Friday, July 16, 2010

The reality of trauma...

I have never been a wallflower. Nope. It's just not me. I find myself taking part in conversations, and many times (certainly in my younger--and am I allowed to say "hotter"--days) I have found myself the center of attention.

That was then. My experience with this accident has changed me drastically. I'm not saying that I have gone from social butterfly to hermit crab, but there has definitely been a shift. I honestly don't know what to call it. Perhaps I am a bit more reserved?...pensive?...??

I have noticed that my reaction to the simple social aspects of life is different than it was pre-accident. I am definitely more gun-shy. Now, a lot of that can obviously be contributed to my physical recovery. That's a no-brainer. But a significant portion of my refined reaction is caused by something else.

Some of it is personal growth. No question there. A wonderful product of this experience is that I am becoming much more of the person I wanted to be, but never was. So call it wisdom or experience or whatever else seems to fit, there's definitely a mix of that in my way of thinking these days.

But the biggest catalyst for the change is the trauma. This is what has changed me the most. It has taken me almost 10-months to recognize this, though I knew it was going to happen as soon as I "came to" in the hospital. What I didn't fully understand was how the trauma would affect me, how significant of an effect it would be, and (perhaps the grandest of them all) how many levels of trauma I would be subjected to.

Let's back-up for a second. I am incredibly lucky. 2-inches could have made the difference between walking and bed for the rest of my life, and that same 2-inches could have also been the difference between dead and alive. So I know how fortunate I am to have survived that day.

With the above in mind, the different phases of trauma during my recovery have been really intense, and I was unprepared for all of them. I cannot verbalize what some of these are because I am still processing. Others, like the trauma of the accident itself--a memory filled with fear and adrenaline that comes out of nowhere and haunts me for hours at a time--or not being able to manage anything on my own (going to the bathroom, putting on/taking off clothes, moving from the chair to the bed, whatever), those I have started to work through. Its slow, but then again, who's to say how fast one should process things like this?

I confess that I fear the trauma still to come. I cannot predict what is next, so my current plan is to continue moving forward while taking constant notice of the progress I have made thus far. I know that as my physical body changes, as it recovers its strength, I will see less and less of these traumatic events in my life. I know this because it's happening this way. Yet I am also well aware that there are phases of this recovery that I have yet to reach, and with those will come different experiences--some of which will be traumatic in their own way.

Truthfully, the biggest burden of this recovery process has not been the physical recovery (which as everyone who knows me knows has been an experiment in terror), but instead has been the difficulty of processing trauma that I have experienced. The downright humbling experiences to something that no one knows about but me...I had no idea that dealing with the effects of these events/situations was going to be so difficult.

I realize I must endeavor to stay strong. Frankly, I am astonished at how well I have done so far. I don't know where it has come from, and I have no idea if my ability to stay strong and positive will end tomorrow. This is a constant effort to be sure.

To manage the rest of my head, I guess I will need to keep checking in with myself for the rest of this process (and probably for a good amount of time thereafter). I already know I must understand how I feel about things...acknowledging the raw feelings and then processing. I'll also have to make sure I understand that whatever it is, it isn't something that makes me less of a person. I'll endeavor to remember that this was an accident. I'll try to remember that road of life is about the journey, not the destination. I will continuously tell myself that I am still ME.

The reality is this: by constantly checking in...verifying that I am keeping things in perspective while allowing myself to process the trauma (whether that be to cry, be angry, happy, whatever)...that's the only way that I will truly recover. 


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