I dash upstairs to my colleague’s office, but I’m quickly interrupted by a friend,
“How’s it going?” he asks.
“Good and you?” I reply.
I’m trying to catch my breath. Lassoing it into submission before it is noticeable to my friend. I haven’t run a marathon or have been chased by a vicious animal, and the few steps I took upstairs is hardly enough to increase my heart rate. So why the response?
As we continue the small talk, I disguise my rapid breathing by lifting my foggy eye glasses away from my mask, combing them back like a hairband. I am fully aware of the stress I am experiencing and adjust my posture to appear more relaxed and in control. (I hope it isn’t obvious to him.) We’re talking about vacations – sunshine, restaurants and natural wonders. The conversation is light-hearted and enjoyable yet I am forcing what mental capacity that is not reserved for survival to grab ahold of his words and make sense of them. It’s not that I’m not listening or that I’m bored with the topic. My mind is cloudy. I respond, spitting out words describing my vacation while my nervous system overrides any pleasure. We end the conversation after five minutes. I am exhausted and buzzing with adrenaline.
This occurrence isn’t isolated to small talk, and I am not sure why survival instincts kicked in during this exchange. I am uncertain why this happens, but it occurs multiple times throughout the day. It is a minute-by-minute challenge – a fierce fight between a body that keeps the score, (appearing like everything is alright) and trying to convince my nervous system that I am safe.
Although I have many unanswered questions, I understand that I carry with me remnants of a past need for survival. While I hide my racing heart, rapid breathing, dizziness, lack-of-focus and fear as best as I can, I am also attuned to what my body is telling me. I honour its need for survival and understand that it is doing its best to protect me (even with outdated information). The more I listen to my body, experience healthy interactions in a safe environment and implement strategies that help me know that I am safe, I am confident that the survival instincts will lessen.