My therapy session started off the way all hard sessions do.
Me: “I’m doing great.”
Therapist: “That is wonderful.”
Me: “Yes. I finally feel good physically and we had a great spring break trip with the kids. I haven’t been sleeping well. But other than that little issue things are great.”
My therapist began asking those therapist-y questions: Why aren’t you sleeping? What is keeping you up? As she dug deeper, I revealed I lay awake at night replaying the events of the past few months.
“McCall, what you went through is traumatic.”
DAMN IT. I don’t want another trauma. I don’t want to work through anything else. I just want to skip on the rainbow highway and ride my unicorn into the peaceful sunset. Oh, life doesn’t work like that? UGH.
As the session continued, I realized my replaying of events was my way of trying to heal – albeit very ineffectively. At three in the morning, my mind races between hospital rooms to surgical tables to drains and the overwhelming physical pain. Hospital smells and sounds hit me out of nowhere and my reflection is a daily reminder of what my body endured.
Similar to how my therapy session started, on the outside I am great. I look healthy, minus the nasty scars and holes. I am happy and energetic. But on the inside, I feel like a ping pong ball bouncing wildly from thought to thought, task to task. My pinball anxiety is nothing new for me. When I came home from eating disorder treatment, I ‘looked’ fine (as I did when I was experiencing my eating disorder). Everyone assumed I was healed. When Marjorie was discharged from the NICU and then later deemed ‘No Mo Chemo’, everyone assumed we continued with our happy life.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Each time, I was left in trauma’s wake, struggling to breathe and trying to make sense of what the hell just happened. I have come my pinball task anxiety as a red flag – not knowing how or what to tackle on the to do list, bouncing from thing to thing struggling to do just one item because all I really want to do is curl up in a ball and cry.
Some people experience trauma, pack it in a box never to open it again. That does not work for me. I tried. Marjorie’s early birth and cancer are prime examples of what happens when I don’t process. I developed horrible PTSD and became terrified to let my children play in the driveway. It took the brutal work of EMDR to pull me out of my trauma grave.
Here is what I know to be true: trauma, pain, grief and hard things are unavoidable. They are going to happen. And I know we can do these hard things again and again. I also know that if I don’t process and unpack the trauma and hard things they will keep coming back to bite me in the ass, overtaking my life and well-being.
Unlike my PTSD following Marjorie’s birth and cancer, I now have a safe place (my therapist’s couch) to process, unpack and heal. AND I have the resiliency built up from years of eating disorder recovery to know that my bones are good. My foundation is strong. I can not only do the hard things, but take care of my body and mind afterwards so that my ‘house’ doesn’t fall. I don’t have a super power that allows me to overcome the hard things over and over. I am not special.
I awkwardly lean into the fear and know that I cannot do it alone. I rely on my therapist to hold that safe place for me to unpack, replay and heal. I give myself room to stomp my feet in anger that there have been so many hard things on my plate and at the same time I find gratitude in the resiliency that I have cultivated on each hurdle.
When I think of resiliency, the Maren Morris song kept playing in my head on repeat:
When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it break ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when my bones are good
When the bones are good
Yes. My bones, my foundation are solid. They are strong. Hard things will come again and again, I might crack, but my house will never fall. When we choose to do the hard work of recovery and cultivate our resiliency our foundation grows stronger and stronger.
I have had many moments of tears and anger, but when it is all said and done, I am so damn thankful for my recovery and the resiliency I have cultivated in my journey. My reflection is hard to look at – funky lines, holes and weird wrinkles and hard lines, but this is me. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, embracing my square and beat up boobs and knowing there is so much more than what meets the eye. My foundation runs deep and strong, my bones are good and that is what matters.