I wrote this post a while back for people recovering from disordered eating and/or new parenthood. What I have heard in the past few weeks is how many people are struggling with sleep post-election. Insomnia can be a trauma response. It is your body’s way of trying to keep you safe by not shifting into parasympathetic nervous system’s “rest and digest” mode when you may need to “fight or flight” at any moment. There is a lot of fear within and among people right now. It is real. I also know, as a Psychologist and recovering person, how important sleep is in your own healing and in resource-ing your body and mind enough to be able to function and take the next right action(s) in your daily life.
To continue reading this guest post, please go to EatingDisordersBlogs
It can be easy to feel despair and fear in your body, in your recovery, in your parenting work right now. I am turning to the Wise Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, to help keep hope in the face of despair.
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy turmoil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Jungian Psychologist and Author of Women Who Run With the Wolves
What I heard in the therapy office (paraphrased to protect confidentiality) and in life the first three days after Donald Trump was announced to be the President elect:
(Statements in red are symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD)*
“I can’t come to therapy today because I feel sick. I don’t think I can go to work today- how will I get any work done?”
(You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.)
“I lay wide awake in bed next to my sleeping child thinking ‘how will I keep her safe? How am I going to keep her safe?’”
“I couldn’t get to sleep and then I kept waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I was in a nightmare.”
“I was very short with my children this week. I knew it was because of the anger/sadness/grief that I hadn’t processed, but it kept coming up suddenly in a huge wave, like a tsunami.”
(You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. You may have a hard time sleeping.)
“I watched as more and more states kept bleeding. I kept seeing the image of this over and over in my mind.”
“Every time I see his face or hear a news report with his name, I leave my body.”
“I tried to go for a walk to ground my self, but there was a man right next to me on the sidewalk and I was afraid to walk in front of him. I was afraid of being grabbed or attacked from behind.”
(You may have nightmares. You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback. You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports or hearing someone’s name are examples of triggers. Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.)
“I really thought we were going to shatter a glass ceiling, but apparently the only vaginas allowed in the white house are the ones being f*cked.”
“I feel so angry, but I find myself apologizing all the time. I’m afraid of how angry I am.”
“I thought slavery was over, but apparently it is not. I thought this was a land of diversity, but apparently this is the land of white-ness.”
“When we recited the pledge of allegiance at my son’s school, I started sobbing: One Nation? With Liberty and Justice for All?”
“As I ride the bus, I look around and I wonder: can any of these people be trusted? Are their hearts breaking, too? Are they afraid of being deported?”
“My daughter came home from school asking if her Spanish speaking teacher was going to have to leave the country.”
(The way you think about yourself and others change because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
- You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.)
*From the PTSD VA website:
There is a lot of healing to be done. Many people in this country are starting to dive into finding common ground or looking for ways to “decrease the splitting.” Because I work primarily with women, many of them sexual assault survivors (one in three women in this country has been sexually assaulted or raped), their voices, bodies, and experiences need to be heard, believed and validated as they are right now. That is part of the healing. Anger is valid. Rage and terror are valid. Fear is valid. Shame is valid. Sadness and pain are valid. In my experience of recovery, bypassing the feelings doesn’t do anyone any good. If you don’t feel, you can’t heal. I will get back into inspiration and action soon, but right now, if you are still struggling and wrestling with emotions, I am with you.
In the meantime, here are some grounding practices that can help when you are experiencing anxiety/fear/PTSD:
Mindfulness practices such as deep, diaphragmatic breathing, counting your breaths, can help bring your nervous system out of “fight or flight” and back into your parasympathetic nervous system. It is from this place that you can “rest and digest.”
- Somatic awareness practices
Soma refers to the body. Practices such as pushing weight into your feet on the floor (if you are sitting) or progressively tensing and relaxing muscles in your body (ex: tense your facial muscles, then relax, tense your shoulders, then relax, tense your hands, then relax, and so on through your whole body) can help bring you back into your body if you dissociate. Walking can also help your psyche and your emotions “move” out of feeling stuck and into processing and beginning to heal.
- Talk to a Safe Person
If you are struggling with PTSD, professional counselor/therapist/Psychologist can help you. If you are feeling trauma (but may or may not have PTSD), a friend, colleague, family member or support group can help you feel less alone.
Many people have been struggling with overwhelming feelings this week. You are not alone.