18 April 2011

This healing thing takes a long time

If you read the post titled Listen from awhile back, you will have gathered that I am off work until the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has eased and I can get back into regular life.

Yes, I am still off work. The current “projected date of recovery” is some time in September, but really, that’s just a guess. PTSD is one of those things that takes as long as it takes, especially when the triggering incidents unfolded over a long period of time, as mine did, and it’s very difficult to predict what the path of recovery will look like.

For me, apparently, this part of the path of recovery looks like the life of an adrenalin addict with an unlimited supply of juice. I run for days on high throttle, unable to rest or relax, but also unable to sustain any kind of focused concentration for long. I go from one project to another, knitting a bit on this, then a bit on that, spinning some, carding some, restoring a wheel, surfing the web, reading a book, figuring out a lace pattern, starting another project, pulling it back and starting something else with the same yarn … on and on I go. After a few days of this, I feel utterly exhausted, but, poisoned by my own adrenalin, I still can’t rest. Eventually, I crash and sleep for ten hours at a stretch for a day or two … and then it all starts again.

It is getting a little less wild: the adrenalin high isn’t quite as rough as it used to be, there’s way less chest pain and I suspect my blood pressure is leveling out … and the exhausted crashes don’t last as long.  I’m also able to do a bit more on any given day than I was at the start – early on, just getting out of the house to see the doctor was enough to knock me out for the rest of the day, despite the adrenalin overdose. This weekend, I survived a family trip to the waterpark without any chest pain or subjective anxiety. Today, though, the bill has come in -  my body feels like it’s been through some kind of wringer, the chest pain and throat tightness are back, and I’m rattled and unsettled. It’s better than it used to be, though. Eventually, my body will reset to a more even keel and riding out the highs and lows is how I can teach my body that all I really need on a day to day basis is a really, really low dose of the juice. Just enough to stay awake and concentrate would be fine, thanks.

Despite that knowledge, it’s easy to feel like nothing productive is happening. Mostly I feel like I ought to be better by now – I mean, come on, I’ve got stuff to do, places to go, people to see! I said that to my counselor during my last appointment and she laughed at me … then apologized for finding it so funny. “But you are doing a lot of stuff!” she said. “Look at what you have written, look at all the work you are doing processing this. An awful lot happened to you, and now you have to work through all of it and let it reform into a new shape in your mind. It takes time to sort it all out, to take down the old pathways and build new ones.”

So, yes, it takes however long it takes. If a friend of mine were living through what I’m living right now, I’d say “Of course you need the time! The story you are reliving now unfolded over the course of ten years, then you tried to get by without really looking at it for another six. Get things sorted out and reorganized so that it stops making you ill. Take the time now, or you’ll find yourself in ER in another year or two, probably with something worse than psychosomatic pain.”

So I write, and knit, and weave, and putter, and lie awake at night, and do yoga, and follow the whims of my overactive mind, knowing that the only way out is through.

I discovered after writing Listen (and more importantly, after hitting the Publish Now button to release the story to the wider world) that telling the story sets me free from the weight of my history. When the words are out there, then they are not stuck in here. They are no longer my burden to carry but are transformed into my contribution to the unknown and unnamed strangers out there who will find strength or inspiration or the small shred of hope it takes to carry them through their darkness into the inevitable light.

There are more words coming. Writing them is part of my journey – and though I don’t know how, or where, or when, I know that those same words will be part of someone else’s journey too. It’s my job to put them where they can be found.

If I’m not back in a month, send ink. :)


  1. I am so glad you found someone who understood what you're going through and didn't tell you it was "just" ADHD. I've seen that a time or two.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. One of the advantages of working with the same counselor for years - we started working with her right after The Engineer died, in 2003 (I think it was), so she knows The Boy and I both really well. Goodness, can you imagine someone just dosing me with Ritalin and hoping I'd get by? Yikes. Another use for my undergrad psych degree too, I suppose. Never did much for my career, but heavens, have I used it in my personal life!

    Thanks for all your help and support. And fibre care packages! :)

  3. I always find myself at a loss for the right words (or any words at all) when people talk or cry about their pain. It can be depression, physical pain, divorce, anything. I happily haven't been through any of that and can't relate well and simply don't know what to say that might help. It's hard to show empathy when I can't imagine what it must be like.

    However, I hope it helps just to listen. I won't always comment but I am listening and the listening also puts you in my prayers.

  4. Listening is a great gift, Ev. Telling the story eases the hurt, somehow - when my daughter died, I told the story of her birth over and over and over to anyone who would listen, and just having them willingly hear me, again and again, helped me heal. Even if they said nothing, just handed me a cup of tea and a box of Kleenex. :)

    I can suggest a few helpful words, though, for when you find yourself at a loss. I've watched people struggle to find something to say when I'm hurting and I always feel badly for them. The right things to say are the simple ones - words like "I'm sorry that it hurts so much." and "I would fix it if I could." When people admit that they can't imagine the hurt, but still are willing to bravely listen to the difficult story, it is a great gift.

    Thanks for listening. It really does help. :)

  5. Hello,
    I came to your blog via Google, chasing down dye techniques, and found myself heart deep in "Listen", and here I am feeling this overwhelming desire to leave some mark behind. Not knowing exactly what or how to write, but needing to let you know that you have inspired me. It is a brave thing to put those stories out, and let them fly, and touch other people.
    Thank you. THANK YOU for sharing, and I wish you strength in recovery.

  6. JQ, it always surprises me when people stumble on my writing ... thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment and let me know that you were here! I followed your links back to your blog and see you have done beautiful things with fibre. It's so healing, isn't it? Thank you for your thoughtfulness - I don't know how it is that the kind words of people I have never met can have a positive effect, but they do help, and I thank you for the gift. :)


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