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This crippling fear I often held silently within me until I could outsmart it enough to take the next action I wanted or needed to do.

Overwhelmed, Underwhelmed, Triggered, Numb ~ Beginning Recovery

In the early days of recovery I literally had to “fight” for every change I wanted in my life. Sometimes the fear was so overwhelming, and quite frankly, as an adult, it just did.not.make.sense.at.all.

This crippling fear I often held silently within me until I could outsmart it enough to take the next action I wanted or needed to do. These days I can look back now and see how much of my life I lived in sheer terror and didn’t even know it, because it was my normal.  Yet, if you looked at the external side of my life, the parts you could see, my life was anything but fear filled. I broke the norms, left the state to live in a variety of places, worked in different industries, travelled spontaneously, so yes, it didn’t appear I was living in a terrified state at all.

Complex Trauma however, is all about what we can’t necessarily see. We can see outward behaviours, and not know what the internal workings are that are driving the behaviours. Why? Because complex trauma is, well, complex. It’s so incredibly multilayered I still shake my head at how much I’ve had to learn so I can be well. The good news is because I’ve done the work into good health, it won’t take you as long as me, nor do you have to become as unwell as I did either.

In the beginning I had no idea how the words overwhelmed, underwhelmed, triggered and numb impacted me internally. I didn’t know how my brain was running the show and derailing all my efforts. 

Have you been able to recognise if you’re overwhelmed, underwhelmed, triggered or numb? 

I’ve included part of an article from the goodtherapy.org website so you can get an idea of what it is to be emotionally overwhelmed. Let me know if you can relate to the article. I’ve added in a meme to help you begin to come off being emotionally overwhelmed. I believe in you, and I believe you can take your one next step to healing your complex trauma. 

Emotional overwhelm is a state of being beset by intense emotion that is difficult to manage. It can affect your ability to think and act rationally. It could also prevent you from performing daily tasks.

Emotional overwhelm may be caused by stress, traumatic life experiences, relationship issues, and much more. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed for an extended period of time, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional.

 

SIGNS YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY OVERWHELMED

 

Emotional overwhelm occurs when the intensity of your feelings outmatches your ability to manage them. An individual is most likely to be overwhelmed by negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or guilt. However, people experiencing mania can be overwhelmed by euphoria.  

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be difficult for you to pinpoint exactly why. Often there are many stressors contributing to emotional overwhelm rather than one particular event. Your emotions may bleed into seemingly unrelated parts of your life. 

Here are some common signs that you are being overwhelmed by your emotions:

  • You have a disproportionately big reaction to seemingly insignificant situations. For example, you may panic when you can’t find your keys.  
  • You feel physically ill or fatigued without knowing why.
  • You have trouble focusing or completing even simple tasks.
  • You find yourself withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Your emotions colour your perception of the world. For example, intense grief may have you feeling sad even during pleasant occasions.

CAUSES OF EMOTIONAL OVERWHELM

 

You will likely feel a state of emotional overwhelm at some point in your life. Sometimes, this overload stems from a single big stressor. It is common to feel overwhelmed after surviving a traumatic accident or losing a loved one. 

Yet overwhelm can also occur due to many smaller stressors. For example, missing your bus may not feel like too big of a deal by itself. But if you’ve been fighting with your family, having trouble sleeping, and are hungry from skipping breakfast, a missed bus can be the proverbial “last straw” of the day. 

Some emotions may overwhelm you more easily than others. You may find it easier to manage your anger than to tolerate extreme fear or sadness. If you have many conflicting feelings at once, emotional overwhelm can be especially likely. 

Some mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, have emotional overwhelm as a symptom.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF EMOTIONAL OVERWHELM

 

Emotional overwhelm can make it difficult to take care of yourself. You may forget meals, skip rest breaks, or struggle to fall asleep. These behaviours can in turn lower your ability to think rationally, making it even harder to cope with overwhelm.

If left unchecked, this cycle can lead to physical health problems. You may experience unexplained pain or develop persistent fatigue. As negative emotions increase, your body’s ability to fight off infection may decrease.  

Emotional overwhelm may also impact your social life. You may find yourself lashing out at others or avoiding conversation. These behaviours may strain your relationships with loved ones or professional colleagues. 

 

HOW RECOVERY CAN HELP WITH EMOTIONAL OVERWHELM

 

 

Recovery is often a helpful way to sort through difficult emotions, especially those that occur as a result of stress or trauma. In recovery, you may be able to:

  • Understand the roots of your overwhelming emotions
  • Explore ways to self-soothe, such as meditation
  • Address recurring stressors that contribute to overwhelm, such as marital conflict
  • Learn coping skills to deal with any stressors that cannot be prevented
  • Treat any mental health issues contributing to overwhelm

With each concern that is resolved, you will likely find that dealing with other stressors becomes easier. Even focusing on one or two issues can significantly reduce your distress. Even if your problems seem endless, know that therapy can help you manage your life one step at a time.

 

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