I have always prided myself on my resilience. I have been through awful hospital stays, invasive tests, disease flare-ups, medication changes, and more, yet I have always bounced back. That all changed after my latest hospital stay for E. coli. I don’t know why, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
After coming home from the hospital, I began having panic attacks and crying all the time. I felt like I couldn’t find my way back to myself. Any slight twinge of nausea (which happens a lot when you have Crohn’s Disease and Gastroparesis) would send me into panic. Worst of all, I felt like I wasn’t there for my daughter. My smart, beautiful, loving daughter needed her mom and I could barely get through a day without being consumed by panic. I thought the support of my family and friends would get me through like it always had before, but this time it wasn’t enough. This time was different.
I could see how hard it was for my husband when I shut him out, but I couldn’t find a way to let him back in. He wanted to help me, but I didn’t know how to accept his help. Eventually, he found a therapist for me and asked me to try it out. I was convinced they wouldn’t be able to help me, but I tried it anyway. I told myself that I could go at least one time for him. It turns out, therapy actually lives up to the hype. It can be incredibly helpful if you find the right therapist.
Mostly I just cried for the first several sessions, and then I noticed something. I saw a glimpse of the old me. At first, I would go for a few minutes without being consumed by panic. Then, slowly, it became hours which turned into days. Through therapy, I learned that it’s okay to not be okay. I learned that my trauma is very real and breaking from it is nothing to be ashamed of. I learned that it’s okay to take medication if you need extra help, and it’s okay to ask for help when you feel lost. I’m still not back to my “old self.” I’m not sure I ever will be, but I am slowly putting the pieces back together and getting better every day.
If you are reading this and struggling with medical trauma or any other variety of mental illness, know that you are not alone. I hope that, like me, you can find the strength to ask for and accept help. It won’t be easy. It will feel like you take one step forward and ten steps back, but I promise there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get through it. I believe in you.