Fight – Flight – Freeze: We generally characterize the physiological responses that one feels in their bodies, along with the physical responses, into these three reactions: Fight – Flight – Freeze. I teach this in our Progressive Crisis Response training. The trainees, after learning/ discussing the elements of FFF, take an assessment to learn to assess it within themselves. We share, and learn to assess for FFF in others on the team. We create a self-regulation plan, because Stressed Minds Can’t Think!
So, Tuesday morning, Day 2 of said training. “I regret to inform you all of this unfortunate news…” Reactions. I could scarcely look around. Then, I felt compelled to, if only to escape my own thoughts, and emotions – I’ll share those later! I’m not letting myself off the hook here. It felt intrusive, yet I was intrigued. We can’t forget Kubler-Ross’ “5 Stages of Grief”. I had to keep that in mind.
Anyway, I scanned the room. Her work bestie – she walked in crying. This told me everything. The more people spoke, the less she cried, the harder her face became. She blames us. Anger. Possibly coupled with guilt(Bargaining) and Depression.
I tear my eyes away. She won’t stop talking. She gave the wrong news the night prior. Guilt also known as Bargaining. “She was just like me.” No sweetie, she wasn’t. You had a lot in common. She refuses to look up. She looks like crap when all is said and done and I see her face. The day after, she checks in with me, Angry and tearful. Angry at many things, everything – nothing really. If she’s honest, she’s angry that KS chose to do this, and not reach out for help. Angry that she offers on a daily that she’s there if anyone needs to talk, and no one takes her up on that offer.
Then another. I had asked her before, What’s going on? “It be okay.” Her face said otherwise. She is the queen of the blank face. Denial. Fighting back tears. She has shut down. Even the next day. From what I have seen, emotionless. “I have to do something. I just can’t focus.” Denial.
She tried to be strong. I saw tears in her eyes. When she gave the two above a hug, trying to be of comfort. Back in her office, Anger, and Denial. “I’m mad at her. There are people that do that because they are truly sick, and hurting. I’m sorry but she wasn’t. She always needed validation.” She was able to recognize the signs, in hindsight. Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe that is her Bargaining – not Anger…
“This sucks,” she said tearfully. Shock – Denial. Even the next day, Denial and Bargaining. “It was just her path, I feel bad that I talked s*** about her, but I wouldn’t call it bullying?” Seeking validation. I was on phone, I didn’t respond.
On to me… When I heard the news, my heart seemed to beat so hard, I thought it was going to beat out of my chest – I could hear it in my ears. Surely others could too, in the silence… My goodness, it was so quiet. I just wanted to leave. I could see myself get up and walk out. But, my legs would not move. They were weighted down. It was as though I was glued to the chair. I felt as though I would never walk again – Freeze.
They continue to speak, I try to ground myself. My breathing is slow, steady. My heart continues to pound – Fight or Flight? That’s how I feel. I want to run, but I can’t move. My hands are shaking, I am wringing them to still them – Flight. They said we were in there for 40 minutes, it didn’t like it was that long. Honestly, it felt like 10-15 minutes – Fight. “Do you guys want to go eat? Have a drink? I’ll buy.” The COO is uncomfortable. Why did she come deliver the news? So much for “Trauma-Informed.” “What are you all thinking?” It’s been quiet too long for her, she’s freaking out. SHUT UP AND LET US PROCESS THE NEWS! – Fight. I don’t say those things of course. I just want to.
After people begin to clear out of the room, I stay seated for a few minutes, until someone beckons me – Freeze, Denial. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I knew, I just-” tears, she’s crying. Do I need to absolve her? “It’s fine, I understand.” I’m angry – at her? I need to get away from her – Flight, Denial. I don’t want to face my own feelings. I’m not ready. I see an RC crying. I jump into helper mode. I’m great at that! – Denial. I sit by an RC that is left alone. She just rambles on and one… I scarcely hear her as my own thoughts begin to creep in and overcome my mind – Depression. “Thank you for sitting with me – Oh.” I stood, just as she said those words – Flight. I have to escape the thoughts, cannot let the tears flow, cannot allow these feelings to overwhelm me – not here, not now, not today. “I’m going to clean up the coping skills. I need to move.” I was leaving. But, I saw the coping skills on the table – my ram in the bush, and decided to use that as an excuse. “I’ll help.” She sees me wiping tears, “Are you okay?” I cannot answer. I don’t answer that question for anyone.
The fact that OJ has been on my mind so strong lately – and he took his own life… Now this young girl. Both were 24. I went to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – first time, although I’ve been through many significant events. I just needed to talk to someone. She said what church people said, without the God factor. “There is nothing anyone could have done to have changed the path of the deceased.” We cannot blame ourselves, we cannot question it. It is not for us to understand. I take that as I’m not God, so stop placing myself in the realm of the almighty, thinking that I could have prevented a suicide. I did all that I knew to do.
For anyone that is having thoughts of harming themselves, or if you know someone who is having thoughts of harming themselves, urge them to seek help. We who are left behind are left with the could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, wishing…