This article was originally published on The Mighty.
I have a well-worn neural pathway in my brain.
My mind sprints down this pathway when it notices my body is acting weird.
I quickly go from “hmm something seems off” to “I am in mortal peril right now.”
This experience is much deeper than the often joked about Google search that begins with a hangnail and ends with a life-threatening disease. This direct line has to do with my past trauma and experience with C-PTSD.
I often feel triggered by the prospect of having to deal with the medical system, which is something I find difficult. So when I notice an ailment, my mind zooms towards the fact that I might need medical care — and goes directly to I’m dying right this second. This pathway also shows up in situations not related to my health.
I’m aware that it’s not rational, but it feels real to me. When I’m in it, my nervous system makes sure of this. My heart races, I forget to breathe, and my mind fixates on the problem at hand. The bigger picture details become hard for me to see. It’s a trauma response that is meant to keep me safe, something that likely was helpful in the past but no longer serves me.
A few weeks ago I found myself in this mental space. It lasted for a few days and during that time I felt alone and afraid. Then for no particular reason I had a moment of clarity, and said to myself, oh yeah, this is your trauma talking. I then wondered what I could do or create that would remind me that this response sometimes surfaces.
I love making little graphics, and so I decided to make this flow chart.
As you can see, I’m also a fan of using a bit of quirky dark humor. In my case, I find a little laughter can interrupt that part of my brain that is laser focused on one small aspect of who I am or what I’m experiencing. I chuckled a bit as I made this and it still brings me a smile.
Since making it, I have indeed pulled it up a few times when that old neural pathways’ been activated. Even remembering to so in that state is a win in my books, and yep, it actually does work.
Am I really going to die this second? Probably not, and if I am I should probably go to the ER.
It’s practical, a little bit funny, and most importantly, it calms me down. If you think something like this could help you, feel free to take a screenshot or even create something similar with the wording that will speak to you.
Have you ever noticed that when you are triggered your mind tends to quickly go down certain roads? Would having a chart or similar graphic be a helpful reminder to you? Have you ever tried using something like this? Tell me in the comments below.
If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.
Heidi Fischer is a mental health advocate who lives in Saskatoon, Canada. Heidi enjoys writing about her personal experience with C-PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety. Heidi is the creator of a popular mental health Instagram called @mentalhealthyxe and can also be found on her website mentalhealthyxe.com.