Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Instructions Not Included

Ever tried to assemble something?  Looking at 52 pages of small print instructions - in the dark of night with only a flashlight for illumination?  A flashlight with weak batteries.  Add a strong wind which blows the sheets of paper about like leaves in the fall.  The letters swim about on the paper changing shape and form.  For all the good, they're doing, they could be written in another script entirely.

A nightmare?  Your worst nightmare?

You ask yourself:  Is this a dream or is it real?  Am I going to wake up from this?

In my experience with trauma, especially the latest trauma in 2011, I learned the difference between a nightmare and a horror story.  A nightmare you wake up from.  Horror you don't.

Most importantly, I learned that recovery from severe stress, etc. does not come with any instructions.  No doctor, no counsellor can give you exact directions to follow to get well.  There are too many variables in the equation.  In fact, in my journey, I've been the one researching, problem-solving, describing symptoms to my health care team.  It's been a trial and error process.

I've been blessed that my counsellor not only is well-versed in trauma but has experienced it in her own life, thus enabling her to walk beside me step by painful step.  It was my counsellor who first described my experience as "horror" and suggested that until I faced the horror, it would not magically go away.  It was my counsellor who told me a piece of her journey through trauma and how she learned that after the acute phase settles, the physical body starts to act up some six to 12 months after the trauma.  It was my counsellor who give me a huge piece of wisdom:  when the victim is experiencing both emotional and physical symptoms, taking care of the physical symptoms comes first.

Even then she couldn't tell me what to do.  She could only support me as I stumbled and bumbled my way through the morass.  She could - and did - provide a safe place for me to tell my story - over and over again from this viewpoint and from that viewpoint - ad nauseum and to work through all the complications of recovery from severe stress and trauma.

My doctor, likewise, has provided a support system through regularly following up with me re: medications, emotions, etc.

Both have provided a lifeline.

Both have allowed me to direct my own journey towards healing.

Both have affirmed me as a human being in this journey.

Both have helped restore my sense of self worth, that there really is some value left in this old bear, by repeatedly affirming the conclusions I am drawing and the way I'm directing my healing journey.

Recovery doesn't come with easy instructions.

But it is possible.

I'll be exploring this issue of recovery minus instructions in later posts.  Until then, keep reading and keep healing.

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