Thoughts on Survival

I want to share two stories with you, stories about how I coped with stressors that activated my fight and flight reactions.

I like to think that I am the fighting kind of person, that whenever I meet a stressor, I run towards it head on, I like to think I’m brave and that I can take on anything, but I most definitely can’t.

At the end of 2013 I was jobless and desperate, my first marriage was failing and I had no idea what to do with my life or how to make anything better. In 2009 I was caught in a flash flood and my car engine drowned. Ever since then I had severe driving anxiety. I could not drive or sit in a car alone. Period. So when December 2013 rolled around and I was faced with multiple emotional stressors, I needed a job and I needed a way out of my bad family situation. I said to myself, “what the hell,” and applied to truck driving school.

Yes, a person with severe driving anxiety wanted to learn how to drive an 18-wheeler. I knew going into school that I was afraid; driving a car terrified me and the thought of driving something as big as an 18-wheeler was beyond my imagination. But I did it. I passed all the tests and I scored high marks in all my classes. I learned how to drive stick shift and how to turn a corner without the back of the trailer swinging into another lane. I drove a 53 foot trailer up Wyoming and down through the canyons of Nevada. My first day out on the road after I finished my training, traffic was stopped by a controlled avalanche (some places set off avalanches and clean up everything so they don’t happen by accident and hurt people).

It was scary, it was fun. I was fighting. I faced my fear of driving and I overcame it. I was very proud of myself.

My career as a truck driver did not last very long (had to quit to take care of family drama) but I learned a lot about myself during that time, that I could take care of myself in the face of adversity.

In contrast, I hate conflict and getting into arguments with people. Especially co-workers. In past jobs, whenever I had a problem with someone or someone had a problem with me I would run very far away. When I was still married to my ex, there was a rumor going around that he was having an affair with one of his co-workers. I didn’t believe it and defended him, saying the co-worker was stirring up drama. Somehow (my ex probably told her) she found out about my dislike for her and confronted me in the office parking lot. Now, there were things I wanted to say to her, witty things, I wanted to meet her attack and make it clear that she needed to stop messing with my ex. I froze up. Everything I wanted to tell her vanished from my mind. All I managed to do was mumble something like “You’re spreading rumors and that’s a problem,” and I ran away.

This was another kind of adversity. And that was how I coped with it. I’m not proud of wanting to increase the drama by fighting this girl and wanting to win, I’m not proud of my inability to say anything profound and clever. But even thought I couldn’t fight in that situation, even though I was afraid of this girl, I survived the encounter unscathed and I didn’t do anything stupid that would have gotten me in trouble. So I’m happy about the outcome despite my now very mild disappointment with my performance. At the time, I was so mad at myself that I didn’t say anything clever.

Two different situations with two different reactions. However, the outcome of both of these stories is: I survived.

As always, thanks for playing and keep on keeping on.

Reminders:

Week 3 Contest entries are due by Sunday, October 25, 11:45 p.m. EDT.

Read and vote for your favorite Week 2 entry here. Polls close Thursday, October 22, at 11:45 p.m. EDT.

Brain candy for Week 3’s prompt, Fight or Flight, is here as an exploration of reactions by Kathy Boles-Turner.

We’ve met your characters, now introduce yourself here with any random fact you’d like to give.

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About 409writinglife

Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas and has lived most of her life in the United States and Panama. She earned a BA in Sociology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Would you like to know more?
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6 Responses to Thoughts on Survival

  1. Rio says:

    I have had a few opportunities to test my flight and fight response. I think the hardest was cancer. I really wanted to run away and the last thing I wanted was to be rendered helpless, but I had three kids, the youngest was ten at the time the other two were teenagers and I had to live in my mother’s house. I really had no other options. I took all the rounds of CHOP chemo they would give me and I survived what was a really poor prognosis to begin with.

    During that time there were so many instances when I had to just stay with the pain, I couldn’t fight or run. It was really hard but I also found at times there was this amazing release, a sort of brilliant luminous quality to everything!

    Recently I did an on-line course called “The Freedom to Choose Something Different” with Pema Chodron. She is not in the same lineage as my teacher but she is a gifted speaker, very funny at times but possessing serious insight.

    I have often chosen to run away. I got beat down enough to learn I couldn’t always fight. When you are broken by people you love or situations you can’t change, running can be the only option. Unfortunately, I would fall in love with the same type and end in the same situations over and over. So for me, choosing something different was staying put and NOT fighting. “Sitting in the fire” is how she describes it, which sounds WAY more proactive than “putting up with shit”.

    The other thing I have found in trying something different is seeing there are choices outside of reacting with either fight or flight. It is a type of freedom no one and no circumstances can take away. It also makes things better for others.

    Liked by 1 person

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