Control is a Trauma Response

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, one of my favorite days to celebrate. In the past I would feel many different emotions on Veterans Day. I would feel sad, resentful, and even angry because when I was active duty, I enjoyed it more. While on active duty it felt like my service mattered more. The sadness, resentment, and anger that I felt every year on Nov 11, were feelings that I could not control and usually I would just sit in the house because I hated the fact I was no longer serving and reasons behind my retirement was out of my control. Not having control of what transpired has always bothered me. The lack of control in my life still bothers me today. Anytime I lack control it is a huge trigger for me. 

Having control over my life makes me feel less anxiety, and more confident that I can handle any and everything that comes my direction. This past week so many situations has happened that I had no control over, and I have felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest all week. The elephant on my chest feeling is anxiety, and although I work out, meditate, pray, journal, and keep faith in all situations… anxiety is one of those things in my life I cannot gain complete control over. Once I get the feeling of anxiety, I immediately become unhinged, sad, resentful, and anger. I often think if I could control the things around me life would simpler. The fact that I have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, & anxiety already makes my life complex. A life that lacks control, is a life that can sometimes lacks happiness and the simple joys of life. The situations that I struggle with daily, are also the reason that I wake up every morning and commit to fitness, prayer, happy music, & loving on my family. Every day I search for happiness in some form. Focusing on some form of happiness is how I cope. Happiness is the best medicine I have ever taken! I do have control over how I decide to let my emotions, diagnosis, or situations affect my day-to-day life. 

Although I have been struggling with grasping control lately, I have not been giving up on life and just quitting because I know there is a reason behind my need to be in control all the time. I recently learned People who struggle with the need to be in control often fear being at the mercy of others, and this fear may stem from traumatic events that left them feeling helpless and vulnerable. As a result, they many crave control in disproportionate and unhealthy ways. The experience of abuse or neglect, for example, can make people look for ways to regain control of their lives (Good Therapy).  I have experienced so many traumatic experiences that the need to have control is imperative for me to be happy. But the need to have control is not a healthy trait to have. The need to be in control is a trauma response. I often feel like I am stuck in the traumatic situations of my life and trying to gain control in some form makes me feel grounded.

 Since I have had the elephant on my chest feeling more often than usual, I have decided to work on coping strategies with my therapist and find ways to ground myself when I feel like I am losing control. I believe the constant feelings of losing control has been the universe way of saying “You need to HEAL”. I practice and preach healing, but it is not easy. I find that my journey to healing has been the hardest journey I ever been on. I also find the hardest part about the healing journey is the lack of control and not giving up when I do not understand why certain things are happening.  I am aware that to keep going when I feel triggered, I must make the choice to accept the situation and remember no matter what happens in my life I must wake up every day and choose happiness. This Veteran’s Day I will not dwell on what was. Instead of holding on to the lack of control I may feel, I will focus on the present. I have already committed and decided to wake up and choose happiness this Veteran’s Day.  I am thankful for 7 years of honorable service, deployment that changed my life forever, travel that opened my mind to so much, battle buddies that I still call family today, and life lessons that moled me into the woman I am today. The military definitely saved me. I come from literally nothing, and the Army took me in and prepared me for another side of life. Today I am medically retired, but I am beyond blessed because there are so many that have served and are no longer able to celebrate Veteran’s Day because their circumstances were different. 

Today I felt like I had no control, but one thing the Army taught me is “I will never accept defeat”! I will not allow my trauma responses to have control over my life or emotions. Life will not always be easy, sometimes you will not have control over your own circumstances, but do not accept defeat. Allow yourself to choose happiness & joy! Happiness is not the easy choice for some of us, but it is the best choice. Nothing worth having will be easy! I have learned through life lessons that everything that brings me joy requires effort. Even though my life is not perfect, and I am not always in control… my life is worth living.  If you are a Veteran, Thank You for your service! If you know a Veteran thank them for their service. Also remember, even if you lack control over certain aspects of your life; choosing Happiness is always a better option than allowing your trauma to win! Heal the trauma and allow yourself time on this journey. The healing journey will not be easy, but it will be worth it! 

-Toni

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