Self soothing, I’m still working on it… When your anxiety levels, or fear levels are sky high, what do you do? Do you turn to substances to reduce them? Do you turn to people to reduce them? Or are you able to self soothe, and bring yourself out of the anxious, fearful, even panic stricken thoughts?
What is self soothing, you ask? Well it is the ability to soothe yourself! For me, it is also inner child work. It can be said that it is your “inner child” who is experiencing this terror or panic or anxiety. So you talk compassionately and lovingly to your “inner child” and soothe away the fear and panic, just like you would do to a real and beloved child.
Think about it, if your own son or daughter was having night terrors, as an example, you would comfort them, love them, and soothe them.
So if you are having anxiety, fear, panic, then you can also soothe yourself by talking to yourself lovingly and with compassion and understanding.
Most of the time this technique works for me, sometimes the panic and fear are so extreme that even though my logical brain knows I am experiencing very anxious, panic stricken thoughts that may be due to PTSD or extreme fear of something happening in the future, I know that there is no real evidence that what I fear will come to pass, if the fear and panic are too extreme, self soothing does not work, I then take some extra Seroquel and that mostly works.
If your past includes abuse, abandonment, and trauma, you can develop PTSD from having experienced these. The PTSD can be triggered by various events that you are experiencing in the present. This can elicit emotions you felt in the past as a result of the abuse or abandonment. These emotions can be very extreme in proportion to what’s really happening in the present. I’ll give you an example, my son decided to go to his friend’s house the night before his graduation from Law school. This friend lives across the street from our old house in a suburb of Buffalo. Some pretty bad things had happened when we lived there, so my mind immediately went into panic mode, thinking something awful is going to happen. That my son will get in trouble and won’t make it to his graduation. Also, as a result of losing my brother to bipolar disorder in 1991 (he was 26 years old), I’m pretty certain I have PTSD from that. That also got triggered and I had really awful thoughts about losing my son… that misfortune would take him from me the night before he was to graduate, panic, sheer panic. I called my son, texted him to make sure he was ok, but he didn’t answer. I fought my thoughts by telling myself I was having panic attacks and anxiety attacks and that my PTSD had been triggered. My rational brain was still working, but the irrational part was not listening to it. I spent most of the night embroiled in this panic and fear, until finally I took 25 extra milligrams of Seroquel, and went to sleep. In the morning I felt pretty awful, but I made myself get up, take a shower, get all dressed up for the graduation and went to get my hair done as I had planned. Then came back and called my son, who was fine and getting ready for the graduation. My husband and I went to pick up my son, helped him pick out his tie, and off we went to the Center for the Arts at SUNY Buffalo for the graduation. Everything went perfectly. Funnily enough, I had brought tissues for myself thinking I would be crying, but I totally forgot to cry because my husband, standing next to me was sobbing so much that all I could do was comfort him. My husband, the rock, sobbing! It was just one of the most touching things I’ve ever experienced.
So anyway, the hell I went through the night before was all for nothing. Was it because I have bipolar disorder? Yes, partly, we people with bipolar d/o are extremely sensitive people and things affect us to a huge extent. Was it PTSD? Yes, because of all the things I have experienced in the past and certain things that trigger my PTSD, things or events that make me extremely fearful, switch on my fight or flight response, and the cascade gets activated in spades.
My rational, logical brain tried to tell me my fears were baseless in this instance, but the fear dragged me along this horrible anxious, panicked path.
I wish I didn’t have to experience this “insanity,” I wish, you don’t know how much I wish, I didn’t have to go through this. But I do go through it. I just have to learn how to cope with it better, I just have to recognize it and take steps to minimize it, so my past doesn’t steal the joy and happiness of my present.
My son graduating from Law school is one of the happiest events in my life. I have had a tumultuous, abused, sometimes horrific life, but I am still here. I survived, I’m still standing. And one of the victories of my life is my son the lawyer! No one is more overjoyed than me that my son has a profession now that has given him the ability to make a wonderful life for himself. That is a huge victory.
I was talking to Deb, one of my best friends, about this, and of course being my best friend, she congratulated me upon my strength and perseverance, the strength that has allowed me to survive, standing tall and strong and now my son is all grown up and he has it in his power to live an independent and awesome life! I hope this doesn’t make me sound conceited, but I agree with her. There was a time when I thought I was weak, but that time is gone. When my son was in trouble, I stood by him like a lioness guarding her cub. I am so proud of him, and of course I adore him. And I am so glad I found the strength inside me to make sure that he succeeds and our family survives and flourishes.
I am strong! And this is a victory for my whole family!
May we all find the strength that is in all of us and may we flourish and live in happiness and love.