The morning had been going well. I was in a good mood, feeling confident and competent. Then it got to be about 11:30, and the floor dropped out from under me. Everything I touched was a mistake and a failure. All I could do was let down my coworkers, my family, my kids. I should just die.
I thought: WTF!? Where the hell was this coming from?
I’m pretty sure that what happened was fairly simple: my breakfast ran out. And my mind interpreted the physical feeling of low energy as “We are fatigued and depressed and nothing will ever be right in the universe again.” It would have been ever so much nicer had my mind said, “Hey! Maybe we should have some lunch!”
I find it fascinating how our brains take the physical responses of our bodies and tie them to memories of when we experienced that physical response previously, so that the physical response triggers similar behaviors. This is a gift – it helps keep us alive and unharmed. Think about the last time you were really sick to your stomach. I bet you remember the last thing you are before you got so sick. And I bet it took some time before you could even think about how that food would taste and feel in your mouth, without having a gag reflex kick in.
For me, from 1989, it was nuggets from KFC. It was a few years before I managed to not turn green when somebody even mentioned them. For my sister, it was movie theater nachos. We played the game of teasing each other with these, which was probably a mean thing to do, but…. siblings!
Like fear and anger and pain and many other things our brains can do, this is a gift with a shadow side. Dissociating from profoundly painful situations helps us to survive in the short term, but in the long term, we have to learn how to re-integrate and heal. Feeling my energy level drop lets me know when I need to eat or sleep, but today I experienced the shadow side: the physical feeling of “low energy” was tied to experiences of depression and chronic illness, rather than experiences of satisfying my body’s needs and feeling better as a result.
So I’ll have some lunch, and I will hold onto the very rational thought that responding to “my energy is low” with lunch will send that noonday demon packing!