far:

      Since the apartment hadn’t been cleaned since December, once my cast came off I spent some time digging out. I don’t plan to rush that task, but plan to give it a couple of hours every day – taking the opportunity to declutter as I go.

      I also contacted my mechanic, who has been warehousing my van after changing the locks and ignition. He’s charging the battery, and I will have wheels once more after Monday, hoping that driving is like riding a bicycle ::vbg::

      Earlier in the week I walked back from the local drug store at twilight, heart pounding the entire trip to my apartment. Our historic walking neighborhood has gaslights, not street lights — charming, but not a lot of light, especially since the streets are tree-lined — so it was darker than most neighborhoods in the early evening.

      I’m not ashamed to say that simply walking past the spot where I was mugged was unexpectedly frightening at a whole new level! I was looking over my shoulder on high-alert as I scurried from the street to my door. SAFE! (one down)

      I lived on the upper Upper West Side in Manhattan for 20 years, for heaven sakes, and came and went at all hours of the night without giving it a thought. I want that back!

      Last NIGHT I walked down the dimly lit street here in Cincinnati for the first time since the mugging in December. There was more than a little fear, but I didn’t want to hold myself a prisoner in my apartment the minute the sun went down, and I knew it would only get harder if I waited.

      I couldn’t do it when there was ice and snow, of course, and there were no triggers in Little Rock, so walking in Wayne & Jeanie’s neighborhood held no fear for me. Not so back here where it happened. So this first “night walk” was a biggie.

      I took myself to the Friday wine tasting held weekly at the local wine store in the small commercial section here in Clifton Gaslight, and had a lovely time. I realized in Little Rock that the isolation, unable to do even the simplest thing for myself, was almost more traumatizing than the robbery – I felt old and fragile, worried that life as I knew it was forever over. It was really normalizing to socialize with a mix of ages, back in my ‘nabe again (and GREAT to be able to get out of this apartment under my own steam!)

      I joined in when a few of the neighbors wanted to continue the party at a pub down the street. I must have looked like I r-e-a-l-l-y needed a drink because the brandy I ordered filled the snifter well past the halfway point (which was probably the equivalent of 3 drinks). Even though I drank coffee with it, as is my usual, I was pretty tipsy by the time I left.

      The alcohol dulled fear’s edge on the way home — and a lovely young couple accompanied me so I wouldn’t be arrested for public drunkenness (LOL). Only once I was safely inside did I realize that I DID IT! (two down)

      And NOW I’m off to attempt to relax in the bathtub once more, and then off to bed with a book I’ve been wanting to read, recommended by Dr. Charles Parker (Devil in the Milk – Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk.)

      I may be trading one fear for another, perhaps, but I am taking steps to teach myself to push through fear until I can conquer what I’m REALLY afraid of — jumping through all the hoops to get my iPhone working for me, everything from my wallet and tote replaced, straightening out 3 months of financial records and deciding how to handle the overwhelm of a backlog of email from the period where I could only hunt and peck with my non-dominant hand!!!

      One step at a time . . .

      Let me know how things are going for you, and thanks again for ringing in.



  27. ButterflyGin says:

    5.I will do my dead level best not to push myself faster than I can really go, or to allow colleagues, friends, or anyone else to “attaboy” me into faking a higher level of functioning than I have on board at any particular point in my healing process so that they are no longer concerned about me (or worried that I might never reach the point where I will stop needing and asking for help).

    Consider this. The only way we move ahead in anything is to advance ourselves beyond our comfort zone. All advances outside of comfort zones require a certain amount of “faking” it. If we don’t have to fake it, we’re not out of our comfort zone, are we?

    Sometimes, it’s the unspoken feeling we get from friends that they are feeling imposed up is often the trigger for us to step outside our zones. The more we are coddled, the less we will try to do independently, and our healing process is stunted.

    Once we are out of our comfort zone, we don’t know what will happen. In some areas we’ll think “that was easier than I thought it would be” and our comfort zone will widen naturally. In other areas, we don’t do as well and from those experiences we must start a little further back.

    Clearly, there is a balance between pushing too hard and not enough. Rule number 5 strikes me more as coddling to remain where you are rather than supporting yourself to move a bit further.


    • @ButterflyGin

      Thanks for taking the time to read carefully and completely, as well as for clarifying the balance necessary to recover from almost anything emotionally-related. Of course you are correct that “coddling” will result in little to no emotional growth — in essence, allowing an individual to remain stuck longer than necessary (and sometimes “forever”).

      The real sticking point is the reality that perceptions are individual, based on our very own experiences in life. What could easily appear to be “coddling” to one with a healthy nervous system may well be more than what one with a nervous system on red-alert can manage at any particular time. Going a bit slower, paradoxically, is often the fastest way to recovery.

      Rule Five serves to remind ME of what I have done my entire life – which really does not serve my own emotional and psychological growth in the long run: I always strive to seem more “together” than I am, so that no one else worries about me.

      That tendency has been pointed out to me by many of the coaches and therapists whose services I have hired throughout my life, and I have argued with them using words similar to the ones in your comment. Left to my own devices, without Rule Five, I (personally) would probably “fake it” and NOT make it — at least not to a healthy place of emotional authenticity.

      I know I have almost always pushed myself beyond mercy – so this is MY reminder to me to take it easier at this time. Again, paradoxically, when others encourage me to slow down, I tend to respond by pushing myself in a more appropriate manner. But that’s me. Others may function as I do, OR may need more external prodding, especially if they have noted that they tend to freeze in fear and stay there.

      AGAIN – thanks so much for taking the time to leave an important addendum to my post.


  28. Pingback: Triggers And How To Cope With Them - Parenting And Mental Health

    • Thanks so much for linking – sorry it took so long to approve – I just got back l-a-t-e yesterday after a 15 hour bus ride to make it to my last appointment with the hand clinic. I crashed the minute I finished unpacking – and have only NOW gotten my computer reconnected so I can begin to attend to comments and approve them as my “burner” phone charges so that I can finally make a few phonecalls. I’ll check out YOUR article once I have caught up with the approvals.


  29. Glen Hogard says:

    Thank you Madelyn, for your courage to “take the coaching” from yourself as you’re noted and also the excellent description of what experiencing these symptoms are like because you are exactly correct. Even though we explain these things to others, and know them, it’s so difficult to see when you are the fish in the water. You are the last one to see it. I’m speaking from a related personal experience and it’s a very scary thing when your short term memory disappears or the basics of living such as sleeping, eating, and basic self-care have lost their significance.

    I will make a point of noticing: following these posts and wishing you well on your chosen 8 steps to consolidate your recovery. Blessings to those who were able to convince you to accept their help. It’s working if your post is any indication. We are supporting you Madelyn, so know we’re here as part of your support structure. You, Kate, and Peggy taught me the importance of practicing extreme self care – which is totally normal for everyone else. You deserve it. g

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Glen Hogard

      Thank YOU, Glen, for the courage to admit you have also been where I am – at least enough to resonate personally. When those of us who help others for a living need help ourselves, we are often the last to allow ourselves to reach out for it – ego-based, perhaps, and perhaps a result of a helping “habit” that leaves us at sea when it’s time to accept help.

      I have often thought -as you so aptly point out – that the word “Extreme” in the Self-Care admonishment may be the only way to get those of us with “helpers disease” to take care of ourselves to the extent that is “normal” for those who are not in the helping fields.

      I so appreciate YOUR support of me. Thanks!



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