When Your World Collapses And It’s Not of Your Making – It’s a Lot Tougher Than Simply Moving On
When Your World Collapses And It’s Not of Your Making – It’s a Lot Tougher Than Simply Moving On By Sandra Lane for The Organic Prepper
TDC Note – I have first hand experience with this aspect of life. The world doesn’t have to end, the grid doesn’t have to go down nor does there need to be any type of natural or man-made disaster. It could be a situation that impacts your home, your family and no one else. It doesn’t make it any less real, difficult or stressful. The mind is a dangerous place and should be traversed with a guide that understands the situation and the terrain. Why do you think suicide, not Epsetein’s but actual suicides, are so high and climbing everyday?
“It was a cold overcast afternoon when the police car rounded the corner. I was 4 years old, and on my brand new bicycle with training wheels. My mom was like that; very punctual. Everything had to be accomplished by a certain time. Walking, broken from the bottle, and out of diapers by one year of age. I guess it was a thing back then.
I remember that despite the clouds and temperature I wasn’t cold, but instead very excited to ride a bike, and very scared. Our duplex was on a hill, and so our driveway sloped downward. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop my bike and would roll out into the street in front of a car. And I remember looking down our side street towards North Broadway; an extremely busy main street, especially at that time of the morning. I was by myself, and then I wasn’t. There was a police car pulling into our driveway.
The very next thing I remember was someone screaming. I was in the back of the police car with a grate between me and the men in the front, and there was a woman banging on the passenger side back window, yelling for me to unlock the door. I looked and looked but there was no lock. I couldn’t find a handle. I couldn’t open the door. The woman’s cheeks were covered with tears and wisps of wet hair; her fists continually banging on the glass. “Sandy, honey, open the door. Unlock the door for me baby.” It was then I realized that she wasn’t the one screaming – I was.” (1)
After a disaster, mental trauma is very possible and can be debilitating.
We plan for many different disasters, many different events, but what do we do after? After the earth stops rumbling, after the tornado disappears into the clouds, after the blizzard subsides, after the notice that we’ve been laid off, after the police have taken the burglary report and left, after the dust settles? Then what?
Some people say that’s when we get up and brush ourselves off, then move on with our lives. Maybe. If you just lost your balance and tripped. Maybe. Maybe even if you take a fall and fracture something. But when the world you know crumbles beneath your feet, when your very life is changed, especially if it’s not of your doing, it’s a little bit tougher than just moving on.
“I hadn’t dusted the right way. I thought I had, but with a dry dust cloth, and so many cats, all the ‘dust’ just seemed to fall back on the furniture. It wasn’t the cats fault but I knew what was coming and my heart beat fast as I sat on my bedroom floor. Sitting on the bed wasn’t allowed and there was no other place to sit. Then I swallowed hard as I heard footsteps down the hallway. It was time, and I stood up. My step mother came in first and walked over to me. I flinched as she hissed in my ear, “You’re a child only a mother could love, and even she didn’t want you!”. I remember thinking ‘just please don’t pinch me like before’. She liked to pinch my arm a lot while she was whispering loudly in my ear. My dad came in as she pulled away and I routinely moved over to the bed and bent over. “Uh uh.” He said with a cold look. “Pants down.” Then the tears started – it was such a shameful feeling to be half naked at 13, and so vulnerable. “I want you to know you brought this on yourself.” My dad spoke, and then the belt whistled in the air. He didn’t stop until I needed bandages.” (1)
In an SHTF situation, even a minor one that isn’t in effect for longer than a few days, shock is a very real and debilitating possibility. Not just physical shock, but emotional and/or psychological shock. Many of us are familiar with the symptoms of physical shock, and they are readily available easy to learn about and understand. Not so, psychological shock.
People react to traumatic events in various ways.
Used interchangeably, emotional/psychological shock happens when we experience a trauma that we’re unable to cope with. In laymen’s terms, something just happened to us and all we can do is stand there and stare. Or maybe all we do is run around screaming inaudible words and phrases. Or maybe we move to a quiet corner and weep. Or maybe we do all of the above. Our hearts may race, our dinner may come back up, anger and rage might swell, we might shake uncontrollably, cry uncontrollably, and we might break out into a sweat. That makes this trauma physiological as well with both emotional and physical symptoms. These symptoms and more can continue for long periods of time or last just a few minutes. It all depends on many factors, one of which is the person’s ability to process the trauma experienced. This says nothing of the victim’s abilities though, but more about the trauma.
It’s important to remember too that the severity of all trauma is subjective, meaning unique and self-measured, and therefore different for everyone. And, as I have experienced myself, it can also be different for each event. When my cat died I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop crying, and I could barely stand. When my dad died, I was just numb for a long time and didn’t speak a whole lot about it. You might have a car wreck and do little more than crawl out cursing and yelling at the other driver, while I might have the same car wreck and remain in the driver’s seat staring into nothing. I might learn that my son has a mental illness and be able to move forward and get him the help he needs while another person might be so overwhelmed they push their diagnosed son away, unable to comprehend it. Psychological shock is, as I said, unique and therefore different for everyone. That means this trauma is defined by the one who experiences it.
“It is the subjective experience of the objective events that constitutes the trauma…The more you believe you are endangered, the more traumatized you will be…Psychologically, the bottom line of trauma is overwhelming emotion and a feeling of utter helplessness. There may or may not be bodily injury, but psychological trauma is coupled with physiological upheaval that plays a leading role in the long-range effects.” –Coping with Trauma: A Guide to Self-Understanding (1995), pg. 14, by Jon Allen
Mentally preparing for the psychological aftermath of trauma is tricky.
Knowing that, is there a way we can prepare ourselves for traumatic events before they happen? Kind of, in a way, yes. But also, no. In order to stave off feelings of helplessness, confusion, fear, and other emotions that might make us feel threatened and therefore traumatized, we can study and research as many events as possible, learn what to do and how to react, and when. However, the events that could potentially affect us are almost innumerable and there is literally no way to prepare for all of them. It would be like trying as hard as you can to do everything possible so that you live a long and healthy life, then getting cancer despite it. But, by doing everything you could to prevent it you may have created an environment that ends up beating the cancer.
We can certainly, and should most definitely, attempt to avoid (and prevent) traumatic, and possibly disastrous, events. The simple ones are have your keys out long before you reach your locked car, park under a lamppost, don’t go down dark streets alone (actually – don’t go down any street alone anymore), don’t hitchhike, don’t look down the barrel of your .38 to see if it’s loaded, keep your hands on the wheel if the police pull you over, lock your doors at night, etc. If you can legally and safely control it, then by all means do.
Okay, let’s take it up a notch. You go out to mow your yard. Let’s say you have a riding mower, and you know the damage those blades can do even if the deck and every part of it is in good working order. You know you shouldn’t mow above a certain degree angle/grade because it isn’t safe, but you’ve mowed this yard for 15 years with no trouble at all, know better than to wear shorts and no shoes, so you’re completely confident that everything will be fine as you start your mower in a pair of jeans and work boots. Except you’re out in the back doing the final ½ acre and start to experience chest pain. You’ve never had it before, have no medication, don’t carry aspirin, and your phone is in the house. As you can see, we simply can’t prepare for everything, and trying to do so would likely cause more trauma than a typical traumatic event.
Now let’s go sideways for a minute. You’re canning green beans fresh from the garden. Pressure canners can be dangerous, and you know it. So you’ve decided to take all the steps possible to prevent anything from going wrong, so much so that you’ve even gotten to the point that you can your veggies outside. Not only does it save money by not heating up the kitchen, but if the thing does blow up, (not likely in this day and age but you’re not taking any chances), hopefully, the only thing it’ll take out is the wooden wall you’ve set your outdoor kitchen up against and maybe a stray bird flying overhead. But for now, this batch is done, the pressure has been released, and you’ve unlocked and lifted the lid to reveal glorious quart jars of bubbling and nutritious green beans. With a potholder and jar lifter, you pull a jar out just as your 6-year-old son misses the baseball. He turns in time to see the ball hit your wrist and is by your side in time for the jar, it’s contents still boiling, to hit the bare edge of a small rock in the ground. The jar shatters and sprays your son with glass and boiling liquid. His legs and arm are splattered with 3rd-degree burns and blood. Again, we cannot think of, prepare for, or prevent everything. So what do we do?
Learning about psychological shock should be part of your preparedness plan.
Psychology Today gives some ways of coping with psychological shock, with one of the first things being to give yourself a few minutes to let the event register in your mind. Many people tend to immediately react to a situation without thinking at all, which in and of itself, is completely natural, just not always totally helpful. It’s part of the ‘Fight or Flight’ response that we all have within us. Reacting with a call to 911 and first aid is one thing, and the right thing, but learning to stay calm is easier said than done during a trauma.