I like to think that, most of the time, I can handle the immediate responsibilities of a crisis without a) losing my shit; b) having a meltdown; or c) running away. Car accident? I know what to do, I’m calm and collected, even while in pain. 13-year-old drops a moving chainsaw on his thigh? Yep, I’ve got that covered too (with obvious appropriate steps taken to get said kid to a doctor ASAP). A work colleague suddenly cannot meet a deadline? I can prioritize and put in extra hours to reduce the possible emergency to an inconvenience. And if, heaven forbid, there is some kind of natural disaster and people need water or shelter or whatever I can deal with the immediate steps to make that happen. I am able to absorb shock and stop it, instead of allow those shock waves to be amplified by my own freak outs and then reverberate along and freaking other people out too.
However, the thing that I have a really hard time with is feeling like things are okay, things are progressing and moving forward, only to discover that my legs have been chopped out from under me. To feel like you’ve been climbing up this staircase, careful and trusting, and then realize that the staircase is melting; someone has accidentally (or on purpose) set it on fire. At that point, you only have a few options: jump ship and hope the fall doesn’t kill you; or you take a breath, grit your teeth, and run down through the smoke and flames, knowing that once you’re on solid ground you’ll probably never be quite the same. I know the file won’t kill me, but the burns are going to leave a sizable mark.
I’m on fire. Everything is on fire. I can’t see through the smoke and my chest aches and I can’t breathe. I literally wake up at night coughing and gasping for air, covered in sweat, trying to stave off the eruption of a full blown panic attack. I’m trying to get clear of all the smoke and fear, but my legs don’t work they way they are supposed to and I feel like I’m running but not moving anywhere. I curl up, cradle my head in my arms, and wait.