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To heal you need to process…healing through trauma

What almost losing my mother as a teen taught me

I graduated high school in 2007 in Connecticut. Little did I know, my life was going to take a 360 turn and hit me hard. My mother experienced a severe aneurysm that left doctors telling me she may have ten minutes to live. The day before, my seventeen year old self, fresh out of high school and a newly enrolled college student, was standing next to her cutting tomatoes. The sun beamed into my mom’s face as we shared laughs. It was summer, she kept talking about how excited she was to fix up the garden. It all changed when she felt a sharp headache that put her into deep sleep. I spent the next nine hours laying next to her, wondering why she wasn’t waking up, searching for the phone that my step father hid because little did I know at the time, he was looking for an opportunity to collect life insurance.

As the sun came up, I was finally able to get help. So, there I was, holding her cold fingers, staring at my sister and brother talking to the surgeons. “Please don’t leave me” I whispered. “I’m not ready” I said. We were told not to expect her to survive. How harsh that sounded. The words cut deep as I kept trying to breathe. Her lips were blue, pale face and I was afraid to let go of her hand. I had never prayed so hard in my life in the hospital bathroom, choking on my own tears, on my knees.

The doctors decided to rush my mother to Yale hospital, to perform surgery. The goal was to help the brain heal by removing liquid that filled it (no confirmation on whether she would walk again, talk, remember us or even live). It was a gamble. I remember sitting in a small room for what felt like days but it was really five hours. I wondered, “will she make it?”, “will she ever get to see my kid one day?”, “will she get to see me graduate or do things that matter?” After the surgery was done, we were told she was in coma. Those three weeks felt like years. I couldn’t focus, I barely functioned in my classes. I would visit her everyday, not knowing what would be the outcome. At times, it was hard to be hopeful.

When my mom woke up, we didn’t know what would happen. She was placed into rehab for a month. We had to teach her how to count, how to walk, how to sit up and learned that she had a hard time recalling short term memories but for the most part, she was okay. The rest of the nine years were a blur. She later moved to PA with my brother, I always figured that CT was too painful for her to stay in. I on the other hand, had to stay. Finish college and rebuild my life. It took me ten years to process what happened to my mother. After a few years, I began to experience insomnia, anxiety, depression. I would miss my stop on the train because of uncontrollable flashbacks that felt incredibly real. I kept seeing my younger self laying next to her, alone, scared and wondering why she wasn’t waking up.

Getting older, I realized that I never fully dealt with the trauma. I refused to bring it up, it hurt too much.  I was too busy. Too busy trying to figure out the next step, pay the next bill, finish the next semester, live on my own. I moved forward too fast. I declined therapy when everything first happened and didn’t speak about what happened until years later.  Since I never processed anything that happened, it paved the way for an unhealthy way of handling negative situations and emotions both consciously and subconsciously. I began to ignore any negative emotion and just moved forward without processing how I felt in almost everything I went through. It was easy to run away from the problem but hard to acknowledge what was happening and face it. I think it’s at times even harder to work through the hard stuff when you feel alone or when you are alone but, you can still ask for help. Don’t be afraid. Stand up for your emotional well-being. Even though sometimes it may not change anything right away, what will change is how you heal for your present and future self. Allowing yourself to figure out what was painful and working through it saves you from ALOT of emotional, psychological and mental issues later on.

Symptoms of Emotional and Psychological trauma:

  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Guilt, Shame, Self-Blame
  • Feelings of sadness, Depression
  • Nightmares, insomnia, fatigue
  • Shock, denial, confusion

Realizations and suggestions that can help:

  • Allow yourself to acknowledge what is happening. 
  • It’s okay to cry. 
  • Vent to people that you know will listen. 
  • Get help. Talk to a professional to help start the healing process. 
  • Don’t isolate.
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs. They can worsen your symptoms. 
  • Meditate (mindful breathing).
  • Exercise (releases feel good endorphins allows the mind and body to stay present)
  • Allow reflection. It’s okay to be vulnerable and to talk about our fears, worries and everything else inbetween. THAT is how we heal. Maybe not fully, but we heal.

ALLOW yourself to process. Allow yourself to feel. Go through the emotions. Recognize that they are there. Give yourself some time but learn to let it go (there is no deadline, just takes time and effort). Don’t hold it in. Don’t wait a year or a week or ten years to finally face it. Face it right away. I am still healing and at time, I still feel hopeless, angry or disheveled. I have learned that there is no perfect way to heal. I have learned that healing starts with processing and acknowledgement. Not everyone’s trauma or past is the same. It takes alot to work through it. Most of the time, we never want to “face the music” because it’s painful. It makes us feel like we have no control but, the control is in facing it and getting help. Thing is, if we do not face the trauma’s we have been through, they will always have a hold on us.

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