Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Not An A-Type, Is He?

We participated in a CPR and First Aid certification class last weekend. It’s one of the requirements for our fostering license, and it’s just plain a good idea. Heather and I have both been certified more often than not throughout our lives. but had not done so recently, so this was a good opportunity to get back into it, as well as to learn what has changed. Turns out, there has been quite a bit of change, much of it toward making things easier. If you haven’t been certified recently (or ever, for that matter), it’s a good thing to think about. The skills you learn could save a life, possibly even your own. It’s something to consider, at any rate.

Our instructor introduced herself with, “I am an A-Type personality, so …” and I gave an inward groan. “Oh no,” I thought, “Here we go.” It wasn’t as bad as all that, though. She was a good instructor, if a bit cynical for my taste, and she did have a wealth of experience-backed knowledge. She was probably not someone I would want to have tea with, but it would no doubt be an interesting evening of trading medical nightmare stories, if it came to that. She was also, as I would learn later, a fairly observant person, as should really only be expected from someone with more than twenty years in an emergency medical field.

At one point during one of our breaks of the day, while I was away getting some air, the instructor said to Heather, “He’s not an A-Type, is he? If he needs to take a walk, tell him to go ahead.” I didn’t know about this until Heather told me about it that evening, because she knew that it was advice that I would not use (I was there for a class, and I would finish the class, regardless. I’m stubborn that way.) but it was an interesting observation. When Heather told me, I replied with, “She noticed my rocking, huh?” Of course she had, and, as a medical professional with experience in juvenile emotional issues, she knew what it meant too. It had taken me only a moment to notice that I was doing it, and then to clamp down on it and make it stop (I’m stubborn that way too), but that moment had apparently been enough. One of the little arrogances I do have to work on. I tend to forget that I’m not the only one who is constantly watching what the people around me are doing.

Rocking back and forth is a visual indicator of overwhelming stress for people with certain issues. It is typically accompanied by hands clasped in front of the body (sometimes gripping the knees but, more often in my experience, clasped together, sometimes wringing) and the head bent slightly forward. In extreme examples, the head might be tucked almost all the way down into the chest, but, in those cases, the rocking will usually be so pronounced that any other symptoms will be largely incidental. I have been doing this in cases of severe stress for as long as I can remember, though my rocking is not usually pronounced enough to draw attention, except from the most keenly observant.

To be honest, that Sunday was a bad day for me all around. I had been having a rough go of it for a few weeks (as I’ve mentioned at least in passing multiple times in recent posts), and, due to scheduling requirements, that was my seventh People Day - that would be days with extended interaction with people outside of my own immediate circle - in a row, with at least another week ahead of me before I would be able to fit in a recharge day. That may be difficult to understand if you’re not a fairly extreme introvert, but for some of us it really matters. I’m not an A-Type, and I’m not really a people person, but my job requires that I spend five days a week essentially pretending to be both. That is something I am entirely capable of doing, and I think I do it rather well most of the time, but it is hard and tiring work. I usually use the weekends to limit my exposure to people and recharge my People Batteries, but even my weekends have been a bit crowded lately. When you add in the fact that, in some cases at least, I mean “crowded” quite literally, and combine that with enochlophobia - a fear of crowded spaces - and I’m sure you can understand that it’s not exactly pleasant.

If you remember the TV show M.A.S.H., there was one episode (Goodbye Cruel World) where they called in frequent guest star Allan Arbus as psychiatrist Dr. Sydney Freedman to treat Sgt. Michael Yee (Clyde Kusatsu), a decorated war hero who was then demonstrating self-destructive and suicidal tendencies. At the end of the episode, Sidney has given Sgt. Yee a post-hypnotic suggestion to twitch his hand whenever he feels overwhelmed by stress, instead of acting on that stress in a destructive manner. This is, of course, meant to be a temporary pressure release valve until Sgt. Yee can get access to more thorough treatment. The twitching presented there would be something like the rocking in my case, a pressure release until something more thorough is available. For me, there actually was something of a minor meltdown that evening in the comfortable privacy of my own home (of my own backyard, to be fully accurate, while watching the super moon). That was even more of a pressure release, and I have now passed through the following week without any subsequent issues worth noting.

That is important to keep in mind. There is often a stigma attached to a meltdown, but there is really no reason for there to be such. The human mind can only contain so much pressure, and it must release sometimes. If it is not released safely, it may be released in far more harmful manners. The trick can be in controlling when it is released, but it can usually be done. The tricks for that will be different for different people - rock back and forth, whistle a tune, recite a prayer or mantra, etc. - so you will have to find your own, but you do have them. All people have tricks that can get their mind to play along until you can get time and space to dig in. Experiment and find the tricks that work for you.

Then, when the time is right, dig in and address the situation. Let the pressure sort itself out in a way that won’t blow itself up. If that means therapy, do it. If that means crying at the moon, do it. If that means meditation and music, do it. I like combining tools and treatments, but I can’t tell you what will work for you. I am happy to discuss and even offer suggestions, but ultimately the decision must reside with the individual. As in all things of this nature, no one knows your need better than you.

My role here is to be a candle, a light that says, “See, it can be done. You can do it.” When I’m being perfectly honest - and I do try to be perfectly honest - I’m the first person to admit that my headspace is pretty messed up. I have a basketful of quirks and mismatched parts that can make the world a difficult place to navigate, and I’m not exactly compelled by ambitious drive. I’m more like the anti-A-Type, but I get the job done. Some days, I’m even quite pleased with how well I get the job done. So this is me telling you, “See, it can be done.” Generally speaking, if I can do it, anyone can do it. We just have to find the best ways to get it done.

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