Emotional Reactions and Fears Triggered in Times of Stress

low self esteem
the helmet after the crash

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.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


131 response to "Emotional Reactions and Fears Triggered in Times of Stress"

  1. By: Joan H Posted: 2nd February

    Wow this is what I am feeling today. Losing a job I loved and was dedicated to for 8yrs. becuz of health reasons.
    when I was recovering from 2 emergency surgeries lots of ppl who I thought cared never came either.
    This helps A lot . Thank U

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd February

      I am glad that this is resonating with you!
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: J Posted: 1st December

    Hi Darlene,

    I just noticed this post – I think I saw it when I’d just found the site for first time or two & didn’t feel able to comment

    anyway just wanted to say I hope TJ is doing much better and recovering really well from his injuries

    Hi DA

    Ouch!! (that “common denominator” line! I’ve thought that about myself on more than one occasion. F**king harsh to actually be told it.

    I often struggle with the feeling that because it’s many onto one, that the one (me) must be the problem…. made me remember something I wrote one time (not specifically about this, but feels very applicable): “just because millions agree with you, doesn’t make you right”

    wishing you strength and hope for your journey


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st December

      Thank you J.
      My son is almost fully recovered. He has some body strengthening left to do. Dr’s say it will take a while.
      Thank you for your thoughs.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: DisturbedAngel Posted: 29th November

    This is PRECISELY where I am stuck right now in my healing process – what other think, how they treat me, directly affects my view of my own self worth. That they don’t ever seem to care, that they can’t ever seem to be bothered, and now that I have a son, that they don’t seem to care about HIM as well, must mean that I am somehow NOT WORTHY of their time, caring, affection, concern, etc. I feel as if I am somehow fundamentally flawed or bad and I have NO idea how to go about righting that. Logically, it makes sense that it’s not me, that it is all of them with the problem. But what I believe inside, how I FEEL at my very core, is a totally different matter.

    My N family was always saying to me things like “You know how you are” as evidence of my ‘badness’. Another favorite was, “If you have problems with multiple people in your life, you need to figure out what the common denominator is. The common denominator being YOU so maybe YOU are the problem.” Of course the heavy implication was that I WAS the problem. They certainly never made it much of a secret that, clearly, if it weren’t for me, their lives would be so wonderful, that it was only when **I** came into the mix that problems began and life went to s**t. My NM even said as much to me once in a therapy session. My T just sat there, stunned, that my NM could be so cold and cruel.

    I wish I knew how to overcome these feelings of being “bad” or “flawed” somehow. 🙁


  4. By: Pinky Posted: 14th October

    I also meant to put we pay 2 thousand a month in maintenance not 200 (which is pretty bad considering they wont fix anything) they said it is for snow removal in winter and tending to the outdoor stuff

  5. By: Pinky Posted: 14th October

    I meant to say we live not we have

  6. By: Pinky Posted: 14th October

    Had to go back and reread this. It has been a stressful time for me. We have in an old building with water damage. We have been renovating since 2008. Contractors in and out, we have to leave our apartment when they are there and at first the building paid since we pay 200 a month in maintenance (we live in NYC) They stopped paying and we have to pay.
    Moving is not an option right now as everything in is expensiveness. We are hoping to move once the mortgage is pad which is another 1500 per month. We are really stressed as we are not even allowed to sleep some nights due to contractors and so on. Yesterday was like a circus and a night mare all in one. I will spare you the gory details but it was extraordinarily stressful. So anyway due to the helplessness of the situation not having our building help and what went on yesterday which was so bad it was almost comical, I just really hit bottom. I had a PTSD episode and flipped out on the maintenance men who did the damage which we now have to pay for but that is not the bad part. It was o bad but funny at the same time, I yelled at my poor husband who is the best husband in the world and didn’t do anything wrong I just was on over lad. I feel really bad now but at the same time when we talk about it we both laugh. He had nothing to do with this or the money he is actually a numbers genius and if it wasn’t for him we would be in a bad spot. So anyway I yelled at him (though he had nothing to do with it) and said were are in this mess (he is Chinese and cooks me homemade Chinese food) I said we are in this mess because you blow all your money on vegetables! LOL! Right after I said it I started laughing so hard I was crying. He is easy going and never gets mad at me. Some husbands gamble or drink mine cooks me homemade Chinese food and I yell at him for “blowing” his money on vegetables! 🙂
    My point is that I was so in the past which is where I always thought everything was a fight. I was really not thinking clearly just reacting. Just when I think I am in a great place I do something stupid to let me know I really have not arrived! It is a journey and things are better but I am e and my history is what it is. My hope though is that one day I will not face the amount of opposition that I do now which I face in court in our building , everywhere but in my marriage.I have that one place of rest in my life. He is the last one I should have yelled at.

  7. By: Lisa Marie Posted: 9th October

    Wow, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be falsly accused. My parents had a good friend that was a pastor who had that happen to him and he actually did prison time for it. We all knew he never did anything he was accused of. It’s got be hard when it’s family. Sending you lots of love and hugs Joy.

  8. By: joy Posted: 9th October


    Sorry for late response..was doing some school work 😉 I am sorry you were hurt and abandoned by your T.. there is nothing more painful then having one’s T just turn on or abandon one. I Feel your pain and I cry with you completely. . I know that devastation that feelng of betrayal. how dare that T hurt you .shame on her. Being a professional she should have better handled the situation… THat T is bad news and if she don’t believe you .. you are better off without her. I am sorry for all your sorrow. I believe you I believe you didnt do anything your daughter said >. I am so sorry. am handing over a box of virtual kleenex they come in handy for these tear jerking posts. you are so courageous. to not let all that keep you from healing. you are an inspiration to me.. thank you for reachig out to me. and sharing your story . (( hugs)) if ok


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