When I look back on my trauma healing journey, I see a lot of starts and stops. A lot of one step forward - two, three, sometimes ten steps backwards. A lot of going in circles. Some things I have had to learn over and over and over again. There has been a lot of failure.
Yet there are some things that once I reached the plateau, I never went back. My first such milestone was facing the world. After the assault I was pretty much a recluse, very afraid of life. I functioned at a bare minimum level. When I met Lauren, my therapist, she worked with me and helped me out of that black hole. I have very little memory of the details of my therapy work then, except that it was very painful. I don't know why it worked. I just know that I could not deal with the outside world, and then I could. Not in all circumstances, but I became a reasonably functional person and never went back that far in the hole.
Another major plateau was being able to have sex again. When I first met Martha I was not capable of any kind of physical intimacy. And again Lauren helped me out of that hole. I remember that took a lot of work, and quite a lot of patience on Martha’s part. But once I reached that plateau, I never went back to that place where I couldn't be touched. True, there are some things that I can’t do, some places I can't stand to be touched, but since Martha was willing to live within those boundaries, our intimate life has generally been exciting and satisfying and spiritual.
And now I feel like I have reached another plateau. This one more difficult to explain in words. It centers around feeling joy in a way I have been unable to feel since this journey began. Certainly in the past I felt joy - when my children were born or while watching them achieve milestones. But this is something different. More akin to when Dorothy landed in Oz and goes from a black and white world into all that color. Something big inside of me has changed.
I am happier. I feel lighter. I am definitely more open - to people and feelings and life. I am finding it much easier to plug into loving, spiritual energy. Everywhere.
I am, of course, hoping that this IS a plateau and not a temporary state that can be knocked out from under me at the first anxiety producing moment. But I don’t think so. This feels too big.
Once again I cannot quite put my finger on how I arrived here. I think it is much like playing the piano. You don't just sit at a piano and play a difficult piece. First there are years of practicing scales, and finger exercises to build flexibility and strength and dexterity. And then you still need to dissect the piece, learn the phrasing, fingering and flow. After hours and hours of practice and repetition, you can play the piece technically well. But then, all of a sudden, it all comes together - the technique and the emotion - and not only can you play the piece well but now your soul soars with it.
I think back now to all the work Lauren put me through. All the repetition - forcing me to talk about difficult things, over and over, until they lost their power. Every little detail I could remember was dissected, examined and put back in it's appropriate place. She trained me to deal with anxiety with little physical and mental tricks and made me repeat them hundreds of times until they became habit. She would force me to the brink of despair, over and over, until I learned to find the way back on my own.
There were times that I hated her and the therapy. Often I collapsed with exhaustion. There were many times I gave up. But now I see how the pieces fit. I have learned to live technically well. And now, it has all come together, all the practice has paid off, and my soul has begun to soar with the lightness of being.
Is this the end of the journey? I don't think so. I still have issues. I still have inappropriate, knee jerk reactions to odd triggers. I still have anxiety and boundary issues, and a mountain of insecurities. So many things I have yet to understand. And I know I still need to practice my life skills everyday or, much like my piano skills, I will become rusty and fall back into old, destructive patterns.
But I have reached a new plateau. And I like the view from here.