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?