What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Post Traumatic Growth
I’m recovering from a brain injury. But there’s more to me than that.
I have piles of notebooks scribbled with my ponderings. I’ve always been a diary keeper. When the illness started, I kept it up. And when amnesia wiped my memory, for a good eighteen months, I wrote more urgently and frequently, recording my day in an attempt to fend off the memory loss.
I can’t say it helped in that regard, I remember little of 2018, or 2019, in fact. I have difficulty reading my once neat, now messy handwriting because my writing hand – my right – became semi-paralysed. Some entries are even written with my left hand. I sense how desperately I’m trying to make sense of the world, repetitively asking questions like, What’s wrong with me? Will I ever get better? Where am I going?
Looking back now, I see it was a period of intense inner reflection. It was forced upon me as if the illness plucked me out of my life and sent me to a parallel universe of sorts. When my brain stopped working, the neurons in my brain crowded out and squashed by inflammation, I became a shell of a person. My mind had wandered off.
A month ago, I started anti-viral treatment to fight off the infection that most likely started this saga, it’s a guess, for I cannot be entirely certain what happened to me. I feel my brain power returning, the battery recharging with each passing day. It’s as if I’m remerging slowly and returning to reality. My mind switching back on. It’s amazing to experience. As this is happening, I find the person I’m returning as is much changed from the one that first went down the rabbit hole.
I mourn for those years. Must I play catch up now that I’m no longer in wonderland? My writing mirrors this pain, the loss of that period of my life.
No one could tell me what’s the point of all the destruction and confusion. Is there even a point? No one could tell me how it might change me for the better. I’ve had to figure this out for myself later, much later. As my counsellor tells me post traumatic growth occurs after the event, on reflection and, only when, we make a conscious decision to change based on our experiences.
As I revisit the notebooks, I realise that time is now and I begin to see the person I’ve become based on my choices to these recent events.
I wish someone had told me that good things can come from bad. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see the gifts that lay ahead.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself this:
I’d find new opportunities and possibilities in life that I’d never see before
I started a blog. I had wanted to for years but didn’t feel like I had anything to say. In the first year, I could hardly speak. The injury to my language centre meant I could only communicate by short text messages or simple Yes or No. Instead, I wrote. And I wrote and wrote some more.
I eventually joined an online writing group and penned a 100K word book (which I’m still editing). I met some amazing people and made friends around the world. This tragedy gave me the nudge I needed.
Ironically, without my voice, I found it.
I’d find an inner strength I never knew I had
There were many times in the last two years my situation felt utterly hopeless. Almost daily (sometimes hourly), I wanted to give up and give in to the suggestion that my illness was psychosomatic. It seemed easier to accept what the white coats were telling me. But something inside of me wouldn’t drop the fight.
Through three hospital admissions, a horrid lumbar puncture, a smorgasbord of medical people, including the acute psychiatric intervention team I stood up for myself. Eventually, after a two year search I found a doctor who believed as I did there was an organic cause behind this illness.
My relationships with others would change
I have always been an independent person. I didn’t like being vulnerable or appearing to need help. Chronic illness turned that idea upside down. I was forced to accept and – even scarier – ask for help. I discovered that I don’t need to do everything for myself. I learnt to receive with an open heart.
This has balanced me out. Now I am learning I can give and receive with equal measure. I have made new friends (and kept old ones!) who accept this new way of being. I am different and I like it. I would go through this ordeal all over again to have this insight into myself.
I’d develop a greater appreciation for life
The illness was sudden. It felt like with the snap of my fingers my life disappeared. You know that saying, the rug was pulled… I lost function of my brain and body, which not only scared me it showed me how close I am to losing it all. Pull that rug and suddenly human life feels that bit more precious, magical. Mortality tastes like a gift.
As my brain power returns, this has translated into a want to do more and help others. And have more fun and laughter in my life.
I’d find a richer, deeper meaning to life
During the long days of illness, I had the opportunity to face myself these deep – hard – questions: What would I like to do for the rest of my life? What am I getting up for in the morning? Am I really living?
This last point is what you might call a work-in-progress. I am still exploring, thinking, pondering. I made this website and facebook page so I have a place I can gather the things I’ve learnt along the way.
I put those diaries away, they can get heavy if I dip too long in them. I store them carefully. Those pages contain the hidden treasure of this experience. They are what life gave me during these times. I cherish them.
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