I’m here today to be a cushion. Because September, in general—for most primary caretakers—is a shit sandwich. We’ve got back-to-school and kids anxieties and emails and school supplies and evening meetings with no childcare and so much driving and medical forms and a foggy brain after 3 months of constant caretaking. And then, this year, we also have a world on fire in all the ways it is on fire. You see, normally in September, the shit sandwich still has a bun. It still has a squishy exterior in the form of eventual settling into school and a return to semi-normalcy, plus some socializing with friends who understand and, you know, a predictable train of normal stressors that are part of grown up life.
But this year we have no bun. We are a shit sandwich cushioned by sandpaper. And I can’t help but draw from my experience as a person diagnosed with C-PTSD (PTSD Type 2) and substance use disorder. It should also be said that I am a friendly comrade here, not a professional, so everything I am about to say is just amateur thoughts. Aka, seek a professional for more help on this. So, yes, my experience of C-PTSD is that in my personal life, I endured a state of chronic trauma for decades that resulted in my nervous system becoming acutely tuned to finding a way to survive even under danger or threat. My nervous system believes—and has proof—that the trauma I have experienced could happen again and might also be still happening. BUT my nervous system has tricked me into thinking that I am not experiencing a trauma. Hahaha. That is right. It doesn’t wave a flag and say, ALERT ALERT DANGER. Instead, it says: Everything is ok and you can totally be safe if you do x,y, and z right now even if x,y, and z are really not rational. Because it wants me to survive, regulate, and adapt at all costs.
There are many nuances of this and my experience is not that of others. But the reason I am bringing it up is that, for me, this state of a trauma response removes me from being centered in myself. It removes me from a pause and a reflection. It removes me from humor and contemplation. It removes me for seeking hope and places me in seeking disaster avoidance. It removes me from feeling communicative and leaves me feeling private and locked down. It removes me from joy. From possibility. From real solutions. From healthy decisions. From clarity. In essence, I become a survival junkie.
I am not suggesting that this is where you are, but I am saying that from my vantage point in MommaStrong, I do have a bird’s eye view over the general state of wellness of caretakers. I can tell when we’re in fighting mode, when we’re connected, when we’re relieved. I can also tell when we are in survival junkie mode and suffering in invisible ways. I can see this through how many people are logging in, how many people are talking in the community, the topics we are discussing, the general tone of responses, and how many people are taking the risk to become members. Sure, these might sound like business numbers, but when you step away from the business analysis, you can see that there’s a pulse in here in regards to how caretakers are doing at any given moment. Do we have space to care for ourselves? Do we have room to take risks? Do we have room to talk to each other? Do we believe it matters? Do we feel seen?
And I can say, from that casual data, that right now most of us are in it right now. We are dealing with a similar feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, holding our breath, and trying to keep our sweet kiddos from feeling how fried and frayed we are. We don’t have room for anything else. We are in the middle of the great big unknown and are just wondering if we are going to be ok. We used to assume that eventually we would be ok and now we are like, but will we be ok?
So. Here’s the cushion. We are not going to figure this out or feel better by thinking harder or doing better. No. We all need two things: Time and proof of change. Some of this we have control over and some of it we don’t. Either way, right now, we need to be kind to ourselves and we need to treat our nervous systems like a sweet child with the flu. Water, rest, food, and love. Repeat.
Yes, life will march on. And, yes, we need to take action in so many directions. This doesn’t mean we dip out of life and resign from action. But, we need to also know that our nervous systems need to rebuild their buns on the shit sandwich. In fact, it may be that the right action comes only when the bun rebuilds.
Here at MommaStrong we are taking the month of September to cushion your nervous systems. While you do all the hard stuff you are doing, we want to soothe your nervous system, give it a breather. We’ve decided that one of the best ways to do this is to provide you some humor, some grace, some shared fails … and so, this month is The Not So Serious Challenge. Each day, you will get to read a fellow member’s funny, flawed, embarrassing stories of showing up. And, I’ve read the submissions and yesssssssssssssssssss. This. This is good.
Join us. The Not So Serious Challenge starts on Monday, Sept 6th which is, yes, Labor Day. But all good. Do 5-15 minutes of movement in which you only have to click play and I take care of the rest. And then read through these stories of humanity that will remind you that there is still magic in this world on fire and that we can do this. We will do this. You will get to remember that you have reserves. Let us be what supports your reserves. You can join as a current member by clicking on Challenges in the teal navigation menu. If you are not yet a member, simply join MommaStrong today and then login and then click on Challenges.
I can’t wait to be here with you this month. Remember: Water, food, rest, and love. I will keep you company until you feel better, I promise.