A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. - Lewis Smedes
2011. A year of healing.
It was actually over two years ago when I went to my friend and therapist, knowing I was not well and that I needed help. For years she had been nudging me to do some serious work for my PTSD. And for years I had been resisting it. After all, I could function reasonably well. But it was a huge effort to get through every day. I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding triggers, needing uber control to navigate through my life and, even then, unknown weirdness continued to blind side me.
My therapist always referred to my issues as a cancer. Something that was eating at me from the inside out and, if not treated, would eventually over take me. Finally I reached a breaking point and I made a commitment to do whatever it took to rid myself of this blackness that was always lurking.
The first year we spent a lot of time nibbling around the edges. Deconstructing things slowly, speaking for the first time ever about that day, talking about Daphne, even saying the word rape out loud, they were all gut wrenching for me. But for each step I took, I gained confidence in myself and trust in the process.
2011 was a year of the big hurdles. My therapist compared this to a chemo regiment that would totally break me before being able to rebuild my mental health. I had to feel all those things I literally thought would kill me to feel. And my therapist pulled every trick out of the book to force me (kicking and screaming all the way) to finally look all that fear in the face.
In June I stopped the therapy. Not because I thought I was cured, but because I was tired and need time to attend to other parts of my life. Those first 6 months were the most soul crushing, nerve wracking, anxiety ridden, unbearably vulnerable time I can ever recall. And to top it off I had Daphne’s mother playing games with me, a person I thought was a friend pulling my chain, and my relationship with Martha was seriously testing its breaking point. I really needed a chance to rest, catch up to myself and process all that had happened and all I had learned.
Then my therapist suddenly died. For quite a while I felt suspended in time and reality. But then I slowly realized that I was still okay. In fact, I was more than okay. I felt mentally healthier than I had in years. All those strategies to deal with anxiety, all those lessons about distinguishing between past and present, all those reliving memories which once caused so much pain - everything seemed to be falling into the places they belonged. I was feeling healthy and strong for the first time in a very long time.
And so I ended 2011 feeling healed. Very sore, but healed.
- I faced all my most painful memories and came through to the other side.
- I found the strength to end an unhealthy relationship - something I have never had to before in my life.
- I spent the 25th anniversary of my assault with Daphne's mother, a person I thought I would never forgive. But have.
- I went under anesthesia and relived the trauma all again, but it didn't linger. When it was over, it was over. Something that in the past would have put me in bed, trembling for days.
- Then the breast cancer diagnosis. It was not a surprise to me. I had been dealing with pre-cancerous proteins for years. I knew it was coming. I knew how to deal with it.
Am I now cured? I don't think so. Just like I may have to continue some kind of cancer treatment, and will always have to be tested to determine whether any cancer has returned, I will always have to work on managing the PTSD.
After the surgery, I had one really bad emotional day. I came out of the shower and looked at the amount of bruising and scarring on my body and started to cry. When Martha asked me what was going on I responded "look what they did to me." And Martha asked "they?" It was then I realized I that the past will always blend with my present. I will always have the scars.
But I'm okay with that. I have come a long, long way in the past two years. I am proud of the work I've done and hope that it is a reflection of the faith and confidence Lauren had in my ability to find the answers I needed to heal. I am looking forward to a much healthier, cancer free 2012.