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  • Writer's pictureGavin Conochie

Counting the Cost

My body has been in a state of readiness for over half a century now: ready to respond to the feeling of crisis that has continued to live in my system with the same urgency it had when it first landed there as a tiny infant.

For a long time, it almost felt good to be in this state, to be always mobilised, prepared for action. The adrenaline and other chemicals circulating in my body on a daily basis gave me a feeling of strength or invulnerability at times – like I could accomplish more than others, like I had a window into a way of being that others less hyper-vigilant than I couldn’t hope to access.

It’s always had it’s shadow side, too, this way of being, bringing with it periods of depression and collapse that took me decades to recognise as an attempt on the part of my mind and body to recuperate from the impacts of an over-revved, always-on nervous system, rather than as some defect in character that I had to work even harder to overcome.

More than that, though, it feels as though things are beginning to wear out. Years of stored tension in muscles that have obediently kept themselves primed for fight or flight; years of monitoring my environment for danger; of never quite feeling safe in social situations because other people - unpredictable, not to be trusted at times, however nice they appeared at others - were the original danger; years of not knowing how to rest or settle, other than through sleep, because the only safety lay in being always watchful...all of these have taken their toll.

Maybe it’s because I’ve found some sense of peace, of inner stability and trust in my own resilience at last, that I can finally afford to let myself count the cost.

There is grief attached to this process - as there often is with any transition - a marking of loss. Even as I enjoy the relief of landing in my own body and being more present to life, I find myself having to come to terms with the opportunities missed: the relationships and connections with others, the places I could have travelled, the job offers, the projects...all sacrificed on the altar of safety, that overriding imperative that has been - for me and many of those I work with - the driving force of a body-mind in the grip of trauma.

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