Flipping Your Lid

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine gave a wonderful presentation on mental health and well-being. As a part of the presentation she showed a video by Dr. Dan Seigel on the “hand model” of the brain.

Now, I’ve done a ton of reading about the brain, neuroscience, trauma and a bunch of other topics in my quest to understand how trauma has affected my daughter, Hope and what I need to do to meet her where she is and try to help her heal. It’s not easy. Brain stuff is…complicated. I realized that personally after sustaining a traumatic brain injury nearly two years ago.

I know this stuff, but there was something about this simple hand model that helped refocus some of my efforts in understanding some of Hope’s more challenging responses. Hope has gotten pretty good about tempering some of her fight or flight responses, and with her being nearly 100 miles away, I have to be really, really attuned to her verbal and non-verbal cues to figure out if she’s having a hard time.

Folks who have experienced trauma, well, we flip our lids fairly easily. We flip easy, and we flip often. Kids with a history of trauma do not have enough maturity or life skills to figure out how not to flip their lids. Their brains are just trying to help them survive in a world that has betrayed them over and over.

In the thick of the rough times, it’s easy to focus so much on the behaviors and not the underlying challenges of brain development and functionality. It’s so much easier to tell our kids to “calm down” or even “you don’t have to worry about that” when all they do is worry, fret and wonder about their stability and well-being.

As Hope and I approach some major life changes with her looming graduation, this is a seriously triggering time for us. I’m taking a lot of deep breaths as decisions are made or avoided, as we continue to wait for college admissions decisions that are completely out of our hands, and as we both look into the void that seems to be the day after graduation. It’s hard with a bunch of trauma at your back and so many unknowns to the front to keep your wits about you. I’m trying to be especially mindful of that in my own reactions in general and in my interactions with Hope. I’m trying to keep my lid in place.

How do you hold it together? How do you keep your lid in place?

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About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted a tween daughter five years ago, and this blog chronicles our journey. Feel free to contact me at adoptiveblackmom@gmail.com, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com, 2013-2019. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

7 responses to “Flipping Your Lid

  • Susan

    “How do you hold it together? How do you keep your lid in place?”

    I literally just had a flip your lid conversation with one of my kiddos about making garlic bread. It turns out even though we cook all the time, when I suggested he get some garlic bread for his dinner he is making, he was dismissive and not very nice in the grocery store. After a difficult discussion, it turns out he doesn’t know how to make garlic bread and the thought of making it was scary to him so he freaked out. Luckily, after I explained that its just preheating the oven and setting a timer – and there actually are directions, all was good and he sheepishly laughed – but what a cortisol inducing interaction that was.

    So I was excited when I got to the end of your article. I kept scrolling down thinking that these questions were the transition to the paragraph where you were going to provide the answer, lol!

    Maybe in a few years that will be your post 🙂

    Good luck Hope and ABM!

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      LOL, I have no answers here. I wish I did!

      Ah the bread story–yes, there’s always stuff underneath the stuff we are actually talking about that just triggers the flipped lid. It’s hard to remember that–good on you for helping him through it.

      And that’s often the best we can do is to try to hang on and muddle our way through it.

  • Belladonna Took

    Full disclosure: Quite often I don’t. I came seriously unglued just the day before yesterday. But when I do, it’s because I’m maintaining my routines – and that’s a real tightrope act for ADD Me. So keeping my home reasonably orderly, and also setting daily goals and then actually following through and doing them are big. And then there are the healthy lifestyle choices … I recently came up with a mnemonic, SLIMS – SLEEP (enough, at regular hours), LOG OFF (because if I wait until I’m tired I get sucked into YouTube or the news and then sleep doesn’t happen), INGEST (healthy, seasonal food, lots of water and certain natural supplements), MOVE (could be exercises or energetic chores or farmwork/gardening, but my favorite way is to work with my dog), and SMILE (yes, I’ve actually started making my face smile – just exercising those smile muscles every time I think about it, like right now – and it looks and feels foolish but quite often makes me laugh, so I guess it’s working).

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      What a great approach! I like this and will have to *borrow* it!

      I imagine that Hope flips more often that she lets on’ she’s just gotten better about internalizing it, which also isn’t necessarily a good thing. That ADHD thing for her is also challenging. This school helps her maintain routines, which helps, but on the weekends? Oy! It’s rough for her.

      How’s hub? Was thinking about him this week, with the whole tractor thing!

      • Belladonna Took

        Thanks, ABM – he’s doing well. Been home nearly a month now! Still needs crutches, more for balance than weight bearing. He has a lot of healing to do yet but he’s working on it and meanwhile he’s back on his tractor!

        I use Evernote for keeping track of goals, to do lists, and so on. It’s easy, free, and pretty flexible. Just thought I’d pass that along.

        • AdoptiveBlackMom

          Oh I love evernote! I tried to get Hope to use it a few years ago…lasted about 3 days…smh.

        • Belladonna Took

          Well, I got the Hubbit hooked by insisting he use it for the shopping list, which I shared with him. Told him I was done with forgetting to read the fridge and keeping track of random text messages, and if he wanted me to come home with anything specific, that was the way (the ONLY way!) to make it happen.

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