My typical pattern when dealing with stress is to quickly feel the emotional extreme of my situation and then snap to no emotion and operate exclusively out of my survival instinct. Years ago, when describing this to my counselor, I named the experience. I said: my emotions “short circuit” and shut off.
Our house fire was caused by a short circuit in a heater. I short circuit over a short circuit. There is a wry part of my sense of humor that thinks this is funny; sort of a need to laugh or I’ll cry, if I’m feeling anything all.
I suffer from PTSD from a car wreck I was in at age 16. Through several years of therapy, I’ve come to see a larger picture of myself, and I find my childhood experience puts me closer to the status of Complex PTSD.
While I still have panic attacks, and I am not “healed,” this particular devastating event in my life is different than the others. This house fire is a terrible event that happened to me in which I had the ability to take action to prevent injury.
The events in my life that traumatized me all have one common thread: I felt helpless to save myself. In this event, I had the ability to grab my daughter, and get us out of the house, before we were injured by the fire. I was completely helpful to my baby and myself. Understanding I do not have a feeling of helplessness about this experience is something I have latched onto to prevent triggers from forming where they may have otherwise formed.
If you ever suffer a major, negative, life changing event, I encourage you to acknowledge the parts you had control over; do not let them get lost in the mix. There will be parts you absolutely couldn’t control, but there are other activities around those moments where you likely were in charge. Look for those moments to help shrink the devastating influence of your experience.