A lot of people go through trauma. And we all deal with it differently. I would even argue that my experience with IBD can barely be considered trauma because of how much positivity came from it. But it was. It was traumatic in the sense that it was deeply agonizing and the emotional response was as soul jerking as the physicality.
I didn’t recognize my illness as trauma because it happened over such an extended length of time. And each set back was just the universe chipping away until eventually two years later I realized how much of me was missing (literally an entire organ). But there was this whole shift in my brain, altering my perception of life and resilience. And it’s only now when I can process the magnitude of all of it that I realize how traumatic it really was.
So how are you supposed to just move on? Everything is peachy keen and we just forget about it? Like nothing happened we just go on with life and that’s that? That’s what it feels like. It feels like I have this happy little life and I should be content and calm. But I don’t. Somehow I feel the sadness and grief hitting me like a ton of bricks.
I realized something was wrong when I had two panic attacks in one week. I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail because I’ll likely write about this in a separate post but when you’re jolted awake by pure terror, it’s probably your body saying we have an issue. And it wasn’t until my sister commented, “maybe you have a bit of PTSD,” that I really considered the past two and a half years as real trauma.
From my understanding most people experience trauma as one horrific, catastrophic event that they then deal with after. They have time to process this one event and navigate the pain in a safe place. And in no way do I devalue anyone else’s anguish because I am well aware that my baggage is no heavier than the next guy’s.
But for me it wasn’t just one event, which is why this healing is so confusing. It was 7 hospital admissions. It was talking about surgery for 6 months and doing everything we could to avoid it. And then it was surgery. And another surgery. And another. It was pulling out strands of hair one by one, for months. It was waking up each morning realizing my cheeks were bigger than the day before. It was 2 C-Diff infections. It was puking in emergency room because of a bowel obstruction…on my birthday. It was shitting my pants in my car. It was missing out on fun because I was sleeping. It was falling down the stairs because I lost so much muscle mass in my legs. It was looking in the mirror and not feeling pretty…for years. It was dehydration. It was thousands of dollars spent on ostomy supplies. It was losing friends who didn’t know how to deal. And it was looking at my stomach seeing 7 incision scars. It was chaos.
But each little chip was just a minor event. That just came and went and we dealt with as one little blip after another. But no one calculated that one minor event after another equals real trauma. Real grief and real pain. So here I am in my happy little apartment, when everything is perfect being hit by a truck of distress.
So now what? Well luckily I have a person who will drive me around in the middle of the night during a panic attack, just talking me down. And that person won’t laugh or dismiss how horrendous I feel, while also reaffirming that I don’t need to go to the hospital because I’m not actually having a heart attack. That’s step one.
And from there I take one day at a time. I stretch. I slow down. I write. I sleep. I eat well. I breath. Eventually I will get counsel, because it definitely is at the point where I can’t navigate on my own. But in the mean time I’m reaching out. I can’t possibly be the only one who is dealing with trauma only after everything is supposed to be healing. It’s like feeling sick when you’re in remission. And I know there has got to be IBD people out there who know what I’m talking about. So if you do, please…get at me.
In the mean time….I’m going to have some mimosas.
Happy long weekend lovers!