Sunday Coffee – Fight, Flight, Freeze

img_7361Not long after my sixteenth birthday, my mom moved us to a new house across town. My sophomore year wasn’t quite over, and it was a big upheaval that I dreaded. Part of moving in was to bring all our many pets to the new house. Among them were two dogs, one of which was a large mutt with lots of energy. Because I was the oldest, I had this dog on his leash. When we got out of the car, a chihuahua from across the street ran over to us, barking. I strained to pull my big dog away, until he suddenly stopped, ducked backwards out of his leash, and attacked the chihuahua. I have no idea how everyone else reacted. My reaction was immediate. I fell into a crouch, back to the scene, hands over my ears, eyes screwed tight. My mind blanked, and I could not move a muscle.

Freeze – the lesser known sibling of Fight and Flight, two well-known responses to sudden emergency situations. Jason is a fighter, completely at odds with his normal personality. When faced with a sudden emergency, he reacts with swift action before he even has time to think. I, on the other hand, react by freezing, often going immediately into a crouched semi-fetal position and my mind going blank. I’m absolutely no good when it comes to quick-thinking situations. (Even in non-life-threatening situations – like improv drills in theatre, or being faced with something unexpected and uncomfortable – I clam up and start tripping over myself, my vision going white and time slowing to a crawl.)

There doesn’t have to be an emergency, however, for this freeze reaction to come out. Sometimes, your body is under high stress for so long that the simplest things can be processed as emergency. Example: In early 2015, after going through eight months of daily hell that was only getting worse day by day, I was so incapacitated by anxiety and panic that it took all my effort to do something as simple as wipe a kitchen counter or walk out the front door to grab the mail. Once while in that state, Jason was shredding potatoes in our food processor. He used the butt of a knife to press the potato down – a common thing he did – and went too far, causing the blade of the processor to smack into the knife with a loud clang and some sparks. This would regularly cause me to jump, as any loud, unexpected noise might do. Instead, I screamed, fell into my crouch, and was unable to get up for almost half an hour.

five-of-wandsSo, Manda – what does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m no where near the state I was in two years ago, but I’m also not terribly healthy and strong, either. The last three years have been constant battles, never-ending, from all directions (see Five of Wands –>). I’ve had little chance to rest, much less recover. And over the last two months, I’ve reached the limit of what I can handle. The current political climate terrifies, angers, disgusts, depresses, and otherwise incapacitates me. There is just so much. Everything that man does makes me want to simultaneously scream and bury my head in the sand. I’ve watched as so many of you share news, speak out, read books, go marching, sign petitions, make phone calls, fight…and I can’t. I can’t bring myself to even read beyond the headlines most of the time. I can’t do anything. I’m so battle-weary right now that I’ve considered simply disappearing again to escape, as a child might pretend the world outside them doesn’t really exist.

And so, rather than being that child, I’ve instead turned inward. I won’t be posting – here or any other social media – about politics. I won’t get into arguments, debates, or even discussions with the like-minded. I’m avoiding the headlines and the articles and probably social media in general. I’ll post about books and wellness and stupid things like my internal debate on whether or not to shave my hair off. It’s not because I don’t care, because I do care, deeply, about the travesty that is happening in this country. It’s just that I’m not strong enough to fight, and when my strength is used up, I freeze.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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2 Responses to Sunday Coffee – Fight, Flight, Freeze

  1. Michelle says:


    I think the calls for fighting forget how difficult it is for some people. Social anxiety, fight/flight/freeze, proximity to protests, money, agoraphobia – there are so many reasons why people cannot resist as much as they would like. Do not feel bad. Your health is more important because without that, there is no reason to fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristen M says:

    This is a brave post. We all must do what is our instinct and what is healthy in times like these. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can’t do what others do and then I am more gentle with myself and feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

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