Several days this week, I have awakened in the morning and been keenly aware: I’m okay. I’m just about . . . almost . . . back to my baseline.
It’s about damn time. For months, I anxiously awaited this day, when I would wake up and not feel anything. When I wouldn’t be afraid to be alone. When I could go more than a day without crying.
Here are the ten things that have helped me get to this point:
- Walking: The number one thing I started doing months ago was taking a walk every day. It was something that I didn’t want to do, but it was one of the easiest things I could do to start healing from my trauma. Trauma is energy trapped in the body. Walking provided that energy an outlet.
- Listening to my Body: This one was huge, and yet it was something I had to do in moderation. Initially, I almost had to not listen to my body, which was trying to tell me that I was in danger and that something could happen to me at any moment. I had to push on despite it telling me that. The only time it was useful to pay attention to my bodily sensations was first thing in the morning, so that I got out of bed before my anxiety began to peak. Eventually, as my level of stress began to decrease, I started to feel hunger, and I needed to start listening to my body again. As I had not had an appetite when I was ultra stressed out, I needed to regain ordinary eating patterns. I didn’t know how much to eat, or when to eat . . . my body told me that.
- Safe Places: One of the major components of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (or acute stress disorder) is the loss of feelings of safety. You don’t feel safe in the world . . . at all. My apartment wasn’t safe. My work wasn’t safe. The store wasn’t safe. So, I needed to find places where I could begin to feel safe again. My friend began inviting me over to work at her house. My parents moved, and needed me to help out around the house. I began to find places that felt safe again.
- Safe People: These included the people from my safe places, but was not limited to them. I had a list of friends that I would call when I was upset. Having safe people to talk to helped me learn to trust again.
- Pushing Myself: This part was hard. Sometimes, I didn’t have the wherewithal to push myself, and I needed others to do it for me. But, every time I got myself out to take a walk, or I got myself out the door to an interview, or to a client, or an event, I was helping my healing process. I needed to build up a bank of experiences where I was safe. The only way to do this was to go out and learn that I would be safe when I did these things.
- Self Compassion: Self compassion meant treating myself kindly. It meant allowing myself to be upset when I was upset, and not trying to fight it. It meant allowing myself to cry, and instead of saying to myself, “damn it, why are you crying again?”, saying, “it’s okay, this will pass. It’s okay that you’re upset.” It meant identifying with the small, scared child inside, and embracing and comforting her, talking to her the way that a scared child needs to be spoken to.
- Letting Myself Cry: This goes along with #6, and also with #1. The emotions needed to be expressed, or else they would linger and fester. It would not have been good to hold them in.
- Therapy: My therapist helped me keep things in perspective. She kept me thinking, and when I was able to ask myself the right questions, I was able to find the right answers, which gave me some piece of mind. She also showed me options I didn’t even know I had, and that kept me from losing hope.
- Lists: When I started making lists, it was a game changer. I went from pacing around, complaining about how I had nothing to do, and how I was too distraught to possibly do anything anyway, to focusing on productive tasks. First thing in the morning I would start on my list, as soon as, or before, I started to get too anxious. As long as I was accomplishing something I was able to keep the anxiety at a manageable level.
- Time: All healing takes time. Two months ago, I yearned for this day. I’ll be fine once I get to December, I thought. I had just wanted to fast forward through all of the hard and messy parts. But I got through those parts by taking it one day at a time.
Healing isn’t easy, but it’s possible, with the right plan.