Have you ever gotten a phone call in the middle of the night that was not good news? Then you know that those things are trauma triggers like none other. I got one this morning at 2:00 a.m. and I have not been back asleep (except for possibly about 20 minutes between 4:30 and 5:00). The news isn't the important part of this story -- if you are curious it was Dominyk saying Tony is going to get kicked out of Job Corps. There were also texts from Tony begging us to let him come home. So, if you know how things went the last time he was home, you know why this made me not be able to fall back asleep).
But the point of my post is that after I got done yelling at Dominyk that a 2 a.m. call to tell me this was NOT necessary and that I could have made it just fine until morning without knowing that, not to mention that his Dad is in the same house with him while I am 60 miles away.... anyway, I digress.
After I got done yelling and got back into bed I had a sudden realization of what it feels like to have your amygdala hijacked and to be in a complete state of fright, freeze, or flight. I had NO ability to think straight. My typical response to something like this is to process it with Bart but he was asleep miles away. I used de-escalation techniques, reminding myself that in 15 minutes or so I would be calm again. The thoughts were racing through my head. My engine was definitely in the red zone.
(If you want to learn more about the graphic above, what it means to have a red engine, and how to teach self regulation to kids, this article gives a good overview).
While I was lying there recovering from the aftershocks of a major trauma trigger, I started thinking about our children. I thought about how many times when they were growing up and in the "red zone" I thought I could help them learn something. My lectures that I found so very brilliant, were not registering at all because learning can't take place without felt safely. Oh if I had known that twenty years ago.
So what did I do? I tried everything I could think of to go back to sleep. I stayed away from electronics for a while and tried every trick I know, including counting backwards by fours starting at 413. I thought about happy things. I mentally walked the campus I lived on in boarding school, I mentally walked the college campus. I thought about work, which, by the way, was awesome yesterday.... the presentation I made finally helped me to understand something they have heard for 7 years, but it hadn't clicked until yesterday.
I finally gave up on that and decided to read a few chapters of a book. I tried to go back to sleep again. I played all my Candy Crush lives and all my Lexulous turns. I even unfollowed unwanted instagrammers. I finally gave up and got up at 6.
It was a good lesson for me though... and a good reminder. The next time that I come across my child or another child whose engine is red, I'm going to try and remember that feeling and think about what I would want someone to say to me.
Now if I can just stay awake for the rest of the day that would be great. :-)