You needed to figure out how to cope and as a child your options were limited. For some, they learned to withdraw and pull back—shut down, hide in their rooms. For others, they learned to walk on eggshells—be the good kid who reads the signs and accommodates as best they can to not cause trouble or make waves. Or they get angry and flare up to try to get something to change.
But regardless of which reaction you figured out to have, the driving force, that ever-running anxiety wired you for being hyperalert: Is mom drinking? Is dad in bad mood? Again, with limited resources as a child, this makes sense and often works. You duck into your room if mom is drinking; you accommodate and be good when dad is depressed.
The problem is that like many adult problems, what you learned as a child doesn’t work as well in the adult world, and you don’t turn it off. You still can feel those little-kid feelings, you still are wired to look for those worst-case scenarios, and you still are over-sensitive to other’s reactions.
Sound familiar? I know, for me, this is absolutely the truth, and even though I’ve done a ton of work to overcome this, and learn how to turn off this hyper vigilance, there are still times when it kicks in, like say during a pandemic.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it here. The last 16 months have forced everyone into being hyper vigilant. How do we suddenly turn that off? How exhausted are we from spending that much time constantly on the lookout for danger, and the worst case scenario?
Personally, that exhaustion goes beyond any words I have to describe it. It reminds me very much of what it was like in my 20s when I only had the life skills I learned as a kid, which were mostly just responses to abuse, not healthy ways to live as an adult.
I need to recognize that in myself, and remember the skills I have learned since then, but I’m also going to be honest, it’s not easy. It’s still too automatic for me. Maybe it is for you too.
If so, go read the whole thing and see if any of it can help you.