Between Your Last Nerve and Control

Margin is the space between your last nerve and your loss of control.  It varies.  Your margin depends on your state of health, your stress level, whether you’ve eaten well or not, and how much sleep you’ve gotten.  If you are female, it also depends on hormones and the state of your relationships.  Why is margin so important?  It is often the only thing you have control over.  PTSD messes with your margin in significant ways.

If you are sleep deprived, the margin between your best coping and flying off the handle is narrower.  You don’t always have control of your sleep because of insomnia and nightmares.  However, you can take regular rest breaks during your day, practice sleep hygiene, take your sleeping medications, and regulate caffeine intake.  Right now, you might not have control of your flashbacks.  However, you do have control over what you eat, whether you take your medication as prescribed, whether you choose to drink or not, and whether or not you exercise.   The point is this:  You are the ONLY one who can make these choices for you.  If you have a caregiver, or a spouse who has been helping you, and you hear these words flying out of your mouth:  “It’s your fault that ___________ is happening.  It’s your fault I’m drinking.  It’s your fault I’m cheating” there is bad news for you.  No one can make you choose to do those things.  These are choices you make.  It is a lie that you have no options.  The options might be unpleasant, or distasteful, cause you to have unrelieved emotional pain, or pull you in a direction you would not want to go – but you have options.  Your caregiver can’t create margin for you, just like your caregiver cannot make you stop drinking, or keep you loyal and faithful.  Does your two year old bug the daylights out of you?  Wear headphones, and schedule time to play with them on the floor when you are rested and have margin built up.  Remember – often times your children sense your distance, but have no words to talk to you about it – so they act out their fear and hurt and – bug the daylights out of you.

Isolating yourself does not help things.  One of the big lies depression and fear create is that you are safer alone.  It isn’t true.  It causes more damage.  When you push people away, you decrease margin in your life.  Pushing people away decreases conversation opportunities, hurts those who love you, and cuts you off from grace and mercy.

You always have choices, but because of that you also have responsibility for what you choose to do.  It’s a good news bad news kind of thing.  You have the power, but with power comes responsibility.  Reach out when things get rough.  You never walk alone unless you choose to.




I'm Kim, and I am a licensed trauma therapist working in Fayetteville, NC. I'm prior active duty, and grew up in a military family. I play keys in a band, play practical jokes, and feel enormously privileged to write for this blog.

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This blog is for information only. It is not intended as a replacement for therapy. If you need additional help, please see a qualified therapist.