by Neal Fowler via Flickr Creative Commons

by Neal Fowler via Flickr Creative Commons

I attended a psychodrama workshop two weeks ago. It was a transformative experience for me, and I keep trying to think of a way to consolidate it here, but I can’t.

Drama therapy is experiential, and reading about psychodrama myself didn’t prepare me for how powerful it would turn out to be. Long story short, psychodrama is a way to incorporate the body into therapy, and studies now show that trauma is literally stored in the body. I also recently read an article which frames trauma as a reenactment, and psychodrama allows that reenactment to be overwritten with a new story, allowing the protagonist to say and do all the things they wanted to say and do in the moment but could not.

The most striking difference for myself is that since my experience with psychodrama, I have not felt anxious.

To you, that may seem inconsequential.

But I cannot remember a time in my life where I have not felt anxiety about any area of my life. Except perhaps for a day or two when a large problem has been resolved.

But for as long as I can remember, anxiety has been there, like a white noise machine in the background. Eventually, your body might even learn to tune it out. But once someone turns off the machine and you remember what actual silence sounds like, the difference is startling.

I can watch TV because I want to relax, not because I’m trying to distract myself from my thoughts. I don’t have to turn on the radio in the car. I find myself humming. Things that would have sent me into a spiral before, now I just shrug and think, “Oh, well, something will work out.” It’s just not a big deal.

Me, who broke into sobs at seven years old when my mother was late to pick me up from school because I was sure she was dead.

Me, who is used to having regular emotional meltdowns because I feel so overwhelmed at the though of completing everyday tasks.

Me, who used to find uncertainty and having a lot of options absolutely paralyzing.

I backed my talk therapy down to every other week because I’m fine.

I went in this week, and didn’t even have the faintest idea what to talk about, rather than having to choose which thing I wanted to discuss.

If you imagine an emotional activation scale where 0 means you are feeling no strong feelings whatsoever and 10 means you are completely overwhelmed and shut down, my whole life I have been living at a 6 or 7 as my default. It’s not a long trip from 7 to 10. Get stuck in traffic, get into a fight with someone, miss an appointment. Any of these things or especially multiple things in the same day can lead to reaching a 10.

I have been having to put in so much work just to keep myself away from 10. All my self care had the goal of inching me back away from 10 as much as possible.

Now I would say I’m living at a 1 or a 2. So if I get stuck in traffic or I’m late or there’s a misunderstanding with a friend, I might get up to a 4 or a 5. But then I go back to a 2. I’m not getting hijacked up to a 10 every other day.

Now there are times when I think about watching TV and I think, “Eh, I’m fine.”

Now my self care can actually feel like I’m filling up a cup, instead of pouring water through a sieve.

I’m still balancing a lot of things. I still don’t quite know how my career is going to progress. I don’t have any more money than I did two weeks ago. But somehow, I’m just not worried about it.

I feel so much more confident and sure of myself. Sure that I am intelligent and capable and that whatever happens, I will be able to deal with it.

I can’t say I’ve ever remembered feeling that way.

There isn’t a constant stream of white noise in my brain. If I don’t get something done on my to do list, I just plan to do it the next day. There isn’t a self-loathing spiral.

I won’t say that everyone’s anxiety is the result of childhood trauma. But if it is, I know how to fix it now. Get in talk therapy, and then by the time I’m able to facilitate a psychodrama group you’ll be ready.

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