April 18, 2017

Recovery: What Happens after Everyone else Thinks we should Be Over It.

This poem was written on a particularly bad day.

There wasn’t necessarily anything going wrong. It just felt wrong. Felt hard. My body hurt. Perhaps I perceived someone staring a little longer than what I deemed comfortable. Who knows, really?

What I do know is that I felt guilt. I felt guilt for having this bad day, for feeling insecure and sad, even though I was years removed from the accident that provoked these feelings. Other than that, it was just another day. Another day in recovery.

I’m ok. I’m fine. Really.
Everything happens for a reason.
It’s all falling into place.
I am happy.

My mind. My insides.
They scream.
I cry. I smile. I cry.
The optimism. It fails.
The weight. It crushes.

I’m ok. I’m fine. Really.
I live. I love. I fulfill.
My mind. My insides.
I panic. I fear. I dread.

I died.

Positivity. It wavers.
Not solid, fluid.
Fluid with each day.
Fluid with each trigger.

The triggers. They don’t fail.
They inspire.
They inspire panicked breathe.
And they inspire more life.

I yearn. I pine. For life.
I feel. I am pain.
I am understanding.
I am comforted.
I progress.
I fail.
I excel.
I am limited.

I’m ok. I’m fine. Really.
Everything happens for a reason.
It’s all falling into place.
I am happy.

During a boat accident, a propeller left my left leg paralyzed, horribly scarred, and irrevocably damaged.

Now it feels as though I am left to spend the rest of my life in some stage of recovery. See, recovery isn’t just going through physical therapy. It is not over after the stitches are removed and the scars are healed. It is not even over after moving past the initial shock of the accident or trauma.

It is a much longer process than all of that.

It is a lifelong shift.

There are times when I believe I have already finished my recovery. I feel like I’ve accomplished nearly all of my physical hurdles and have moved past the initial shock of the accident and the emotional trauma that followed. I have wonderful days, where gratitude fills my soul. But then I have awful days, and it is then that I am reminded of the accident and the process as a whole—the forever ebb and flow.

Recovery is an evolving emotion. It is shock, anger, fear, sadness, acceptance, gratitude, shame, guilt, and love, always bleeding into each other.

The shock, anger, and sadness usually show face in the early stages when these emotions are still deemed acceptable. Understanding and gratitude eventually grow in their place, surprising us with a lightness we never knew we could feel again.

What most people don’t discuss though, one of the most uncomfortable parts of the whole process, is the discomfort and guilt that comes after everyone thinks recovery is over. The shock, anger, and sadness that continue to reveal themselves from time to time provoke intense feelings of guilt and shame.

Shouldn’t I already be over this? Everyone else thinks so. Why aren’t I over this yet?

We assume that the stages of recovery are set, that once we move from one emotional mountain, we are ready to scale the next, never looking back.

Reality doesn’t play by those same rules and doesn’t give a sh*t about assumptions. Shock, anger, sadness, and fear are never fully overcome.

Like a Monet, whose colours are nearly indistinguishable from each other, blending and melting into one another, so are the complex emotions of recovery. One emotion is not replaced by the next in totality, they merely play into each other, dance around each other, push to the front of the line, and then fall back into obscurity until another trigger brings them forward. With this constant roller coaster of emotional recovery, it is easy to sometimes feel as though we need to apologize for what happened to us and the inconvenience these emotions seem to cause others.

I am sorry that even after so many years, I still haven’t “just gotten over it.” I am sorry that I still turn down invitations to go out. I am sorry that I still have triggers. I am sorry for writing another article about an accident I keep trying to distance myself from, but can’t seem to shake. I am sorry if I ever made someone feel this kind of guilt.

This recovery and this accident are now part of who I am. They make up my framework and my story. And for that, I can’t be sorry. Anyone who has had to fight for survival, whether it is the result of an accident, an incident, or a disease, will carry that identifier with them always.

A cancer survivor does not forget their experience, their highs or their lows. The title of cancer survivor will always be part of their identity. Their struggle will always shape their perspective. And when they cry, even years after the cancer has gone into remission, it is not for attention or pity, it is because they are still recovering.

Shortly after my accident, I was told to go into mourning.

I was told to mourn the person I was and the life I had lived because nothing would ever be the same. I had to mourn over my closest loved one, the person I knew better than anyone. I had to mourn over myself. Like the death of any loved one, there will be days, whether they are weeks, months, or even years later, when we will cry. We will miss their memory, their energy, and their light. But most days, we will be able to live our life, acknowledge the loss, and remain positive and grateful for everything life still offers.

Recovery is much the same. Most days we are okay, but sometimes, we just miss who we were before.

This lifelong trial seems daunting, and at times, an extremely heavy burden. But recovery, of any form, from any trauma, is a chance. We all have this chance because we are all survivors. We are all recovering from something, big or small.

Recovery is the chance to learn a lesson, to have a deeper understanding of what is important. It gives perspective, it humbles, it yields clarity and gratitude. Recovery is also a chance to grow. We grow because we understand how deeply we can reach inside to survive. We grow when we refuse to give into a bad day. We grow when we choose life.

Today, I am grateful for everything that has happened, and tomorrow I may not be. It is a terribly difficult and beautiful process and there is no shame in that.


Author: Danielle Press

Image: Author’s Own

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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