I suffer from Complex PTSD, alongside depression and anxiety which can impact on my everyday life. Knowing that I have these health conditions, helps me to understand why life can bring extra challenges.
Situations and opportunities which may not be life threatening can truly feel so. One cruel word can cut deep and may put me into flight mode. Opportunities can be missed, as I walk away from them feeling overwhelmed.
Stress can trigger these negative feelings and flashbacks of traumatic events, so it is important for me to try and manage my mental health and emotional wellbeing; as best as I can.
Luckily, over the years, I have gained some understanding of my health conditions, and learned some coping strategies to help me manage them. Coping with the current pandemic has been very challenging, and at times made it even more difficult to manage my health conditions. I am not always successful at applying my coping strategies, but knowing there is help there, gives me some comfort and relief.
Thinking about what helps me, I started to have thoughts about a series in the 1970’s called the ‘Six Million-Dollar Man.’ I tend to think about things laterally so please be patient with me. For anyone, who does not know, the series is about an astronaut called Steve Austin, who is seriously injured and put back together with machine parts. The upside of this is that it enables him to have superhuman strength and agility.
Whenever the Six Million Dollar man is expressing his superhuman powers, he is always shown doing this in slow motion. There were quite a few scenes of him running very fast, very slowly. In the 1970’s, special effects were not as sophisticated as they are now, but this did not stop me as a child from only seeing magic!
This made me think about one of the techniques I use when my anxiety is spiralling, and I need to go out. Being in a state of high anxiety when trying to safely navigate the outside world, is not ideal. Becoming calmer so that I am able to focus can help.
Before going out, I concentrate on my breath, and start to breathe deeply, and think about the stages involved with going outside. When ready, I open the door and pretend to be the Six Million Dollar Man by slowing my movement down. I may not have his superhuman capabilities but I can make use of his slow motion moves.
As I walk down the stairs, closer and closer to the outside world, I also try to be mindful of what I can feel around me. I focus on the floor underneath my feet, my hand on the handrail, and for extra further reassurance I sometimes touch the wall. Slowing my physical movements down, and breathing deeply, can help to calm my anxiety down to a manageable level.
The Six Million Dollar Man technique I use, relates to something I learned as a young teenage actor. In an actors workshop, we were told that our physical movement and pace may reflect the time and place we are living in. So, for example, someone living in a modern fast past city, may move quicker than someone who lived in slower paced, Shakespearean times. This may be an over generalisation but it helped us think about movement in an historical context.
What I found even more useful was doing physical exercises involving slow movement with intermittent moments of stillness. I found some peace and calm inside, suffering as I do now, from a high level of anxiety.
I was starting to become more aware of how the mind and body are connected and have continued to develop this awareness throughout my life. I feel this has been critical in helping me to manage my health conditions. So, I would like to say thank you to the Six Million Dollar Man and also to the acting teacher, who continues to help me find some inner calm and peace, in a chaotic world.
- By Wray