A Journey to Recovery through courage, determination and mental fortitude.
As they rolled me into the operating room, I knew my baby would not survive and there was a very good chance I may not make it either. It’s strange how I remember little things about those last moments before my life as I knew it changed forever. I remember my doctor holding a coffee while walking beside me. She talked to me, doing her best to keep my spirits up in what was a situation that neither of us had ever faced before.
On January 18, 2012, as I lay in bed delighted because, despite the difficult pregnancy I was having, the anatomy scan showed our baby was healthy and strong. Even though my condition – Placenta Percreta – https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/placenta-accreta/ would keep me in bed for the duration of the pregnancy, it was a small price to pay for the health of your third baby girl. I peacefully dozed off in what was one of the first nights in several months that I was no longer scared. Sadly, within just a few hours, this quickly changed. I woke up feeling a strange sense of warmth beneath me. As I lifted the covers, I was laying in a pool of blood which looked more like a murder scene than anything else. What was even more strange was that I was feeling no pain at all. I slowly got up and walked to the bathroom, I quickly realized this was really bad. Blood was literally pouring out of me like a bathtub faucet on full. I reached for bath towels as I called out to my husband in a desperate effort to not wake up my two little girls that were sleeping close by.
The events and decisions I was forced to make in the weeks that followed are decisions no person should ever have to make. In a blink of an eye, my life as I knew it was over. I had lost all control of so many things and as I lay in the hospital bed over the weeks that followed I longed to just get back to life as I knew it. To be a mom to my two girls, to go back to my job as a public servant and to be able to enjoy the little things in life again. Little did I know, the journey to get my life back would be long and difficult and would require a great degree of resilience.
It took 6 months for me to recover physically. I had lost almost 3 liters of blood during the 6-hour surgery which left me very weak among other things. During this time, being a mom and making sure my girls were adjusting well had become my priority. This meant my emotional recovery had taken a back seat. I found myself putting everyone else’s needs ahead of mine while pretending to be okay. I had convinced myself that I should be thankful I was alive – which I was – and move on instead of facing the fact that I had lost my baby, lost the ability to ever have another baby and, almost lost my own life. As the months went by, the panic attacks became a daily occurrence, the nightmares more vivid and my ability to complete daily tasks more challenging. Denial was creeping up on me and it was dreadful.
It took several months and a lot of painful days for me to realize that my mental health was just as important as my physical health and denying it could no longer be an option if I wanted to get better. I was lucky to have a good support system in my husband, my parents and a few very close friends that stood by me – because you would be surprised how many did not – and so, I began on my journey to recovery. This journey was grueling and difficult in ways I could not have imagined but without a doubt, the most rewarding journey I have ever taken and one that I will be on for the rest of my life.
My journey to recovery began with an understanding and acceptance that I was forever a changed person. We fear change so much that we find ourselves in a fight to go back to the way things used to be, our comfort zone but, I quickly realized that growth could never take place in my comfort zone and that it would require some hard truths along with hard work to move ahead. Looking back, I can now call it a sort of cleansing of my life. A get-back-to-basics sort of procedure. It took understanding what parts of my life needed to stay and what needed to go. Getting to know my new self included understanding the needs, desires, and objectives of the person the traumatic experience had transformed me into and building the mental strength to move forward. Once I understood this, making the changes to my daily life became the goal.
I decided I would not return to my job as a public servant. For many reasons, this was the best decision for my mental health. I coped with this by writing daily in a journal and surprisingly, the effect writing had on me was immeasurable. Not only was I processing my trauma, but I was also healing it. My writing became part of my daily routine and I quickly found myself writing articles for publications and blogging – a passion I never knew existed within me. Writing introduced me to other writers and other trauma survivors, many of whom became friends and part of a larger support group. I found myself building new relationships and a new foundation for who I had become. Old friends exiting my life and new ones entering. This support group further taught me that daily meditation, prayer, and belief was a medicine we needed to ensure we provided ourselves with.
Trauma actually changes the chemistry of our brains and nourishing it is imperative. It’s difficult to understand when we cannot see the impairment. This is the reason so many people don’t know how to cope with trauma and spend a lifetime suffering. Daily prayer has helped me build my foundation while meditation has allowed me to process my thoughts without judgment and belief has become the glue that binds it all together. For a long time, I did not believe in myself. I did not believe I was worthy of so many things because I was preoccupied with getting back to the person I used to be which was clearly not possible. Essentially, I was setting myself up for failure and then beating myself up when I failed. It wasn’t until I set the goals, pursued them with understanding and believed in myself that I began to see the light. It wasn’t until I understood that if I was strong enough to make it this far, I am strong enough to keep going.
Overcoming adversity and crisis is never easy. For me, building a new foundation for myself that supported my new reality was what allowed me to move ahead stronger and more confident. In times where we cannot control the changes in our life, we can control our reaction. Allowing and accepting the change can help make the outcome more bearable and maybe even enjoyable. Finally, accepting that this journey is lifelong and that setbacks are normal is the lesson I continuously have to remind myself. It’s okay to have bad days and it’s okay to fall off track. I believe these are the things that make us stronger and allow us to keep growing.
With all my love…..Eleni xox