Have you ever encountered people from your past at unexpected times? I admit to not handling it very well in the past. Present time, my parts and I cope better. This proverb is similar to one from a long time ago that started me thinking about how to deal with people who trigger and scare me.
Luckily for me, I was with friends from my knitting circle last time this happened. Knitting kept me calm and grounded. My friends kept my secret and did not call me out on my white lie about meeting this person for the first time.
But after I stopped knitting, the body memories started. Then the anxiety kept my body shaking and my voice rising/falling. Adrenaline rushed through my system. So I got out fast. Took a commuter train home. And used coping strategies to help me stay in the present.
I didn’t sleep that night. My productivity at work the next two days was terrible. But I survived. And that time was better than previous ones. My body did not shut down in a full-blown panic attack. I still got to visit with my friends at the knitting circle. My mind and body may have been distracted, but I did get some work done.
I used to be afraid of running into people from my past. Now, I am more resigned to the fact that it will happen often as long as I stay in my current location. But the best part is in knowing that some of the people I don’t want anything to do with work just as hard at avoiding me when they see me as I do them.
To clarify, not all of the people from my past are family or friends. Some are classmates from high school and college too. Others are teachers, former co-workers, parents of the children I taught as a tae kwon do instructor, students, medical and dental professionals, etc. I don’t want to be part of that community or interact with those people.
Who I was then is not who I am now. it’s like those coming of age books and movies, the troubled teen with a reputation (not always deserved) who is derided by the community leaves looking for a better life. Only difference is that I do not intend to go back. I have nothing to prove and no one to visit.
Sometimes a person has to go away in order to get better. Sometimes a person has to say and do terrible things in order to survive. It took us a long time, but we are learning not to feel shame and guilt about the things we said and did in order to survive. Part of what helped is realizing that not everything will be or has to be remembered as long as the important information is acknowledged and remembered.