The Way I Deal With Pain

Everyone has a process for dealing with personal emergencies. Here, I discuss the way I deal with them:

Within the last year I have had two close calls where family members have been seriously sick or injured. While I will leave out the details, what I will say is: I am so very lucky that they are still here to hug.

So then, why am I going through the trouble of being this to your attention? Well, because I wanted to share my process of coping. Once I looked at it, the way I dealt with both incidents, I was surprised – although admittedly, looking back, I shouldn’t have been.

But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and for me, refection is where I do most of my learning. As far as I can tell, I dealt with them in several ways – which is to say that initially, I didn’t deal with either incident at all.

Furthermore, in their aftermath, I forgot to look after myself. Not surprising. After all, that’s what we helpers do, right? While this may be true, I think there can be no denying that it’s super-unhealthy.

Healthy ways to cope when dealing with family medical emergencies

In light of my helper Achilles heel, not looking after myself, I have recently wondered why I deal or, rather, don’t deal, with emergencies well anymore.

Firstly, the helper, “I’ll be okay” method of dealing has always been the norm for me. However, since I have been diagnosed with PTSD, my process has mutated in a sense. As if that weren’t bad enough, my years in the fire service also mess with my healing. As such, a slow degradation of my mental health has instilled terror in me over the slightest possibility of crisis in my life.

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So, after much thought, I have come up with my own list of stages and factors of how I deal with emergency situations, especially personal ones. Maybe they will heal in some why. Furthermore, I will explain to you how I deal with a depressive or traumatic episode.

man in black jacket standing on the seashore
Photo by Vladislav Murashko on – the way I deal

The stages during and after a personal emergency – The way I deal

  1. Autopilot

This is a term I learned in the fire service. It’s a great term to use because it perfectly sums up where a firefighter’s head goes when responding/tending to an emergency. Basically, autopilot is switched on by the need to mitigate a given incident; autopilot, when engaged, puts one in the “What do we have to do to get this done?” mode. In other words, it cancels out the background noise of what’s going on. This comes in handy because the last thing one needs is to be distracted by the chaos, the blood, the sounds, the fact that another human is in distress and so on.

What I have discovered is this: I remain conditioned to this autopilot feature, even long after my years in the service. So, when an emergency arises like those in my family, for example, this switch gets flipped. A wonderful feature when in the emergency mode, but afterwards, not so much. When autopilot stays in the “on” position well beyond the incident itself, it always does more harm than good.


2. Gratitude

As I had mentioned, both incidents turned out for the better. Whenever this happens, I can’t help but feel grateful for it. So much so, I feel a strong sense of happy. Now, when I talk to my family members, I call attention to them and think about just how lucky I am to still have them. This in itself is a wonderful way to think. There is, however, only one problem: my major depressive disorder. I bet you’re wondering, “How can being grateful possibly have a bad side, even with depression?” Well, firstly, it in itself isn’t a bad thing, but a depressive mindset can corrupt it in a sense. Essentially, depression turns it into a trigger point with its negative dialogue. I always practice gratitude despite it, though, because it can make a depressive episode shorter. I know, it’s complicated.


Now, we can’t forget PTSD’s role in all this. Sadly, I can be shot down the rabbit hole of post-traumatic hell if I’m not careful. To be more specific, if I don’t manage it well, it will come for me. With my guard down and my thoughts preoccupied, it can easily invade my dreams, morphing them into nightmares, making flashbacks more vivid – and turn me into a hypervigilant, easily-started hot mess.

Complete List Of PTSD symptoms

4. The Crash

Finally, at the end of all, I crash and crash with the might of a meteor. In this stage, my bed becomes my safe harbour and I fully embrace it; for a short time, I give in. Hitting a low happens when the unseen symptoms of PTSD and depression overtake me, sucking out my life force until lifting my head is a monumental task.

But…. There is hope – the things I do to recover

  1. The Reset

Can being down and out, secluded in bed for a time, be a good thing? Well, yes and no. Firstly, if you choose to make your darkness your home for extended periods of time, this is not healthy, However, if you give yourself permission to take a day or two, it can be a great reset. Myself, I will never bend to its will, therefore, I get my ass moving again as soon as possible.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I am operating at full capacity either; it means I know how far to push myself. For example, I usually start out small, hanging around the house, maybe write a little etc. Then, I will force social contact. For instance, I go to a quiet café with a friend. This is a fairly typical strategy for me. After that I dial up my “busy” or dial it down – it all depends on my mental disposition at any given moment.

2. Forced Social Contact

As I mentioned, after the reset, I force myself to be social. While it might not seem appropriate, it is in fact, the only way I get to have some semblance of a life. Again, it’s essential to know your aliments and your own personal limits. Once you know them, you can reintegrate as tolerated. Similarly, you can pull back when needed.

3. Continued support from mental-health professionals

The most effective treatments for mental illness

What’s been fundamental in learning my own limits and how my mental illnesses impact me, has been therapy. A necessity, in my books. Furthermore, with the guidance of my psychologist, I have built better mindfulness skills and other tools that have helped strengthen my resilience. With the use of EMDR and cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, I have slowly worked towards conditioning my cognition, to overcome my symptoms.

Check out below for books on mindfulness, EMDR and cognitive

behavioural therapy

4. Use The Coping tools

We all know that if we don’t use tools we can fix what’s broken. The same is true of acquired coping tools. For me, the tendency at first was to give up on them, sighting that they “don’t work”. But skill-building takes time, regardless of the skill. In my case, I had to learn to be kind to myself. Remember, healing is a marathon, not a race. With that said, medications can be helpful for many. Sadly, I was not open to the idea of origin, but I ended up being in so much mental pain that I ended up saying yes to them, desperate to dull the pain. They work, at least somewhat. Because of them, I can better cope with the suicidal ideation.

5. Rest

Having all the above-mentioned things in place allows for a rapid recharge, if you will. Thankfully, this has reduced my stints in bed and has given me the strength to overcome mental illnesses’ persuasive talk.

Thanks to the hard work and determination to do what ever it takes to get better, I recognize that falling victim to my mental health conditions won’t get me down the road to mental wellness. Understanding that secluding myself for long periods of time is what depression wants, I can now rest when I need to without fearing that I will remain there.

A healthy bout of rest (a day or two) is best.

You can read all about other people’s stories at Sick Not Weak

6. Exercise

Finally, but no less important, is exercise. I often refer to physical activity as mother nature’s medication. Why? Simply put, it makes me feel great. In fact, it can shorten any downtime I experience. And the beauty of it all? The options are endless. From walking, to running, lifting weights to yoga, there is such a variety that it’s very likely that you can find something that works for you.

Below are some options to help get you started on your fitness journey

Hi Lyte Hydration electrolytes
the way I deal
Photo by Kamaji Ogino on

For me, running melts away anxiety better than any medication can, but with that said, all forms of exercise have a positive effect. As a result, I will never regret putting myself through it.

Different forms of physical activity

Well, there it is for all the world to see, this is the way I deal when I go through tragedy.

In closing, I have learned that the healing process requires action. Therefore, whether I want to or not, I must do! From my perspective, action is where the solution lies. The above-mentioned items are the way forward.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, writer and published author, appearing in the i’Mpossible’s Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.

Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files and Men Are Nuts Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.

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Categories: Depressive episode, Mental Health, PTSD

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