Last Saturday, I woke up, went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth.
As I was looking in the mirror, I realized with a shock that I had just had 90 seconds of ordinary life. I didn’t say “oh, shit” when I woke up. I didn’t say “ugh” when I stood up from the bed. I didn’t say “my leg… my hip… my back” as I hobbled to the bathroom. I didn’t say “I was in a terrible accident. I was on a ventilator and I still couldn’t breathe. I could have been killed. I could have been paralyzed… ” There was none of that. I just got up, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and was ordinary for 90 seconds.
Joy! If I could do this ordinary life thing for 90 seconds, I could do it for longer. During this week, I’ve been changing my inner language. Instead of walking around with my mind telling me over and over again, “This isn’t your regular body. This is too different. We need to get that other body back,” I’m training myself to note, “This is the body that I’m in now. I’m working with it. It’s my new normal.”
About three months after my accident, I began to have the strength to turn myself over in bed. It was a struggle. I was weak and there was pain. I’m grimaced and groaned through the whole procedure. About six months in, I began to think that my face might get stuck in that grimace. It looked to me like the furrow between my brows was deepening. Something had to be done! So, I began to train myself to relax my face and gently smile instead. I acted as if turning over in bed was a pleasure. Gradually, I began to feel incredibly grateful for the accomplishment of turning over in bed.
This “acting as if”, and telling myself a better story, and creating a new meaning are helping. They are helping me to do the necessary work to get physically better and they are helping me to notice my progress.
Of course, I still have “ugh” moments. I get tired in the afternoon and evening. I’m more uncomfortable. I’m more vulnerable to sadness and fear. But, it feels like, as I get stronger, that vulnerability is what is actually creating the opportunity for healing. Each time I get a little stronger, another level of PTSD symptoms show up — difficulty sleeping, restlessness, agitation, shallow breathing, hot flashes, fearful and negative thoughts. Once I see the symptoms for what they are, I can say, “I hear you. A big thing happened. It’s over now. Everything is OK.” Thank you, G-d, this works. I’ve made it through this level… until the next time and a deeper healing.
So, as my 12 step program for food addiction teaches me, I can make up my mind to be happy. Easier said than done. It’s a process. And, miraculously, it can work.
P.S. Wallace & Gromit always make me smile.
Love & Light,