Trauma is complex. It’s stored deep within our bodies, lying unassuming and dorment at times. Due to a recent transitional period, my trauma has been rearing its head; manifesting in the strangest ways. While assimilating back into a more “normal” college-aged person life, I feel pressure to sweep my chronic health problems under the rug. It’s easy for others to assume you are better when you are outwardly high functioning, so for a while I felt it was best to keep quiet and try to forget about my symptoms and my past trauma. However my “ignorance is bliss” attitude was short-lived as I have recently been reminded of my illness’s presence and the importance of recognizing and respecting it.
Mental and physical health battles often feel too complicated to put into words. I’ve been trying to understand and write about my current struggle for a while now in order to shed light on the imperfect healing process from trauma and the invisible aspects of daily life with a chronic illness. So… here is my attempt to describe my feelings.
Positivity is much easier to uphold at rock bottom from the confines of a couch and a computer. Life is much less fulfilling this way, but for some reason I was able to cope in this state of survival. I’ve been climbing my way out of rock bottom for some months now and I am objectively living a pretty normal life, but I will be the first to admit that I am struggling to stay afloat in normality. I am struggling to cope physically and emotionally with my daily symptoms. I am processing grief, struggling to stay positive and battling feelings of isolation that stem from past trauma.
It feels like two years worth of trauma is collapsing on me all at once. I feel sad a lot of the time and have a hard time being alone. The sadness I feel is an ambiguous kind, too hard to pinpoint it’s exact source. I am happy and grateful for all the beauty around me and the people who love me, but inside I feel so heavy. My therapist tells me that I am not depressed, but the heaviness I feel is grief. Whatever it is, I just don’t know how to cope. I am constantly walking a fine line of telling people how I feel and telling people how I feel too much to where it becomes negative. I don’t want my heaviness to become infectious. I fear of sounding like a broken record. I fear being perceived as someone stuck in a traumatic snippet of the past, someone who is heavy and unapproachable or someone who is fixated on illness. But it follows me, shapeshifting wherever I go, like a shadow. I want to be a bubbly, light-hearted Sydney again who is unafraid of the world, unafraid of her own shadow, and unafraid to be alone knowing that she really isn’t.
I am constantly walking a fine line between doing too much and making my symptoms worse and not doing enough and making my symptoms worse or having so much to do while my symptoms are so bad I cannot be present in what I am doing. The pain is constant and screams so loud I sometimes cannot hear anything else. Most days I am greeted by pain and anxiety about my pain. No pain of the present comes without trauma of past pain. So. much. pain. I am truly sick of it. Feeling it. Talking about it. Everything. The day to day pain is excruciatingly monotonous. I want to free myself of this suffering like I have before, but I just don’t know how and I am not doing a very good job.
I want to cope better. I really do. For myself. My family. My friends. My partner. They don’t deserve this heavy Sydney and I don’t deserve this heavy Sydney. I am so strong and have come so far. I know I can call upon my inherently positive attitude and create a certain level of peace with my situation.
Here is my plan and by telling you, I am holding myself accountable. Time knows one direction and that is forward. Time heals wounds so I will firstly, ride the wave of time with patience. Secondly, I am going to write more. Everyday, if possible. I am going to get out everything I feel and deal with it through my writing so I can burden others and myself less and be more present and have more fun. Through writing I am going to better keep track of how I feel day to day so I can better determine which feelings of mine are justified and worth talking about and which are fleeting and/or irrational. Writing also helps me find the silver lining in my jumbled emotions and encourages positivity. Thirdly, I am going to work on self care. I am going to make sure I am socializing enough, but not too much. Exercising enough, but not too much. I am going to try and not take my pain too seriously, but take it seriously enough when I need to. And most importantly, resting instead of feeling like I need to constantly be moving to avoid feeling depressed. And if and when I stop moving I began to feel depressed, I will deal with it then by writing about it.
I wasn’t prepared nor even aware of what lay beyond the initial shock of being diagnosed with an illness, but once the dust settles, the fight is not over. Just because I am not in the hospital every week now doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain. Things are always changing, waxing and waning. Don’t get me wrong, overall I am much happier and higher functioning now, but I feel it is essential to bring visibility to what lays beyond all of the surfing and smiles and “I’m doing great, thanks for asking.” It can also be easy to feel guilt or shame for feeling anything less than grateful and happy in the midst of progress, but I am here to say that I am human, and it’s okay not to be okay when you think “you’re supposed to be okay.”