I've become a lot more mindful of self-care since I started volunteering with BARCC lo these few years ago, and even moreso since I started working there. Fact: When a large part of your life has to do with helping people process trauma, sometimes you can get to be the walking wounded.
But what I've learned is that self-care can and should be applied to other stuff, too. I've been thinking a lot about that today. So I share stuff in the hopes that it helps you, dear reader, next time you get thrown for a loop.
Until Mark started pointing it out to me during a longago ouch, I honestly did not realize that when I'm processing something big, I stop breathing. Not, y'know, completely. But I catch myself not breathing, holding my breath. So days like today, it can take a conscious effort to remind myself to breathe. I caught myself not-breathing at work, and went into the bathroom to just put my hands on the counter and breathe. In. Out. Deep breaths. I have been doing this all day.
Determine what you need to get past this.
My first thought was "I need a hug." And distraction. So I pinged Mark and asked if we could switch date night from tomorrow night to tonight. Thankfully, we can. So there's that.
Figure out what this is connected to.
Because it is not usually just one thing. In the case of the GI doc stuff, it was hitting my consent buttons as well as my distrust-of-doctors buttons. In the case of today, it seems that my brain was trying really hard to - unfairly - conflate today's thing with something else that is only slightly related, to the great detriment of both things.
I'm reminded of the scenes in The Hurt Locker where the bomb tech finds a bomb and very carefully traces a wire from it to another bomb. Or six. If you don't defuse all of them, your ass is getting blown up. Trace the wires. Figure out what is actually connected to what. Figure out how to fix it.
And fix it.
Cease the negative self-talk and potential self-harm.
We all do it. I'm not perfect. I still do it. In my list of reactions, the first, what, six things? are things that are not good for me. The key is taking the time to actively consider the results of each possible reaction. Getting drunk and schtupping $PERSON would be a distraction, sure, but it would do me a hell of a lot more harm than good. Problem is, when you feel like shit, sometimes you do things you know will screw you up on purpose. Don't. Somewhere down that list is the thing you can do that is all help, no harm. Keep scrolling til you get there. Don't blindly react. Think it through.
Get help if you need it.
Side benefit of rarely asking for large-scale help is that when I do, people know it's a Need and not a whim. So when I say "Can I hop a bus to come see you this weekend? Because something is fucking me all up, and it's connected to a you & me thing, and I think that hanging out with you is the best way to hash out what actually applies to this situation and what doesn't"... the person groks that this is Important, because I wouldn't ask if it wasn't. And, in this case, says "How about I hop a bus to you instead, because that works better for your dietary restrictions," and makes a hotel reservation and buys a bus ticket on the spot.
Your self-care may be different from mine. My less-emotional-processing self-care includes stuff like hot bath, good book, long walk, stuffed grape leaves. And the big processing stuff varies on a case-by-case basis. But it's still important to keep this stuff in mind and be able to modify if need be. ("Can I hop a bus to come see you", for example, is 100% specific to this instance.)
So there's that.