Trauma is a complex subject. It can happen in a split second or over a long drawn out period, and it leaves a brand of grief on the inside forever.
It folds itself up into layers of memories and an innocent word or photograph can switch on the heartache. There is no plan for it, no time on the calendar blocked out for it. Life does not pause for a moment of silence. Yet we must somehow move forward in this paralysis of emotional pain.
I went through a very traumatic time in my third pregnancy. My unborn son was fine but my heart was not. I unexpectedly wound up in the ICU for eight full days around my 31st week. Think multiple IV’s, beeping monitors, wires, the humiliation of gaping hospital gown and bedpan alike.
I was forced to trust strangers and unfamiliar medical procedures out of my desperate will to survive. My heart was “reset” at least three times and I can’t swear I completely stayed in this world on each of those occasions.
I can’t explain what happened to me during the time I was away. It seemed supernatural, and not in the white light kind of way I’d want to tell everyone about. It was actually terrifying.
I pulled through, but at considerably lower weight and spirit. Each additional day in the hospital, especially in the tense atmosphere of critical care, added new layers of emotional stress.
The terror of premature delivery, further invasive procedures, or a relapse into danger, resulted in fear and often severe anxiety. My other two young children were not permitted in the ICU and I had never been separated from them before. Any dreams of a home birth and low-risk pregnancy were now shattered.
My baby was eventually birthed healthy at full term, and I was grateful, but also full of grief and disappointment for the things that did not go as planned. My soul ached with the memories of the ordeal.
I did not process those events right away. I put all thoughts of what happened on the shelf well into the second year of my son’s life. I was busy surviving, stabilizing my health, and unable to function emotionally beyond the present moment. Still, the pent-up torrent of anguish was there, below the surface, and I needed a means to find relief. I needed a way to cope.
It was when my son was nearly two I felt a distinct urge–a voice inside telling me the time was now.
I had to write it all down. I needed to start a blog to share my story.
I began with an introductory post or two to get a feel for writing. I hadn’t taken writing seriously since English 101, which was more years ago than I care to admit. But I felt the immediate spark, connection, magic. I set my fingers to the keys and they began to fly.
I launched into my story with zeal, and quickly realized my tale was going to be much longer than the length of one blog post. I found it also took a toll on my emotions–it needed to come out in layers.
I kept writing day after day, details surfacing and begging a place in the story. It took four segments to complete the hospital saga with an additional post of my son’s birth story, which was also difficult and traumatic but with a good outcome.
The experience of writing the story out, piece by piece until it was complete, was both healing and invigorating. My anxiety decreased; the strong pull toward depression retreated, and I felt my confidence building each time I sat down to tell another piece of my story.
In the process I discovered I had many more stories that needed a release and to tell them would bring me back to life.
“There is no going back after experiencing that spark of life through the medium of words (tweet that!) There is no laying the page aside–It calls out to me every waking moment, and I answer in the eagerness of one pursuing the possibility of true love.”
Writing out that initial story was just the beginning for me. I still have flashbacks with unexpected triggers.
One day I ‘ll wake up remembering the sensation of oxygen tubes in my nose, and the tears will begin flowing. When that happens, I write about it. If I cannot form many words, I will make use of the gift of imagery and write poetry.
Writing in abstract is better than refusing to process at all. I will find the words for self-expression, even if they take on an unusual form. I have to.
Fresh hope can always be built in the setting down of words. (Tweet that!)
I am still remembering things I suppressed due to an inability to cope. They trickle back slowly when I am strong enough to handle them. I don’t feel strong when they hit suddenly, but I trust the instinct that brings the memory to the surface. I commit myself to writing it down, honoring the moment. Honoring the woman I was before the trauma. Honoring the woman I have now become.
“I write words as a stone of remembrance. When I set them down in a visible place, there is freedom to acknowledge them, then move forward into the next phase of my life.”
Writing renews my hope and it reveals my purpose. (Tweet that!) It is the organism that stirs me to live life to the fullest. And if I’m lucky, that spark will ignite a wildfire of inspiration in others to embrace for themselves the healing power of penning their stories.
There is no better time than now to begin.
Has writing helped you through trauma or grief? Please share your experiences in the comments. We’d love to hear!