The experience of trauma, particularly abuse, can fragment a life, and a person.
The process of recovering could be likened to tackling a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, the number of pieces or the complexity of the clues individually determined, as each individual’s experience of trauma is unique. Recovery too means different things to different people and can take many forms.
My recovery jigsaw is complex. I opened the box and tipped out 1000 puzzle fragments to be painstakingly pieced together. A combination of original and replacement pieces may be required if some are missing or too damaged to use. Rogue pieces may thwart progress appearing to fit in one place while their true location lies empty elsewhere.
The goal is a correctly completed puzzle, a myriad pieces picked up and put together to reform a whole.
Life as I knew it blew apart as surely as though a bomb had detonated within it. I lost my family, friends, my career, my health, and any semblance of normality. I was 30 years old. Subsequently, I almost lost my life too.
In the years immediately afterwards I met a woman, I’ll call her Eartha, at a community art project for people experiencing mental illness. My diagnoses then were Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. Latterly my symptoms and experiences have been neatly bundled under the term ‘Complex Trauma’ which, as I understand it, is variously described as Complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or Complex Trauma Disorder.
I don’t remember much about Eartha’s particular circumstances but I do remember asking her how long it had taken her to get her life back on track. 10 years, she said. I did a double take, stepped back in amazement, sank into a dramatic faint, and just about every other astonishment cliché you might name.
I jest, but I was truly horrified. NO WAY was it ever going to take me so long. My career, dreams, passions, and goals -none of which were inconsiderable – were waiting, and they were becoming impatient.
I’m now approaching 50. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine that almost 20,
years later, I’d still be struggling to compete that puzzle and stride forward into life again, much less that I’d yet again be fighting for my life.
This, is ULTRA Jigsaw: The Epic Endurance Event! It’s set to test my mettle, as though the original trauma weren’t challenge enough.
So, why has it taken me so long?
Am I just slow and lazy?!
I’m actually very proactive, determined and driven.
I think the answer to the question of what’s taking so long is threefold.
I’ve been rebuilding my life on quicksand. I don’t yet have any firm foundations but that’s not for the want of trying. For a number of reasons, I’ve lacked reliable consistent support. Mostly I’ve had to go it alone. The scale and complexity of the task itself is problematic.
I was abused for decades.I lived in a situation of recurring trauma for more than 30 years, and then spent more than a decade in a damaging marriage on top of that.
I’ve been ‘free’ for just three years.
I imagine that someone reading this might wonder why on earth I didn’t get out sooner. There is no quick answer but if I’m able to tell more of my story it will become clear.
To be continued …