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How I’m Dealing With Trauma After Life-Threatening Illness

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I am getting better. I am able to be off the couch now for the better part of the day. My bedroom has become a place where I simply go to sleep every night. It is no longer where I eat all three meals, the place I use as my office, my personal movie theatre and see some days as a prison. I can drive a car, go to a majority of my office visits on my own and I have even been able to get a small amount of income come in with my artistic abilities. Life is moving. Things are happening like I had hoped they would for over five years. So what is it? What is it that is keeping me tied down, making me feel like I am still in this altered reality where nothing makes sense and I am still not where I want to be? It comes down to something very simple: trauma.

• What is PTSD?

Before receiving my own diagnosis, I was sick for over 20 years. My health issues literally almost killed me. When I was sent home to be with family, I truly thought I was going to die. There was no way out of this. But deep down, I knew that was certainly not true. I knew the real answer was that I needed to do a lot of work. I needed to fight. I needed to do years of hard work to get to where I wanted to be and it was not going to be easy. I knew it was what needed to happen to get to where I needed to be.

So, what happens when we go into that state? Where we are going through day by day on a thin strand, so thin that one little thing can make it snap? Where life is so precious, time makes no sense? Where there are large parts of time you cannot even remember and years clump together to form one solid chunk you just label as “treatment?” Where do all the things go that we shove into that box, tell ourselves we will deal with later and hope those experiences will simply disappear? Where do they get stored? I wish I had the answer for you. In my own experience, I have worked through a lot of therapy and energy work that has allowed me to face those things. I learned to slowly pull them out of the dark deep places I hid them and work on them, one by one, like peeling an onion — layer after layer.

As humans, we are incredible beings. Our individual bodies all go through stress and trauma differently than anyone else and how we react therefore does too. For some, it is easier to process than others. Therefore, trauma does not have to be what the common belief describes it to be. Many people see trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as something only war veterans or prisoners of war experience. That is far from the truth. Trauma can manifest from something as simple as a small fight with a loved one to a car accident or breakup. Trauma can happen when anything shakes our reality. Once we experience that trauma, it is stored deep within us and for some, it takes longer than others to process. Facing it is the first and hardest part.

For me, I buried it. I hid it deep down for later and now that I am healing more physically, I have to face it. I know, to get where I want to be, I have to process as much as I can. A huge part of that is letting go of what I thought life after treatment would be like. I am learning I have a major health condition that I will need to monitor the rest of my life and that means I cannot go back to my old ways, because those were the coping mechanisms that got me through. But those coping mechanisms I used to help me get through were my normal. As strange and out of place as a lot of them were, they were my normal. So now, I am learning I need to start over completely and some days, when I look in the mirror, I truly do not even recognize myself. Things are very different now and I realize I have literally been reborn.

So where does someone in this position go? Forward. We keep moving forward. One step into the unknown after the other. When the slate is blank, forming a new story, a new way of living and seeing things is scary. It is complicated. It is like seeing the world from an infant’s eyes again. The old ways of doing things simply do not work. To do things the old way means going backward. Going forward is intimidating. That is where the trauma emerges, where it needs to be heard in order for you to move forward.

With the help of healers, friends, loved ones and even therapy animals, we can get through this process. No matter how big or small you think your own trauma is, there are people out there who can help you through. The main person to get you through, though, is yourself. Deep down, when we really quiet our minds and listen, the answers are all laid out there for us. In our core, in our center, we know what we need to do and our inner guidance can help us through. If we cannot hear that inner voice, we reach out to those who can help us to — doctors, spiritual healers, energy works, whatever works for you. Just know you are never alone in this thing we call life. There is always another way; there are always options. Let that keep guiding you through.

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Originally published: December 28, 2018
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