Scary times make messy heads

Last week in the hospital I felt completely overwhelmed. I went in anxious but calm, convinced they would just give me some drugs and send me on my way. Before I knew it I was wheeled into the treatment area, surrounded by doctors and nurses talking to me, inserting canulas, giving me drugs, hooking up oxygen and other drugs, asking me questions and telling me they wanted to admit me. And on the sidelines I had the mother carping about car parking and how she’d get home. I was scared, but I didn’t realise it at the time – not until I was chatting to a dear friend the other day, who helped me see that something somewhere was triggered and it brought out all these scared young parts who were, understandably, overwhelmed.

Of course my paranoia and irrational thinking escalated to ridiculous levels, though I’m now trying not to beat myself up over that. I’m not sure if it was feeling so overwhelmed, or the drugs they gave me, or what, but I ended up in a bad head space. Very bad. It’s still not great, but certainly better – and much better now that I can see my reaction to the hospital and treatment as the scared weird little parts of me (rather than a freaked out, crazy, irrational, stupid adult part of me, if that makes sense).

We figured out, my friend and I, that what I need to get better at is soothing the young, scared parts when overwhelmed. I’m guessing this is partly a grounding exercise – remembering that I’m grown up now, I’m safe and that the hospital staff are there to help me. Of course, remembering to do this ‘in the moment’ is difficult, if not impossible sometimes. I’m not really sure where to begin, but perhaps it’s in reminding myself to ground and soothe when I’m not precariously on edge. Like when my mother says something to trigger, I can remind myself that I’m an adult and her reactions are her responsibility. Or when I start my new job this week, I can remind myself that I’ve done it before and can do it again. May be this is overly simplistic, but perhaps it might help in the harder times, too. I hope so. All suggestions welcome, of course. 😉

11 thoughts on “Scary times make messy heads

  1. I liked your comment about how your mom’s reactions are her responsibility. I think that’s really wise and not a viewpoint I’d ever really considered before.

    What do you find is the worse part of starting a new job? For me, it’s learning everyone’s names. It takes me a long time to retain names for some reason!

    Good luck with the new job!

  2. Hi Kerro,

    It makes sense that your younger stuff got triggered. Hospitals and health issues are big triggers for a lot of people. As well as breathing stuff, that really gets me upset. With the breathing you might not have been pulling in and getting enough oxygen into your blood stream, so a big part of that might have been due to that. Also the reaction from that staff that it was serious may have been a trigger. Any of those would be understandable as a trigger for a lot of people.

    Good for you for seeing that you don’t deserve to beat yourself up over your reaction. You were in a bad head space and hospitals should be pretty used to patients who are going through that. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

    For a time I used to keep a small stuffed animal and/or small dollie in my backpack, so I could put my hand in and touch it any time that I wanted to. They are about two or three inches tall. I have one now that is a little stuffie of Roo, the little kangaroo in Winnie the Pooh books. It is a thing that gets attached to the back of a backpack, they are popular now. At times I keep a picture of something handy. Perhaps a couple of printed out copies of your vacation spot might be nice to have handy in your purse. Or a small high bouncing ball or jacks or something that is fun and comforting at the same time. I recently bought a baby’s teething toy, not for teething on, but for holding. It is something that one of us wanted, it comforts while holding it.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


  3. I don’t think we ever outgrow the need to soothe and take care of ourselves… so don’t be too hard on your adult self either 🙂

    You’ve gone through some really rough times lately Kerro, and to have all of this happen when you thought you’d be getting some rest between jobs, is just nasty! So it makes sense that you became overwhelmed and scared… I’d be more worried if you were doing the “I’m fine” routine.

    So please, cut yourself some slack… keep nice and warm, get plenty of rest, and get help when you need it – without fearing how it will inconvenience others.

    Take care and with (((warm safe hugs)))

  4. Hi Kerro,
    We’ve been quietly reading your blog for a little while now and thought we’d get the courage together to comment.
    Think your reaction at the hospital is completely understandable, not being able to breathe, being bombarded by questions and interventions at the hospital and your mother being less than supportive (understatement?) would have *anyone* overwhelmed and scared. Sounds like you’re working through it in a very positive way.
    Good luck with the new job, you can do it.

  5. @ Sanity – Absolutely. My mother’s (and your mother’s) reactions are her responsibility. Not mine, and not yours. The fact that she freaks out in the hospital, or has to make narky comments about every damned thing – that’s her problem, not mine. Although of course in reality I feel that same old stab in the gut every time she responds this way. The best I can do is remember that her responses are her responsibility, not mine.

    Thanks for your good wishes about the new job. The worst part for me is my fear of looking like an idiot. Realistically I know this is unlikely. Historically, I’ve probably looked like an idiot far less than I haven’t, so it’s just that mental game I have to play with myself to get through.

    @ Kate – Rationally I know you’re right – these are big triggers for many of us. It’s just so hard to remember that in the moment. I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up (which is possibly why I’m using the word “rationally” so often in my replies today!). I like the idea of the stuffed animal/toy – I have a few little trinkets that I’ve picked up on my travels that could be useful. Also a stress ball – I use one at work, and while bouncing it on the hospital walls might drive the nurses crazy, it would definitely help me. 😉

    @ Castorgirl – I really can’t thank you enough for helping my thinking on this one, and also for helping me go in to the hospital again last night. I felt a little silly, like I was wasting their time, but I’m trying not to think about that too much. It was about taking care and looking after myself. And better in the hospital unnecessarily, than on the floor at home, dead, right?

    You’re right – the volume of cr*p I’ve been dealing with, and its insistence on coming all at once, is just nasty. Definitely time to be gentler with myself.

    One of the things I struggle with is that hospitals and health care are technically about taking care of and looking after ourselves – yet when we’re in the middle of it, it’s all so damned scary and horrible it doesn’t feel much like “taking care” at all.

    I also discovered that some of the drugs they had me on would have fuelled my paranoia (big time) and made me emotional … so now I can do a little happy dance that it wasn’t all *just* in my head. 🙂

    @ Bay – thanks so much for dropping by, and for commenting. I’m glad you did 🙂 Rationally I know you’re right about *anyone* being overwhelmed in that situation… just so hard to remember in the moment. Thanks for your good wishes on my job, too.

  6. Hi Kerro,

    I agree with you, it is hard to remember stuff when in the moment of something unsafe. And I applaude your efforts to give yourself some slack and not blame yourself.

    I’m sorry that the drugs you were on gave you such a reaction. I’m glad that you went back and got more help. I’m sorry that your mother was not able to be there for you in a way that was helpful or healing. I wish that someone who could have done those things for you was there. It is hard enough to be sick without someone being judging, emotionally distance, and disapproving.

    Huge work on taking care of yourself. Good and healing thoughts to you.


  7. You weren’t wasting their time, you are worth that time and so much more!

    Yup, the drugs can have some pretty funky side-effects, so go easy on yourself…
    As for hospitals, well… they’re scary, there’s no doubting it. But, they are sometimes a necessary part of the whole self care thing. I thought you did well to go back.


  8. Hi Kate – thank you. I’m trying. 🙂 What saddens me is that my mother will never be able to be there for me in the way/s that I need, irrespective of my age. I am trying to accept that, and appreciate her for her good qualities.

    Hi Castor – thank you, I’m not sure I could have done it without your help. I wish I believed you about being worth it, I really do. I do feel a helluva lot better for going in again – like I needed another shot of the nasty drugs, or something. Fingers crossed I won’t need it again.

  9. Hi Kerro

    This is my first visit to your blog so I haven’t read much yet but I saw this and could relate to it, I am also having to find ways to soothe triggered child parts at the moment. Situations such as you found yourself in would have triggered our child parts too, also the mother’s reaction could have been triggering them too.

    I feel that grounding your adult self and soothing your child parts are two very different things, grounding your adult self isn’t necessarily going to soothe the child parts. Like the suggestions others have made about having some kind of comfort object with you to help soothe those frightened parts. Sometimes just acknowledging in your mind that you know they are scared helps, thinking soothing phrases to yourself as if you are talking to a small child in your head, “it’s okay, it’s going to be alright, you’re safe here, no-ones going to hurt you”. May sound a bit crazy but it works for us.

    Sometimes for me it feels a bit strange needing to do things to soothe my child parts but I know that often it is the only thing that will calm a situation. I try all the adult rational things first and they don’t work on frightened children.

    Anyway, just my thoughts. I hope you are feeling better now and it’s nice to have met you.


  10. Hi Fain – thanks so much for stopping by 🙂 I really like what you say about the adult rational things not working on frightened children. That’s so true. Grounding is different from soothing, though somehow I feel like the two are related. I’m not sure if I can explain this properly, but I think when I’m triggered like that, scared and overwhelmed, there is no way I can soothe if I can’t also be grounded. So in that way they are two sides of the same coin, if that makes sense, even if they are fundamentally different. Like you, sometimes telling the young scared part of me that “it’s ok” is enough; sometimes it’s not. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this situation, too, though it’s great you’re finding ways to soothe. Thanks for your good wishes, I am starting to feel more human, thankfully. 😉

  11. Hi Kerro

    Can understand what you are saying about grounding and soothing being linked. I think for us soothing is grounding but grounding doesn’t soothe so maybe a bit the other way round from you. I think it’s worth becoming aware of what works and doesn’t work for ourselves and this has made us think about that so thank you.

    Glad to hear you are feeling a bit better, sounded like a very scary experience.
    Fain and all

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