The sun will come out tomorrow
Four years ago I wrote this blog post about eleven years prior. Tonight everyone in my house has a cold, except me. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow is the fifteen year anniversary of the flashpoint that initiated the most most traumatic experiences of my adult life.
I started a new job in October. Every morning I drive by the clinic where the events of December 30, 2002 unfolded, and I see the tree that I clung to while the sun was setting. Every night I drive back the same way, but I don’t see the clinic or the tree in the dark from the opposite side of the road, approaching from a different direction.
Fifteen years later, I’m approaching everything from different direction. In hindsight and with five long years of intense therapies and reading everything (especially clinical research) I could about dissociative disorder and PTSD, I see clearly now that what I called grief in my first book was really severe trauma. I reread my own book last weekend, which is not a thing I do – reread my own writing. Still, I did read it, and I highlighted in green all the obvious instances where I was clearly traumatized. There’s a lot of green in that book.
In the first chapter I wrote about an act of dissociation that was so “textbook” I could have submitted it to an actual text book – but when it happened in 2006, and when I wrote about it in 2010, and even when I read that chapter aloud in book stores in 2012 . . . I had no idea what dissociation was. I had no idea how genuinely damaged I was, but what was worse is that I had no idea I could get better.
I’ve spent the last five-plus years since my book was published learning and unlearning. The saddest part was how much of my life and myself I lost to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The worst part is that I validated living in trauma because I didn’t know any other way to live. I regret that. Living in trauma is only valid until you know another way. The good part is I found a way out. I found a way through my PTSD. It was long, and complicated, and painful as fuck (Moira knows what af means, and so I’m throwing that one in for her). I found a way out, and I’m not all the way there yet, but I see the light. I know that I don’t have to live in the fear I described in my first book, only through it, and I did that. I’ve come so far; we all have.
I don’t like to write “about” Liam any more because he’s almost fifteen and has a big honking life that is not mine to narrate, but I will say that my success with PTSD therapies is bringing benefits for him too. I share that because I know it will give parents like me who still read my scarcer and scarcer blog posts great hope to know it.
I am still writing. I’ve written articles for the New York Times Motherlode, Dame, and recently Self magazine after Jimmy Kimmel’s son William shared the same surgeon as my William. I’ve written several full length books since Heart Warriors, but I’ve not had the heart or the time to push them through to publication. It’s a tedious process to get a book published, and I’ve been preoccupied with working on my own wellbeing.
I will say, it is humbling to see your own mistakes laid out in front of you on a printed page, but it is also inspiring because I now can see how much I’ve changed and grown. I recognize in my mistakes the capacity of the human heart to evolve and heal over time. The greatest strength a human can possess is the vulnerability to admit we are wrong so we can adapt and move forward.
Had this forty-three year old woman sitting here tonight encountered that twenty-eight year old girl who excitedly entered into a OB/GYN clinic fifteen years ago tomorrow and came out a broken shell of herself, I wouldn’t say a word to her. I would just hold her like Jim held me in the parking lot and tell her the truth, “We’ll get through this,” and we did.
If you would like to read the chapter about December 30, 2002, I’ve posted it here for you.