It has been 5 months since my hernia surgery. Recovery has been slow, many times painful, yet powerful. There were years of trauma associated with this one injury. I intuitively knew that, within this pattern of injuries, there is something deeper. I wonder if others who have had hernias and the surgery to repair them have gone on similar journeys. I understand why most of us would not write publicly about this. This is an extremely vulnerable area of the body and a vulnerable topic. The key word: vulnerable. In order to share about my own healing, this is what I must be able to be. Vulnerable.
Trauma has a pattern. From what I have read, it begins in childhood. As children, we have all experienced something that we couldn’t handle or process. We then cope by doing things like withdrawing and manifesting physical symptoms, like stomachaches or body aches. Later on in life we try, unconsciously, to recreate the traumatic event(s) so that we can change them somehow. This oftentimes manifests in our adult life in our relationships and in our physical body. This is something to be aware of and to explore when contemplating healing.
So I am exploring this idea. I think about the recent traumas in my life: a biking accident when a school bus knocked me off my bike (resulting in a head and neck injury); a sociopath inserting herself into my life and trying to destroy it; my son’s addictions, depression, then suicide; and finally a surgery to repair a hernia that I had before all of these events occurred. All of these events – each one in itself – could be considered a significant trauma. Each event has put me into an intensive healing and recovery mode. Just now, 5 months post-surgery, I am beginning to realize the full impact of this long pattern of traumatic events.
I am healing, slowly recovering. Given the extent of these traumas, especially the death of my son, I am clear about one thing: all I can do is practice healing myself. I have no expectations that I will someday be just fine – in recovery that is one of the declarations people make that I think should be translated into all of life – not just addiction recovery. In addiction recovery, they say that one should not expect to recover from addiction, but to simply practice each day being sober. I say this is a sensible attitude for healing. I may never fully recover. It’s unrealistic to think that, given what has happened.
Right now I have been walking, practicing yoga, meditating, clearing out my attic, working, going to a sports massage therapist and rebuilding strength in atrophied muscles. I am releasing tight muscles that have been trying their hardest to support what could not be supported: internal wounds in my physical and emotional body. I am changing some daily routines. This shakes up patterns by creating new experiences.
Making changes is a gradual process. I’m making sure I have a solid foundation to fall back on, with time to rest. I take a couple new steps, then retreat into my safe place. This is essential for healing from trauma – having a safe place to heal. My safe place is my home.
I have been spending a lot of time at home. Since December (surgery), I do what I can each day to make my home an environment for healing. It’s becoming clear, clean and organized. I donate things I don’t need or use or give them to friends who can use them. It’s clean enough that company can drop by (with maybe a half hour notice) if I am here. (That’s a big change for me.)
This idea of trauma as a life pattern occurred to me while I was walking in the woods. The path through the woods that I like to walk is a powerful healing place for me. The sights and sounds of nature bring about a peace inside of me that allows deep self-reflection. While walking, I suddenly became aware of this pattern of injuries in my body as a manifestation of the pattern of repeated traumas in this span of 6 years. What has really been taking place? (I ask myself).
Now that I realize these things, what do I do now to heal and invent a new pattern of wholeness? How do I create a more sustainable life?
In searching within myself, I know that this process of writing and sharing will help to clarify and redirect my path in life. In researching material, I came across many articles about vulnerability, trauma repetition and the symptoms related to trauma. I was (an am) accurate in my assessment of how to recover and grow beyond a life of trauma. The first step is to acknowledge it, then share it with writing for myself and others. Another step is to do what I have been doing all along — to seek out the support and help I need to heal my body and my emotions.
From many years of practicing yoga and meditation, I have the tools of self-awareness and discipline to continue, each day, taking steps to heal. My practice, sharing my practice, eating healthy each day, making sure I drink enough water, get enough rest, take the hot baths, get the massages and spend time outdoors! These are all regular practices I incorporate into life. I truly believe that this is why I am not on psychiatric medications, or suffering from chronic pain. I don’t take pain meds. For a short time after my head injury I took ibuprofen once or twice a week. For a short time before and after hernia surgery I have taken it. Now I limit myself to, at most, once a week of taking ibuprofen.
The yoga practice has made me aware of pain and the effects (on pain) of every physical action and pattern of thinking. This awareness keeps me on a path of healing, rather than being stuck. And now, 5 months post-surgery, I see the possibility of life with little or no trauma. I could not have predicted or prevented the things that have happened, but I can make myself strong and set up so that I have a powerful support system around me. I can plan my life to minimize being a victim. I can be whole.