Personality or Stress Response?
I feel like parenting a child with chronic pain has changed me in so many ways. I have definitely grown in my empathy, wisdom, and flexibility. But I also feel like I have become more lazy. More selfish. And more anxious. Let’s break these down a little because I think I am probably not alone…
Feeling lazy • Don’t want to fold the laundry (or do any household
chores) • Want to watch tv • Don’t want to exercise • Tired of thinking about what to make for dinner all the
Feeling selfish • I want time to myself • Don’t want to meet up with friends • Don’t have the bandwidth to do things for anyone outside of my household • I want to go to bed at 10pm sharp and will get mad at anyone who tries to deter me
Feeling anxious • I don’t really feel like going to the grocery store and see anyone I know • Am glad to wear a mask in public (anonymity) • Can’t handle changes in plans • Want to stay home • Needing comforts (diffuser, nice music, nice lotion, calm house)
In the past few years, as these 3 traits have been increasing, I have been kind of worried. Is this just who I am becoming as I am growing older? I have been missing my younger self. Missing the days when I could be spontaneous, change plans more easily, be more adventurous.
But then I realized … this is how I respond to trauma. I am like a scared animal that wants to retreat to her hole. I fear what is out there. Or what else might happen. This isn’t just me getting older. These aren’t just characteristics of mine that are ripening with age. This is my stress response.
When I frame it that way, I have a little more clarity. It puts me at ease. I have empathy for myself. I can respond to myself more graciously.
I have seen these amplified characteristics in myself for years now so it can feel permanent but as I recognize it for what it is, a stress response, I can know that it is temporary.
As my own nervous system learns to be a little more at ease, as Greta becomes more functional and our whole family can participate in life more, I notice myself venturing out a little more.
In fact, since I have labeled it a stress response, it has created a subtle shift in me. I don’t cling to those behaviours quite so much. That label gives me a little space from it. Maybe because they aren’t “me” but are just “my response”. I realize that they will likely flare with pain flares and other difficulties in life but they will be temporary.
I still have many other lovely characteristics that are in there. They just get overshadowed by my stress response.
We aren’t broken. We are still our same lovely, kind, patient, fun selves. We are just making our way through a very difficult situation.
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