She was a whizz on the mountain bike. She could go along trails at speeds that I couldn’t even imagine. It was like the bike was part of her and she was confident, being ‘at one’ with it.
Until she hit a tree root and was hurtled forward, landing roughly on the ground, breaking her jaw.
Surprisingly she was ok with that. She was able to eat, talk and smile and the pain wasn’t actually so bad. So she carried on, with her work and home life. Her friends were really surprised that she coped so well.
But Megan was not really interested in her bike anymore. Something was missing and felt changed inside of her. If anybody asked her to go for a trail ride, she declined and felt tears and a deep sadness, as well as a quickening of her heart and shaky hands. Then she started to get cranky and irritable, when usually she was quite a mild mannered but cheerful person. She would see her bike, feel cheated and the annoyed feeling descended upon her.
Megan was very good at covering this up for about 5 years until things started to go awry. Her friend was talking about those days on the bike and Megan got teary and angry. Then it happened again with someone else. Eventually she was alienating most of her friends. She was irritable, anxious, not sleeping that well and had strange stomach pains. She also seemed to have episodes of avoidance and confusion and was exhausted.
Finally it was suggested that there was something going on that wasn’t quite right or resolved and that Megan see a coach.
Megan was running on adrenaline. On the outside, to the world, she was ok, but inside she was churning and in a cycle of hypervigilance, stuck in a loop of trauma.
Adrenaline is also addictive. And even though it may result in anger or irritation, the body is receiving that rush. And the addictive aspect comes from a resulting rush of dopamine. Dopamine is the reward chemical and gives a strange feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. It is not always picky about the quality of the experience – from trauma, drama, drug taking, risk taking to acts of benevolence and kindness.
The friend was right. The coach discovered with Megan that she had been running through the scene of the accident frequently and because she was making herself cope, this scene had gone ‘underground’ and was running the show from her unconscious mind. Megan realised that simply seeing a bike would make her body remember the accident, hearing the sound of bicycle brakes really made her fearful and the shakes came from the adrenaline of associating into that. She was unconsciously always on the look out for danger. And because this was unconscious, the irritability, anger and shaking was appearing to be ‘random’ instead, difficult to link back to the bike accident. And of course, she was exhausted.
Working with Megan resulted in that bike accident trauma being unlinked from her emotion and the memory placed back into the distant memory part of her brain. She was finally able to talk about it as fact – no emotional geyser involved! A weight was lifted from her shoulders. ‘Oh that’s better’ she said straight away.
But she felt very flat in the couple of days following. It was almost like she was sure how to ‘be’ anymore. This is very common. When the previous triggers appeared (the bike, the sound of the brakes), the body was in a habit of behaving in a certain way – adrenaline, heart pump, breathe faster, shake etc, and then the dopamine, giving satisfaction and pleasure. But now it didn’t have to. The thing here is to understand that Megan will be and feel a bit different for a few days as neurological pathways are changed within.
What she is experiencing is peace.
Instead of recognising it as peace, it feels flat or even boring.
No adrenaline or dopamine coming from the usual source. Boring. Empty. Strange.
Beware. Adrenaline and dopamine are addictive. And when the main source of the addiction is taken away, it can be created in some other way. This is how ‘drama’ surfaces. The constant need to create ‘stress’ and therefore adrenaline. It may be from ‘picking a fight’, sending that snarky text, road rage or something that creates that quickening of the heart, the adrenaline and then the dopamine.
If you are experiencing boredom after a particularly busy or hectic period at work, with your health, a trauma or with others, ask if it is indeed boredom or maybe it is peace.
Welcome it. Enjoy it and get the adrenaline and dopamine that way instead!