Here’s a small confession: I write a lot about overcoming fear, but I still wrestle with it almost every week.
I don’t think fear is something we can completely extinguish from our lives — it’s part of the human condition. The only person who can truly silence it is Jesus. That being said however, I also think that when anxious situations come our way, we have a choice in how we react to them. This is why I will continue to write about fear; because I think the more it’s talked about, the easier it becomes to deal with.
Last week, for the memoir I am writing, I had to revisit what caused my high school anxiety attacks. I didn’t know how I would react. Honestly, I was more frightened of what would happen afterwards versus facing the source of fear itself. To my displeasure, as I took this trip down memory lane, the feelings I felt almost five years ago came flooding back. Like a bullet comes out of a gun once the trigger is pulled, I couldn’t stop the fear from crippling me.
Shaking, I ran outside to get some fresh air. But instead of trying to relax, I started to beat myself up. Look at how pathetic you are, Lauren. You’ll never escape the reality of what happened. This will always stay with you, and you’ll never be able to stop the flashbacks from coming. I felt hopeless and helpless.
Traumatic events have a way of staying with us. The severity of life-altering situations leave an impression on our brains like a deep footprint in wet cement. And while trauma doesn’t have to be a death sentence, it’s only a matter of time before the cracks begin to show.
What I’m learning is that not being able to erase a memory does not indicate a weakness on my end. It doesn’t mean I’m pathetic. It doesn’t mean I haven’t dealt with the situation. It simply means I can’t stop the trigger from being pulled.
I can’t choose when a memory will surface. The only thing I can do is be prepared to handle the blow once it comes.
We need to develop a kill switch — a plan of attack for when fear strikes.
For me, my kill switch involves putting a face to the fear. Fear is often irrational, so, once I can identify where it’s coming from, I try to put it in perspective and then give it to God.
Being afraid or having flashbacks doesn’t make us weak. Sometimes, we can’t prevent a tidal wave from coming. And that’s OK.
This morning, as I was finishing up this blog post, I unwrapped my last piece of Dove dark chocolate. I always love the little sayings they print inside. Ironically, today’s read: “Be free. Be happy. Be you.” Today, I’m taking a stand: I will not let traumatic triggers steal my joy. Will you join me?
How do you deal with traumatic triggers or memories? What has helped you?