Progress Can Look Like Failure

For the last week or so, I have been struggling with my trauma. More than I have in a while. At first, I felt really discouraged and it felt like all progress had been lost and I had convinced myself that I am a hopeless cause and I’ll never be able to actually recover from all of this. Obviously I was wrong in that moment, but that comes with the territory and I am choosing not to dwell.

Dealing with trauma and loss can be such a challenge because it simply is not linear. Some days you’ve accepted what has happened and you’re content with your current life. Other days you wake up feeling instantly depressed and hopeless. And when you have those down days, it’s so hard to not get defeated! You have the fear of falling back down as deep and as low as you had been before. Or there’s the fear of being trapped in the darkness all over again.

Progress is not always visible or obvious when you’re in a situation like this. My struggles lately are progress. I’m digging deeper and deeper into that day and what actually happened, and more is coming to the surface that had been previously repressed. And when new stuff comes to the surface, I get hit with a wave of panic, fear, grief, and depression all at once. Sometimes it is so intense that I feel like I am exactly in that moment again, only it gets amplified even because I know what will happen next and that it does not end in my favor. So I get stuck repeating the moments of trying to save Matt, knowing that there is no saving him.

How is this progress? Because I am pulling repressed memories to the surface and teaching my brain how to actually face and cope with what happened so it can be stored and filed away properly so that it doesn’t have this affect on me for my entire life. If I were to leave everything as is, it would continue to be improperly stored away and that’s when you run the risk of a trigger pulling it to the surface. And when that happens, panic and dysfunction ensue. Forcing these things to the surface is a painfully necessary part of the process.

There is no “easy” way to deal with trauma. But it’s also important to do your best to remain as positive as possible during the healing stages. Falling into the trap of the victim mentality will hinder progress. Questioning, “Why me? Why him?” does not solve anything. There is no answer to that question. This wasn’t done to me by the universe. Being human and part of nature and life puts you at risk of coming across trauma at one point in time or another. There is always some level of chaos and a lot of outside factors that are out of your control. I personally view my trauma as something that simply happened, and that it needs to be healed and overcome. It has become part of my story, but it does not need to be a moment that ruins me. This is a moment where I learn that I am stronger than I ever thought possible, and now I know so much more about what life has to offer than I ever did before. It is a defining moment in my life, but I am so much more than just my trauma.

Of course I have moments of frustration in which I end up having a pity party. I am human. I get tired. I get emotionally and physically fatigued. This pushes me so far outside of my comfort zone sometimes, obviously I’m going to have moments of high stress and breakdowns. I have moments where I get downright nasty and lash out for absolutely no reason. I have moments where it’s like my brain has completely shut down and I cannot process incoming information and I struggle to be able to verbalize what is happening to me. My brain easily falls into a state of agitation, then it gets overwhelmed by said agitation, and shuts down completely, then repeat. And the time periods for each stage in this cycle varies so wildly, it is all completely unpredictable.

Although I continue to be extremely volatile and day to day, I have made tremendous progress. I have more good days than I used to. I’m more likely to recover from an episode, and my recovery period is typically shorter now than it used to be (meaning I recover faster than I used to). Before I was in a constant haze, now I’m somewhat clear and focused. And even though this was a hard week for me, I got myself to work almost every day this week and managed to work mostly full days.

If you’re on a healing journey, keep close track of those signs of progress. You might feel like you’re still in constant turmoil, but if you look closely you can see that your life and mind are slowly starting to stabilize. Healing is possible, it just takes work. But it is so worth the effort. I think it is really important to face any emotional problems that you have instead of burying them and ignoring them. That solves nothing and stores a lot of negativity into your body, and it will pop out and demand to be heard anyway. Why run away?

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