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What I Learned in Therapy About Medical Trauma

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I have always prided myself on my resilience. I have been through awful hospital stays, invasive tests, disease flare ups, medication changes and more, yet I have always bounced back. I was one of those people who couldn’t be broken. That all changed after my latest hospital stay for E. coli. I don’t know why, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After coming home from the hospital, I began having panic attacks and crying all the time. I felt like I couldn’t find my way back to myself. Any slight twinge of nausea (which tends to happen pretty often when you have Crohn’s Disease and gastroparesis) would send me into panic. Worst of all, I felt like I wasn’t there for my daughter. My smart, beautiful, loving daughter needed her mom and I could barely get through a day without having panic attacks. I thought the support of my family and friends would get me through like it always had before, but this time it wasn’t enough. This time was different.

I could see how hard it was for my husband when I shut him out, but I couldn’t find a way to let him back in. He wanted to help me, but I didn’t know how to accept his help. Eventually, he found a therapist for me and asked me to try it out. I was convinced they wouldn’t be able to help me, but I tried it anyway. I told myself that I could go at least one time for him. It turns out, the hype is all true. Therapy can be incredibly helpful if you find the right therapist.

Mostly I just cried for the first several sessions, but then I noticed something. I saw a glimpse of the old me. At first, I would go for a few minutes without being consumed by panic. Then slowly it became hours, which turned into days.

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Through therapy, I learned it’s OK to not be OK. I learned that my trauma is very real and finally breaking is nothing to be ashamed of. I learned it’s OK to take medication if you need it, and it’s OK to ask for help when you feel lost. I’m still not back to my “old self.” I’m not sure I ever will be, but I am putting the pieces back together and getting better every day.

If you are reading this and struggling with medical trauma or any other variety of mental illness, know you are not alone. I hope that, like me, you can find the strength to ask for and accept help. It won’t be easy. It will feel like you take one step forward and 10 steps back, but I promise there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get through it. I believe in you.

Getty image by Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: September 12, 2020
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