I was processing a very distressing time with my therapist recently when she stopped me and asked me to describe what a meltdown ‘looked like’ to me?
She stopped me in my tracks.
She knows me too well.
She knows I ‘paint with words’
But I’d never been made to actually ‘paint’ this painful picture before.
Normally I’m a vibrant colour lover. But in times like this the only colour I see is black. So I tend to stop ‘painting’.
What does it look like for me?
And what does it look like for others looking on?
Heaven forbid! – I never stopped to think what it looks like to others. I guess I look like a total psycho mess. I hide a lot so only those closest to me see the real truth of my emotional crises.
So describe what’s happening within me during a meltdown.
…well the days/months preceding I’m slowly descending into depressional darkness, at the same time (and unnoticeably I thought but now I know my closest can see what I can’t) I’m getting wound up internally like a top. And then something, (usually relatively minor but linked inextricably to a past trauma) will trigger me which snaps the now very taught rubber band and everything in my head starts spinning.
Physical agitation builds, I can’t sit still, I have an overwhelming need to run. Then my brain just implodes.
Feelings of hopelessness, fear, stupidity, anger at myself for my inability to cope… Tears which have been building below the surface erupt uncontrollably, and then are constantly there for days, sometimes weeks.
I feel weak, hopeless, out of control, lost…
There’s usually two outcomes depending on the circumstances and the reactions of those nearest me. The length of recovery is somewhat determined by them too.
‘Before therapeutic education & understanding’ I would usually run straight into ‘fright/flight’ – retreat to the inside of my head. On the outside I now know I would appear bitchfaced, sad & angry. But inside I had just shut down because I didn’t know how to process and communicate my pain. Because of this inability my meltdown could take days or weeks to recover from.
Definitely not pretty & much less of a reaction now.
The second is outcome is 95.9% better and is only possible due to the past 10 years of therapy which has slowly helped me understand the how’s & whys of my traumas & responses and how to manage & communicate them.
If/when meltdown crisis hits and those nearest me can see & embrace me in my pain, which is hard for them because like most hurting trauma sufferers I push away those trying to help me, then my reaction changes momentarily to ‘freeze’ until and I can allow myself to feel safe. Being held and not questioned is imperative. Then I collapse into fetal and rest. Rest in a quiet safe place with all stresses removed is essential at this point because I am emotionally & physically exhausted.
Recovery from a crisis meltdown is not immediate but once the dam breaks the tensions & tears lessen and the colours begin returning to my world.
PTSD is a hidden trauma inflicted disability which is exhausting to live with. It’s a constant daily fight that I have been living with for decades 🥺
But now my fight is be that victorious survivor not to just survive.
I’m so grateful for the recognition & understanding I received from my very first ACC case manager who gave me permission to take as much time as I needed when he said ‘this could take you many years to heal from’
Here’s to celebrating being this Beautiful Mess who has successfully climbed out of yet another dark hole
Thank God my sun is shining again and my colours are vividly happy today 🙂