Healing from Trauma

Healing from Trauma

June was challenging. I slept walked through most of it, working hard at keeping emotions, memories, and phantom sensations at bay. Seven years since diagnosis. Seven years since multiple mammograms, ultrasounds, scans, blood work, biopsies, and a mastectomy all in a span of 22 days. And my journey has not ended. The healing begins after the trauma. And healing takes time – days, months, years. It takes patience. And the process is not linear nor simplistic. There are triggers that may spur anxiety or cause a relapse of intense fear. When triggered, we revert to the feelings and behaviours we had in the traumatizing situation.

The date June 02nd is a HUGE trigger for me. That was the day when my repeat mammogram led to an ultrasound, which morphed into multiple biopsies. I was told I needed an MRI, and that I would require – at the very least – a lumpectomy. I was given the names of the two top breast surgeons in Toronto. I was told to act fast and to call my doctor right away. I remember the sombre expression on the radiologist’s face and the urgency in her voice Call your doctor. She could not say breast cancer, but it was implied in her actions and firm advice. I had never experienced such gripping, intense fear. It washed over me – an icy sensation I felt to my core. I was deathly scared – fearful of the journey that lay ahead, terrified that I may never see my child grow. I don’t remember leaving the hospital or even driving home. I was in shock. I was experiencing a traumatic event.

A trauma – or traumatic situation/event – is brought on when a person experiences immense stress, such as a major life disruption that leaves a new normal in its wake. Survivors of a trauma may strive – as I have done – to learn to live within that new normal. To do so takes courage, strength, perseverance, and support. And so, when a trigger brings about a relapse of my deepest fear and anxiety, I reach out for support. Sometimes, that support is simply having a safe place where I may express the complex emotions I am grappling with. What I did not realize is that there are those who will claim to be your friend, yet choose to dismiss your trauma and mock your vulnerability. A flippant remark made at the most inappropriate moment – You have an overreacting mind. To accuse a survivor who is triggered that they have an overreacting mind belittles that survivor’s journey – from the traumatic event to the healing practises put forth, to the relapses felt when triggers occur. They choose, within your moment of need, to be unkind.

I do not expect everyone to fully comprehend what it is like to go through a cancer diagnosis – to reside in a space where you are not sure the extent of the disease or the possible outcome; and they may never be faced with the terrorizing thought of not being here to see their child grow. No. I do not expect everyone to understand. But, I do expect kindness. Or, at the very least, absolutely nothing. Doing/saying nothing would be preferable if kindness is simply beyond one’s reach. Perhaps that expectation is just too great an ask. Best practise? If you have not lived the trauma you should not judge the trauma.

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.” Peter A. Levine

And so, as I struggled to ride the waves of emotion brought on by a multitude of triggers, I put forth my healing practises and focused my energy into journaling, pilates, and practising daily gratitude. I worked to remain calm, take perspective, and regulate my emotions. It proved challenging, because I was also labouring through an unkindness, but that is a risk we take when we bare our vulnerability.

If I have learned anything about myself, I have learned that I am strong. I push onward and I work to stay present, positive, and thankful. Regardless the trauma, the triggers, the continued monitoring, the recalls, and the uncertainties I experience each year post-diagnosis, I keep moving, holding myself together. I thrive, I live moments, and I stay present. I invest in the healing process.

The truth about trauma is that there is no getting over it. But there is living for a new day, a new purpose, and a new sense of joy. You just have to keep going. If you do not, why then, did you fight so hard to survive?

Healing from Trauma. Published by Crystal Joy Hall

Featured Image by Johannes Plenio

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