Today I was looking at my Facebook memories, like I do every morning. I saw one from when I had very first rejoined the workforce; I’d spent a good solid couple of years fighting my chronic pain and PTSD…I honestly didn’t think I was capable of working again. In fact, I only went back to prove to a friend who’d made what felt like very attacking statements that I was, indeed, broken beyond repair. I fully expected to fail miserably and to fall flat on my face.
She won; but we were no longer speaking so I couldn’t tell her that. Thus is life.
So the memory I saw this morning said, “I was in a lot of pain today, but I didn’t leave work. I stayed and worked. I’m counting this as a victory.” That’s literally all that I expected of myself. That was it! Not to be perfect at work, not to be cheerful and friendly; literally just to fight through the pain and stay there. And I was not at all confident that I’d be able to do that. To me, just staying for the whole shift felt like an unattainable goal. I had zero confidence in myself. Compared to what I expect of myself today, that’s a pretty easy goal with a lot of room for error!! How long ago was this?! I checked the date.
Six years. SIX years. It was only six short years ago!! I wasn’t a counselor, I hadn’t even enrolled in grad school yet. We hadn’t bought our house. I hadn’t joined the honors society, become President. I hadn’t worked with any of the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with, or been in any of the hundreds of incredibly stressful situations I’ve now experienced, or held myself accountable for my empathy skills and tone even ONCE yet…and that was only SIX years ago?! I’m in private practice now. I’m about to have my independent counseling license – but six short years ago, I was afraid I’d be too weak to push through pain for an eight hour shift?! I’ve done and become all of this in only SIX years?!!!!
I flag out thought FB’s timeline was wrong; I checked with my husband. He said, “I know. That’s why I’m proud of you.” Six years is right!! I made all this transformation in only six years!! I was so busy powering through that pain, the fear, the uncertainty – so determined not to let anything stop me or tell me I couldn’t – I didn’t pay attention to the passage of time. It felt like it took easily 20 years, but it was actually only SIX. I am stunned.
I’m honestly amazed by the strength I’ve displayed; I don’t mean that to be cocky, if it sounds that way I apologize. But if one of my clients told me that in six years, while their children faced countless rather uncertain and traumatic situations, while their mother faced stage 3 uterus cancer and then fought legionnaires, E. coli and staph infections all at one time and very nearly died, while their husband struggled with concussions and traumatic brain injuries, through losing deeply cherished and beloved in-laws to Heaven and fighting both diagnosed but misunderstood physical illnesses as well as mystery illnesses that STILL have no resolution, they were able to change literally their entire lives and had become an honors student and built a successful business for themselves in an entirely new field in just six years, I’d be tempted to give that client a standing ovation. My first question would be, “That’s INCREDIBLE! What resources did you have, how did you accomplish this…where did you find the strength?!”
So I need to ask myself that, too.
I tend to come here to write when I have a thought too complex or weird or dark to share in the “mainstream”. I’ll be honest, before I got married ten years ago, I’d spent a lot of my life screwing around and creating chaos; many people I’ve known all my life had lost faith in my ability to figure myself out. I don’t want to prove them right, so when I’m having a hard or shadowy time, I hide. I come here. If you’re following me here, it probably feels like I live my life in darkness; and realistically there is a lot of darkness in my thoughts. But I am not darkness. I am not paralyzed. I come here to keep from being paralyzed by trauma and – I guess it’s working!
But for today, I’m having an encouraging thought. Chronic pain and complex PTSD and a genetic predisposition to major depressive disorder have not stopped me from reinventing myself into the person I wanted to be, and it has only taken six short years to get here.
Who do I become from here? I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.