When a natural disaster hits, there is anxiety, and traumatic loss but such events have a clear beginning and end. Natural disasters are devastating but there are few unknowns. With the collective loss, there is often collective care and support. In the aftermath of a hurricane that destroys and our neighbor’s home, we run to help him rebuild.
In the face of epidemics we lock our doors. Threatened by contagion, terrified by unknown risks, we move into fear-based survival mode. We isolate. We ruminate. We become saturated with media warnings and shaken by shards of frightening information and even conspiracy theories.
Leaving death and destruction in their path, such events undermine our necessary denial that life is predictable, that children can be safe and that we can be in control.
For a time, we are left wounded, shaken, vulnerable and afraid. Caught in the traumatic moment, we fill in the future unknowns with expectations of more of the same trauma so that next time we will be ready.
Eventually, despite the memory, the extreme loss, the bodily injuries and even the fear, we want our lives back, we want our children to play, and we want to smile…
We need to find a way to survive and at times even succeed with life’s uncertainties.
Here are six strategies that may begin to answer that need. Some you may already use. Some you may want to consider.
Validation of True Self
In this era of advanced medical detection and intervention, the medical care of patients and the reduction of mortality for life threatening illness has never been greater. Against this backdrop of success, however, what is often overlooked by professionals, family, even patients, is the experience of medical illness as psychological trauma.
Against the back drop of three waves of the feminist movement, both men and women might affirm that women ask for their needs. On a more personal note, if you ask married men the same question, too many might say “They never stop asking.” And if you are a mother or have ever faced a mother trying to get what she needs for her child – you know enough to step out of the way!
It comes then as a surprise that research across age and venue finds that as compared with men, women don’t ask for what they need, often settle for what is offered and tend not to think about negotiating on their own behalf.
Prompted by her personal realization in the corporate world that her male counterparts had received promotions because they had asked, Linda Babcock, together with Sara Laschever researched the differences between men and women in negotiating for what they need. The findings reported in their book, Women Don’t Ask are relevant in understanding women, men and meeting needs in and out of the workplace.
Last week the media reported the sad and unanticipated deaths of two men. Derek Boogaard of the Rangers died from an accidental overdose of the drug oxycodone mixed with alcohol and retired lieutenant, John A. Garcia, a 23-year veteran of FDNY who not only responded to 9/11 but responded and lost two of his men in the Deutsche Bank Fire. died by suicide.
One can’t help but wonder if the tragic deaths reflect the danger of hidden depression in men. Increasingly we have become aware that although women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, many men, beyond the 10-17% diagnosed, may also be suffering with depression.
Depression May Be More Deadly for Men
What makes depression in men so dangerous? It too often goes unrecognized and untreated because it is masked by physical complaints, substance abuse, anger and other stealth symptoms.
In the previous blog “Worry may be Hazardous to You and Your Relationship,” we recognized that excessive worry is costly. It takes time and energy but brings little rewards. It often leaves the worrier feeling helpless, anxious, physically depleted and more worried. Interpersonally, it compromises relationships, leaving partners feeling swept into the worry, avoidant or angry.
Worry need not be a life sentence or a relationship deal breaker. Drawing upon experts like Edna Foa and Reid Wilson who address coping with worries and obsessions, let’s consider some strategies for dealing with excessive worry — what I call “CPR” for worries.