April 12, 2011
I had a burning question.
One of the things that has happened in the past few weeks and as I have been writing and talking more- I am feeling the push of a lot of different streams of my thoughts to get ideas out and it is kind of overwhelming. I am frequently reminding myself now though that I need to have more faith in the system of my mind- the mind which saved me from the abuse. I mean: I start to get flooded with feelings and ideas- good, painful or a mix and I have to remember that my mind filed away a lot of my own thoughts which I was not at the time of their happening fully able to tolerate or process and it was all done in the name of protecting myself. My mind is not going to suddenly let loose some flood of information or ideas which I can not fully tolerate- it goes against the very system of the entire way my mind works. Instead of panicking now when I am having a lot of thoughts or feelings and things FEEL strange and or new- I try to remind myself: I am ready for this. I worked a long time to heal from the trauma I lived through and then I came to this weird place- this place I never imagined because I had no context for imagining it. It is the place of feeling better.
I used to always wonder: How can someone heal from so much trauma? It was not even a question specifically about me or my trauma- I was always looking at other people and their stories and wondering: How do people REALLY heal from huge trauma? I asked my doctor this question many times over the past several years of our working together and his answer was always pretty much the same. He would tell me that people start to feel better and then they get their life back. And the look of extreme annoyance I would give him was pretty much always the same look too. The problem was- I wanted to feel better- but I had never really felt very good- so I really had no idea what "getting my life back" would mean. And then it started to happen. I started to get my life back.
One of my favorite things that my doctor says sometimes about getting through this pain is that, "It does not have to be graceful." And it surely has not been- I am laughing now as I type that though. Tolerating the memories and the pain of the memories has been excruciating at times and I have been about as far from "graceful" as a human being could be. I came to understand that sometimes tolerating the pain of the truth has really meant "Stay alive no matter how much you think you do not want to in this moment- because this moment is going to pass-even though it does not feel that way at all." Tolerating the memories has often meant simply: Stay alive. And I did. And as I type those words I think: Maybe I have done better through this than I imagine. And I think that I have.
The last week and a half or so has been pretty rough. I was making a list of all of the difficult things that happened in the past 10 days or so but also thinking I had 'tolerated the pain' pretty well when Christopher said to me: A lot of good things have happened too. He was right. I had been going over the past bunch of days and I was going over every hard thing- and I was leaving off every good thing. I had heard a great classical concert, I had laughed a lot one day at my art therapy group, I had done some dog sitting, dinner with friends, trips to the library, making art, running, sleeping well, listening to music, planning a GREAT trip for this summer... there were a lot of good things.
I spent the day today writing and making art. Both were pretty painful but also enormously productive. I also went for the run, felt the rain on my skin, talked on the phone to 4 different people I love and signed up to do some volunteering. I have wanted to do volunteer work since I moved here 8 years ago- but I have never felt good enough to do that- today I do. So the answer to my 'burning question': How do people really heal from huge trauma? I was running and I was HAPPY and I thought: THIS. This is it. This is me getting my life back- feeling the strength of my own body, having a lot of thoughts come and go and weave together and then not again and tolerating it all- feeling better. I don't really know how to explain it, but there is this weird thing that happens- I guess it really is like a tipping of the scales. While you still know all of the horrors of the past- you have the ability to see it as the PAST and to recognize fully that you are free and safe and able to make your own choices now in the PRESENT. So even though you still have to live with whatever the trauma is that you lived through in the past- you finally (finally) want to be alive. Because after a huge trauma... after a huge trauma you kind of feel not very alive at all. I felt 'dead' for such a long time. I am thankful to my doctor and my enormous group of good friends all of whom helped me to hold on, tolerate the pain, keep going and STAY ALIVE. Because now- finally- after a long time suffering and a lot of work- I don't wake up each morning to simply stay alive- I wake up to live.