Thursday, January 21, 2010
Planning for Safe Passage Through the Storm (Prepare to be Pantsed)
“You did then what you knew how to do, And when you knew better, You did better.” -Maya Angelou
"Finding Angela Shelton" - Day Twenty-six...
Day 26: Make a Safety Plan.
More planning? FABULOUS! I love all this planning. It makes me feel so... PREPARED! Remember when I prepared for my swordectomy? Well, now it's time to prepare for the things I don't see coming.
When I was in crisis care at our local mental health facility back in March of 2009, the therapist who catapulted me into this new stage of healing did so with a few simple conversations. One of the most profound lessons I learned while I was working through traumas with him is this: If YOU feel that something in your life is traumatic, you don't need validation from someone else. You don't need me to look at you and say, "I am in complete agreement with you that you should be devastated by the death of your goldfish! Let me cry with you!" or "It's totally fine that you spent three days locked in your house because you walked out of the bathroom at Wal-Mart with your skirt tucked in your pantyhose and your high school sweetheart saw your hindquarters! I feel your pain!" All you need to know is that something happened to you and it has affected you so deeply that it feels like trauma to YOU. Forget the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with your trauma. It's YOUR trauma, not theirs. Sure, it feels good when someone else gets what you're going through... but unfortunately that doesn't always happen. And that's okay!
What led my therapist to share this important nugget of truth with me? He had suggested making a list of all of the traumas I had ever experienced. Everything traumatic that I could remember was to be listed on a page in my journal. I remember carrying my completed list to him and saying, "This particular item may not seem like much to someone else, but it's a huge deal to me. Do I keep it on the list? Is it really trauma?" His response to me was, "I don't know. Is it?" PRICELESS! LIGHT BULB MOMENT! I don't need anyone else to understand that being pantsed in front of my entire eighth grade homeroom class sent me into a deep depression that lasted almost a year. I just need to know that it affected me tremendously... and I really needed to deal with it. Yes. That really happened. Yes, it sucked. Yes, it really did mess me up for a while. Yes, I dealt with it. Yes, I still secretly hope the kid who did it to me has since experienced something equally as humiliating, leaving him red-faced and mortified as he was ridiculed by his peers. I know that's not very nice of me, but it's true. Hehe.
We don't normally see a good "pants-ing" coming at us. It's usually a crazy prank carried out by some goofball who's lurking behind us just waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Life's like that sometimes. Sometimes we can't see what's coming at us, and we never know how a particular situation is going to affect us. Something little could turn into something big. Something big could turn into something huge. Trauma could be waiting just around the corner.
Just as we prepare escape routes for fires, and emergency kits for electrical outages, we need to prepare safety plans so that if and when we are faced with trauma, it doesn't destroy our livelihoods or throw us too far off track. As survivors of terrible things who have - more often than not - dealt with adversity in some pretty devastating ways, we need to be sure that we are equipped to handle things in a way that protects us from ourselves. For example, the death of my father, whom I had a wonderful relationship with, is something I was not prepared for in the least. I only wish I would have had a plan in place. I couldn't have planned for losing him so suddenly, but I could have had a plan in place to deal with his death in much healthier ways.
My safety plan includes a list of things I should and should not do in case of an emergency. My plan includes looking out for signs that I'm overwhelmed or reverting to old coping techniques. It includes a list of negative things I have said to myself after past traumas, and reminders that those things are not true. It includes a list of my affirmations, and the names and numbers of my friends, my doctors, and my therapists. Here's hoping I never have to use it! I feel so good about facing my future knowing that I have this plan in place.
The above quote from Maya Angelou speaks volumes to me. I am a survivor. I did what I knew how to do at the time. I did negative and destructive things to cope with my traumatic experiences. Now I know better. Now I do better. Now I am prepared. Now I have a plan. Now I will follow through with the commitment I have made to myself to heal and lead a joyful life. The time is now. I refuse to live in the past. And I especially refuse to live in the memory of the day my eighth grade class got a peek at my "granny panties"! I've had quite enough of reliving that moment, thank you very much. I'm moving on to much bigger and better things now.
Until tomorrow, friends... happy healing!