The Focus On You

*Motivational & Self-Care Blog*

My Letter To Anyone Feeling Lost Or Stuck

This week’s inspiration comes from the major motion picture, “The Shack.” It’s an inspirational movie based off a best-selling book, which centers on the themes of faith, forgiveness and grief.

This post will share two major messages I took from the movie that can be applied to anyone who’s feeling stuck or lost.

You’re Not Stuck Because You Can’t. You’re Stuck Because You Won’t.

In this era of the “can’t even” complainers, it’s easy to use this as an excuse to avoid something. When people say they feel stuck, are their feet actually cemented in the ground? Think about the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.” Do you know someone who defeated the odds due to disabilities or restrictions in their life? Before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I enjoyed running. I thought I wouldn’t be able to run a marathon because of my physical weakness. I watched people competing in a local Ironman event and I saw athletes with physical disabilities competing. They may have had prosthetic limbs but they still competed. Technically, I COULD run again. I pushed my limitations into the “I won’t” category and wrote it off. What do you tell your kids when they throw down their homework in frustration? Are you challenging their “I can’t”, with “oh no honey, you MUST!” How does that message apply to you?

What are you avoiding that is causing you to be stuck?

How can you move your “CAN'T” to the “MUST” stage? Click To Tweet

If Anything Matters, Then Everything Matters. Everything You Do Is Important.

In the context of this movie, these messages applied to forgiveness (no spoilers, I promise). One way to reach forgiveness is to continue to do kind deeds. In the midst of hurt and pain, there still has to be something that matters. Click To Tweet One of the characters explained how our simple acts and treasured values still have a place in this world, even when tragedy strikes us or when the world gets ugly.

This message is tough in the midst of the fogs of grief. Our values can get lost during tragedy, illness, major life changes or losses. Instead of telling ourselves or our loved ones, “Well you still have to work despite all this. You still have to be a mom/dad/parent, etc”, let’s share with them how much they still matter. Let’s give them the space to try to figure out their feelings. Figuring out feelings on top of a busy schedule can be overwhelming.

I see this play out with survivors of abuse. They have to move to a safer home, continue to pay bills, feed the kids, take them to school & daycare, make dinner and figure out how to stay safe from their abuser. Their daily routines take on a new level of importance and survival. Routines can overshadow their values, causing them to feel stuck or lost. As a therapist, I thank them for coming to their appointments and being fueled by courage. That hour in my office may be the only time they are recognized for their importance and value in this world.

I have been brought to my knees due to grief 4 times in my life. I could actually add one more if you include my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I’ll never recover from fibro. My body will never be the same. I felt like I mourned the loss of my healthy self.  But whether I mope on the sideline of a triathlon or not, everything I do is important. My values are still the same whether I am exhausted or not.

My values are stronger than my diagnosis.

My values are stronger than my physical pains.

Restricting myself to labels and excuses of “I can’t even” leaves me with what? Is it a cop out from life?

I don’t think two people could watch this movie and leave with the same emotion. Our childhood experiences, history of resentments and current messes are unique. Yet this movie begs the question, “What’s next?”

In the grand scheme of your life, what’s next? Where are your feet? Are they moving or are they cemented? Regardless of where you are standing, everything you do is important.

 

 

 

 

PTSD: What Happens When We’re Triggered

Originally published on September 2, 2015

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that afflicts about 24 million Americans at any given time (National Institute of Health). Post-traumatic stress occurs, in short, when traumatic events are re-experienced due to external triggers, nightmares and/or reoccurring thoughts. Due to the frightening nature of “re-living” a traumatic experience, PTSD sufferers may avoid situations or places that arouse these fears or feelings.

Understanding someone’s triggers is important. Being sensitive to someone’s post-traumatic stress is the same as being sensitive to a child’s… Click To Tweet

So what happens when we’re triggered?

  • We may dissociate or detach from our current reality and feel like we’re back in the traumatic situation (car accident, combat, abusive home, etc).

  • Our heart races, body temperature rises, we may start shaking or crying and we may fall into a fetal position.

  • We become hypervigilant to sounds, strangers, sights and smells. This hypervigilance can last for weeks or months after the event.

  • Our bodies tense up or we run away from the trigger, known as the fight or flight response.

  • Some people completely freeze in their location, which is an alternative to fight or flight. This is a natural response.

  • We may prepare to leave or stock up on resources in case of emergency. We charge our phones, pack a bag, make a packing list or look for backpacks/luggage. This gives us a sense of control.

 

These are only a few natural responses to traumatic stress.

I have counseled survivors of mass tragedies and I think of them every time another shooting occurs. I wonder if the breaking news alerts are triggers for them. In my current work with domestic violence survivors, I have noticed that their triggers are all different. I also have to educate them about triggers their children may face, as witness to abuse in their home.

My suggestion is to inform those closest to you what your triggers are and how to help you cope. I have faced scary situations in my life (armed robbery, burglary, large earthquakes, sudden deaths) and I cope with each of them in different ways. I recently had to have a conversation with my husband about my experience being robbed even though that was over 20 years ago. A few years ago we experienced a large earthquake together and we were understanding about each of our reactions to it.

Knowledge is powerful and will keep you from feeling all alone.

Speaking with a trauma trained therapist can help you or your loved one to process feelings or emotions that arise from triggers.

Besides, having comforting friends or loved ones can help you ride the wave of PTSD triggers and ground you back into the present day.

 

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