Trauma Series 5: Heightened Stress Response

I’ve just been in an argument; a simple argument really.  So why does it feel as though my mind is shutting down and my heart is racing.  Agitated.  I feel out of control.  My eyes are going black and everything is spinning.  I hear the words coming at me.  Maybe they aren’t actually mean but my hormones tell me that I am under attack.  My palms are sweaty and I’m rapid firing the first thoughts that come to my mind.  Incoherent, unintelligible, but word vomitting nonetheless.  

“You are such an asshole”

“Get away from me!”

“I don’t want to be with you.”

“You’re an idiot!” 

Push, push, push…why won’t they leave??  Why do they insist on harassing me; pushing me deeper into this blind rage?  All I feel is hate now.  I can’t find God.  Wait, where did he go?!  Is he still here?!  Have I pushed him away too?!

Bile begins to rise in my throat as I start to panic.  What the hell is going on here?!  Why am I so out of control and why can’t I bring myself back?!  Who IS controlling me here, because this isn’t me…this is some wild animal, injured and raging.  

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  This is me…or it was me.  Sometimes it still is but I might lose myself like this once or twice a year now, compared to every few days.  I’m not pretending to be perfect here; I DO still feel the wild animal inside of me raging at times, burning to break free from high pressure situations…to run away and hide or (if that’s not an option) to rip my opponent apart.  However, these last eight years have been different as I became aware of what was happening to me and began the slow, painful process of learning how to fight well, disagree kindly, and react better.  But some of the situations that I encounter still leave me spiraling out of control, and it’s overwhelmingly painful for me when it happens, because it’s not a place I like to be.

Heightened Stress Response is the next symptom of childhood trauma that we are covering today in this blog.  As a child (age 10 to 18) I was living in an environment that was full of anger and fear and abuse and I learned to survive in that war zone, but what I didn’t learn how to do was leave it behind when I finally entered into a safe zone.  For years I didn’t understand why I struggled so much with fear and anger and aggression, but now, it couldn’t be clearer.

When a person (such as a child in an abusive home or a soldier) is in a prolonged situation (and sometimes not prolonged) of high stress in which their bodies respond with overly high adrenal hormones, you believe (and it is often true) that you must do whatever it takes to survive as your life is physically in danger.  In a prolonged state, this can be extremely damaging as stress is never good for your body and it becomes your natural instinct to react with heightened sensitivity and stress levels during triggering situations, even if what is actually happening to you is harmless.  It’s a normal and extremely beneficial (albeit fascinating) reaction that our bodies have when we feel under attack, upping our adrenaline and cortisol levels, while giving us a strength and speed we didn’t know we were capable of.  But when this becomes the norm for a person, as childhood trauma can leave adults feeling regularly under attack, there are many negative consequences.  Such consequences of regularly high stress levels include:

-memory and concentration impairment

-anxiety

-depression

-weight gain

-heart disease

-digestive problems

-headaches

-sleep disorders

When I was still in high school, I noticed myself having random panic attacks but I had no idea why.  It’s disappointing to look back and see how uninformed I was about my situation and the way that it was impacting me.  While you are a child, a lot of the trauma has yet to set in (although there are some obvious symptoms such as low self esteem, panic disorders, depression, etc) and although I was having panic attacks and trouble being in normal social situations, I was oblivious to the real reason behind my reactions.  I thought that I was crazy and unlikable.  I hated myself and the way I responded to different situations and I blamed myself for being so depressed and full of self hate.  So as an adult, I have spent years learning about my reactions (and relearning healthy reactions) and limits and while at last being able to put a name to it all (childhood trauma).  

Do you suffer from childhood trauma?  Or are you realizing that you might? Do you know someone who struggles?  What are some of the ways your childhood has left you feeling less than human?  What are you doing (or have you done) to heal?  

I am in no way one hundred percent better, but I am writing this blog from a place of being mostly healed from a lot of the hold my past has had on me.  I’m not writing from a place of wanting affirmation (something I’m actually not fond of in the slightest), not for advice, and not for encouragement.  These blogs are to encourage honest, open dialogue while informing and learning more about ourselves as flawed but wonderful human beings. ❤

You can connect with me further by following me at _honestculture_  on instagram or joining my facebook page Honest Culture.  And if you know someone who would like to be a part of this blog please, PLEASE share and invite, because worth of mouth is everything.  Follow and like to stay current with all of my most recent blogs.  Thanks guys! 

Lots of love,

Sarah 

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