I started to feel it around mid-morning. My body felt hyper-sensitive, the sun through the window hurt my skin. When the air came on, the cold air made my legs ache. My heart began to pound in my throat. My hands were sweaty and slippery. I was in the middle of writing a blog post and suddenly I didn’t know how to spell my name. Flooded with confusion, pain, and sadness, I went from being relatively fine, to feeling like a hot mess. Do you know this feeling?
These feelings aren’t new to me. I’ve dealt with them my whole life. I’ve learned I can do certain things to ride the waves of emotion that threaten to completely overwhelm me.
Your emotions can be warning signs.
These are the warning signs. If your body reacts to a trigger with flight or fight symptoms, all the blood gets diverted to your hands and feet so you can either run away or punch somebody. You feel every single air movement like needles on your skin. Your thoughts race. Your chest tightens. You can start to shake. You can’t tell the difference between reality and the stories you tell yourself. This is probably an anxiety attack. Anxiety will often involve fear of the future.
If there is a slow quiet ache of sadness without cause, it may be a warning sign of depression. The body responds with exhaustion. You are always tired, no matter how much you sleep. When you lay down, you can’t slow your brain down enough to rest. Racing thoughts are usually about you, not about other people. “I caused this. I am not good enough. I am a waste. It would be better to just die.” The body aches all the time. It’s like you have brain fog– like you are heavily medicated but without any of the benefits. It feels impossible not to cry. It doesn’t matter if you are at work, on the bus, or in the grocery store. The tears will come. I can’t tell you how many times I have hidden in the frozen foods section as tears slipped down my face. Cleanup on Aisle 9!
I recently spoke with some women from our Bloom community who have been betrayed by their partners through pornography use. Betrayal by someone in a position of trust is devastating and can cause debilitating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Over and over again, they described similar experiences:
- “I’m a zombie. I can’t feel anything.”
- “I am on auto-pilot. Just going through the motions.”
- “I am not functioning at all.”
- “I’m a mess.”
- “I’m a waste.”
- “I fail at being a human.”
- “I’m in an emotional prison.”
Here’s the thing. Any kind of trauma can deeply affect your heart, mind, and body. Sometimes there is a clear trigger, but sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. Left untreated, trauma can lead to long-term, serious mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. It’s all related.
Seeking help is the most important step you can take.
If you have felt these symptoms for more than a few weeks, you need to get help. Treatment is the bravest and most important step you can take. Finding a therapist that works with your personality and your goals for healing is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. This needs to be your therapist, not your couple’s therapist or your partner’s therapist. You might need medication. You will definitely need a safe person to talk to. You will also need to learn some coping skills to keep you safe as you navigate your emotions without resorting to numbing and dangerous behaviors.
That morning, my anxiety attack lasted three hours. I used every tool I have to ride it out. I chatted my best friend. I drank cold water. I put on silky, smooth lotion. I wrote about it in my notebook. I did a lot of deep breathing. I tried to stay in the moment. I took a walk for my lunch hour. The symptoms began to ease. I was able to keep working. I was able to cope.
If you are looking for a practical way to deal with your swirling emotions without resorting to risky numbing behaviors, download this worksheet for a quick exercise to help you cope more effectively.
Related Covenant Eyes articles:
- 3 Truths to Help You Heal From Marital Betrayal
- 4 Things to Remember About Your Husband’s Porn Problem
- How Broken Trust Regrows
Alisha Geary is the Director of Content Development for Bloomforwomen.com. Bloom is an online community dedicated to helping women gain confidence, hope, and resilience through professional therapeutic support, educational resources, and an empathetic community.