Emotional Reactions and Fears Triggered in Times of StressBy
As many of you know, my 19 year old son TJ recently had an accident. He hit a deer head on with his motorcycle. He split the deer in half, drenching him and his bike with blood and as his bike went down, something caught on his pants and they were ripped off his body, leaving his lower half completely unprotected from the harsh highway pavement as he skidded and tumbled for quite a way down the road. His helmet saved him. His leather jacket protected his upper half which fared a little better than his lower half although he broke the bone in his wrist that is connected to his thumb. The cast which goes all the way up to his elbow and includes his thumb is cumbersome and his shattered middle finger on the same hand makes his left arm useless. Because he is a guitarist, he may have to have surgery on his finger. His lower half fared no better although there were no broken bones, he lost most of the hide off his butt. His wounds were deep and had to be cleaned and bandages changed twice daily causing him incredible amounts of pain each time. The first couple of weeks were really difficult around here both emotionally and physically.
To make matters worse and even more emotionally draining, my youngest was starting in a new high school where she didn’t know anyone and my middle daughter was leaving for university all in that same week! I was trying to be there for everyone. My emotions were all over the place. Fear, worry, and sleeplessness were my daily diet for the first couple of days. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky he was and how he could have died. As emotional exhaustion set in for our whole family, I began to feel a few other emotions that I wasn’t as comfortable with. Although I didn’t define the feelings at first, I later realized that I felt abandoned. I felt like no one really cared. And it isn’t that “no one” cared, because I got all kinds of email and facebook messages expressing concern and well wishes, it was that some of the people in my personal life didn’t care. Some of the people that I thought I was close to, didn’t ask what happened or even how my son was. They wrote on FaceBook ~ “glad that TJ is okay”. Why did they think he was okay?
Nobody visited. It felt like rejection.
But my feelings of being unsupported and abandoned went deeper than that.
These feelings felt familiar but I just couldn’t put my finger on where they were coming from. I searched my thoughts and feelings wondering what was wrong with me. I wondered if I was justified in feeling angry and hurt. I chastised myself for having “expectations” of others. I felt alone and I felt unsupported. I was hurt that these certain people didn’t ASK what happened. I kept thinking that I felt like I didn’t matter and worse than that, it was like people were saying that my son didn’t matter. It felt like we were alone. I felt like I was embarking on a self pity trip. I started to feel angry.
I felt that way for a few days, going from hurt, sadness, abandonment and anger, blaming myself and trying to avoid self pity.
Then it hit me. I had gone back to my old default mode; all my life I had been defined by other people. If they didn’t like me, then I wasn’t likable. If they were mean to me, then I had done something to deserve it. If they ignored me, then I was just not interesting to them. I always believed it was me. I always let the actions of others define me. I never realized that their actions were about them.
When TJ was five he had major kidney surgery and we couldn’t get any of the grandparents to help us. He was in the hospital in the city for a whole week, and the doctors told us it would be a brutal week and advised us to get some support in place. We had a 3 year old daughter that we had to get part time care for so we could be at the hospital. We were advised that TJ would need both of us there as much as possible. I was baffled that our parents didn’t care. My parents both lived out of town, but they never even expressed a desire to help. Jim’s parents who only lived a few miles away, left for the second half of their winter holiday 5 days before the surgery! It never occurred to me back then that this was not about me; their lack of interest and lack of support was about them. I thought that I had done something “wrong” to cause our own families not to care enough to help out in such a difficult situation. I even decided that they must have felt that we were exaggerating about what the Doctors had warned us regarding how serious the surgery was, and that was my fault too… I had always been an “exaggerator; I had been told that my whole life. And in survivor mode, I always tried to figure out why it was my fault. So I accepted their actions as defining my family and I of not being worthy of support. In my mind it confirmed that I was unworthy of love and now WE all were not worthy of love. And I wracked my brains for years to figure out what I had done wrong and what I could have done better so that we would be loved because NOW I was convinced that my unworthiness had transferred on to my children! And it was all my fault.
All those same feelings were coming back the entire week after TJ crashed his motorcycle. I was letting the actions of others define me and my kids again. The problem wasn’t that some people didn’t care enough to call, it was that I felt worthless because they didn’t. I felt that their inaction made a statement about me. I felt that if I mattered, and if TJ mattered, that they would have called. I had to remind myself that the actions of others don’t define me anymore. With all the stress and emotion around my son’s accident this week, I forgot that truth, and I fell back into that old way of thinking. My old belief system came back and I felt all that rejection and all that “not good enough” all over again. I felt all those feelings that asked “what is wrong with me?” and “why doesn’t “anyone” care. Truthfully, lots of people care but whether they do or not does not define me. Whether they “show” it or not does not define me either. It may say something about them, but not about me. I am not defined by what other people do or don’t do anymore and in weeks like this one… I have to remind myself of that!
The way that I am regarded by others is not the proof of my worth and does not indicate any lack of worth either.
Sometimes owning my new self esteem and living in my new belief system is hard. Life is hard. That doesn’t change, but going back to the old belief system, as scary as it was, was a great reminder for me; I don’t want to live in that old belief system anymore!
Please share your thoughts and stories.
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