Home Featured Dealing with a vulnerability hangover.

Dealing with a vulnerability hangover.

by Matt Pappas

There aren’t too many things to experience that are as bad as a hangover. If you’ve ever had too much to drink and then tried to wake up the next morning and try to function like you normally would, you know how rough that is.

This is about a different type of hangover though, the kind that comes from deep work in recovery from abuse.  The kind of hangover that makes you feel so unbelievably mentally and physically exhausted, so run down that you just don’t feel like doing anything but sleeping.

Even trying to just veg out in front of the TV or read a book feels like too much work. Your mind is tired and needs to rest. Your body is tired because your mind is tired, and it too needs to rest and recharge.

This situation has been very evident to me since I started my healing journey, and it’s not


uncommon to go through one of these after a therapy or coaching session, or after a stressful situation has ended and you are just worn out.

I’ve talked with many who have similar experiences and we all say the same thing. Our minds and bodies are tired after pouring out so much energy and emotion. 

I’ve also experienced a vulnerability hangover after reading a particularly in depth chapter in a trauma recovery book or watching a video on a mental health topic that has triggered me.  Speaking of being triggered, we certainly can’t forget that!

As soon as the trigger starts to dissipate, or subside, we are often left with a sense of exhaustion, confusion, deep sadness and frustration. That “oh man is this ever going to stop happening” feeling really does a number on our minds and bodies.

If there’s any advice that I can pass on based on my own experience and that of talking with professionals in the mental health field, is this…

The worst thing you can do is try and fight off a vulnerability hangover.

At first that might sound totally counter productive but it’s really not. In fact, sitting with these types of feelings during trauma recovery is actually very healthy and important.

You don’t want to minimize the stress that your mind has been under, and that your body has endured.

The easiest way to think about it, is when you are really sick. I’m talking like you are down and out with the flu or some wicked cold that has you barely able to move much less go to work, cook, clean, or do anything you normally do.

What’s the best thing a doctor to tells you do? Rest…(and drink lots of fluids). Your body has an amazing ability to heal itself but it can’t do it overnight. The more you fight it, the more energy is spent trying to accomplish whatever task you shouldn’t be doing in the first place, rather than allowing your body to devote all available resources to fight off whatever is ailing you.

vulnerability hangover - give yourself time to restThe same goes for a vulnerability hangover.

You are putting in the hard work to heal by opening up old wounds, uncovering old memories, opening up that shoe box of thoughts that’s been tucked away in the back corner of the closet of your mind.

That’s deep, deep stuff right there. It was bad enough when you experienced all of that trauma first hand when you were a child (or whenever the events happened in your case).  But now you are reliving them, analyzing them, learning from them, and learning to take back the power that they’ve had over you for so long.

You are to be commended and given the biggest High Five in the world, for the hard work you are doing! You Rock!!!

Your mind and body deserve a break; think of it as a “thank you” to yourself.

For me that looks like sometimes foregoing a trip to the local diner with a couple of my kids and my friend, in favor of just staying home and resting.  Maybe catching up on some shows that I recorded and haven’t watched yet, kicking back with a book, taking a hot bath, or just simply taking a nap.

This is all a form of self care, let’s not forget that.  Self care doesn’t always have to be about doing something, it can be about doing nothing.

In this case, with a vulnerability hangover from trauma work, doing nothing might be just what the doctor ordered.


Feature image courtesy of Pixabay.com – Other images credited in alt text or url. 

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JPeaSmith ??/??♿️ November 24, 2016 - 10:12 am

AHA!! Wish I’d read this this morning (which I didn’t because I have been too exhausted to go on any social media or email for the last 24 hrs..) Thank you for that brand new term. This is me today… vulnerability hangover! Thank you thank you!! Been through some super rough vulnerable stuff with therapy yesterday on top of last Friday and I woke up this morning (It’s now evening here) unable to do a single thing… not even check emails or hop on Twitter!!
Last Friday I was so emotional I channeled that emotion into writing 20 thousand words for my next book over the weekend but then last night had a follow up session which was amazing and good and huge and long … and woke up with this massive hangover! Thanks Matt!

anonymousethethird November 24, 2016 - 11:38 am

Matt: You are so right. I just had one of those “why didn’t I think of that moments”. You have so accurately put into words what I was experiencing and struggling to understand. Thank You, Thank You so much for sharing this and your journey!!

L Wool November 24, 2016 - 11:55 am

How did you know I needed this today! I really needed to read this today. Trauma has been a major part of my life, and am currently in this mode of my “mind and body being tired after pouring out so much energy and emotion.” I realize the importance of just taking care of myself now, and allowing myself some down time to recoup. Being around family during this hard time is going to be difficult today at Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m not sure I want to go for dinner. I’d rather just stay home and do some feel-good stuff like warm bath, warm blanket, warm movies, warm soup, and some tea. Although, being around supportive family members will be a positive as well. I can rest over the weekend. I dunno!! Anyway, thank you for your post. It’s much appreciated. ~ Lori

sherylburpeedluginski November 25, 2016 - 12:22 pm

Love the term “vulnerability hangover”. I once literally fell into bed and slept for 12 solid hours after a therapy session during which I processed a sh$&tload of anger at my father (one of my abusers) that I’d been denying and suppressing for 13 years. When I woke up, I still had to remember to be extra kind to myself and my inner child for a few days. But boy, once I came out of the “vulnerability hangover” I discovered that the work I’d done had freed up a huge amount of fresh energy and personal power for healing. I felt saner than I had in a very long time. I hope everyone can feel something like that after their VH!

Rhonda July 9, 2018 - 8:52 pm

Thank you Matt! I now have a name for what I feel and can’t explain to the family. I usually feel bad and lazy for not being able to get up and do things at home, outside, go to family events or even little things as read. This so makes sense now. I knew the recovery work was hard however, never to such an extreme. Thank you.


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