Ever noticed how you’re ok and get just get on with things, and then suddenly you’re not ok? Some people will relate to this in terms of the lockdowns they’re living through. Often people manage fine for a while, then BANG! the most recent lockdown suddenly throws them for a six. Or consider the person who just keeps soldiering on and managing in a work environment they find stressful until BOOMF! – all of a sudden they’re not coping so well. We’ve all experienced or witnessed it, haven’t we.
What we forget is that it’s often the effect of an accumulation of stress which causes us to ‘suddenly’ not cope, and then when those cracks appear it’s often a surprise because we’ve managed just fine in the past, right?!
Steve Gardiner spoke about his experience of PTSD resulting from military service. The distress of that time didn’t manifest as PTSD until decades later. He said it was the same for several of his military comrades. Some of them first noticed the effects of stress experienced during their time in the military in their 60’s, four decades after the events took place. Why? Well, one explanation is that those symptoms don’t manifest until there’s enough internal pressure – the effect of an accumulation of stress, not only from that period but from ‘life’, over a long time.
This is good news! If you are struggling with the stress which this pandemic and lockdowns have caused, you don’t have to wait until it’s over before you can feel better. If we release the pressure of other accumulated stress, letting air out of the balloon that’s ready to pop, you’ll cope so much better with current stressors. The current situation won’t feel nearly as extreme, unmanageable or overwhelming.
In a nutshell, if you suddenly find you’re not coping where you’ve always coped before, it doesn’t mean you’re weak; it doesn’t mean you’re ‘losing it’; It doesn’t mean there’s something ‘wrong’ with you. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of here. Your system has simply been knocked off centre with the weight of accumulated ‘stuff’, and you’ve become stuck in a survival response.
Can you let the pressure out of the balloon and feel better again? Yes.
Does it need to take long? No.
Do you need to talk ad infinitum about your past in order for that to happen? No.
So, if you find yourself suddenly not coping, please take heart. Reach out for help if you need it. You don’t have to figure this out alone.