Recovery is a balance of feeling the pain and also managing it in other ways. I’ve always experienced emotional pain as more challenging than physical pain. Maybe it’s because I have a high tolerance for physical pain, but my emotions are intense and strong. Since I’ve realized more about my particular neurotype, I can see why my emotions have always been so strong. Trauma also causes intense emotions, especially developmental trauma. It affects the amygdala, which can be overactive and even enlarged in survivors of chronic childhood trauma. The amygdala controls the fight or flight response, especially fear and anger. It’s true that fear has been sitting in my chest since I was a baby, and I know this is because of the brain damage from trauma. However, my neurotype seems to make every emotion stronger as well. I feel sadness, joy, excitement, anxiety, empathy, embarrassment, and love in a heightened way. It’s difficult, but I like that it makes me a more passionate person. As much as I suffer from depression, I can also feel a deep passion and intensity for people, topics of interest, hobbies, nature, and even the little things in life- like the way light reflects off of snow.
I guess the trick is to keep the balance between feeling the intensity of my emotions and also taking space from them at times. It’s like my ankle recovery. I had surgery on Friday. They removed the titanium plates and screws that had been fixed to my bones for almost three years. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as the surgeon had expected because one of the bones had grown over a screw. The good news is that they still got it all out, but the wound is bigger, and I don’t want to think about what they had to do to my bone to remove it all. I also woke up from surgery struggling to breathe, and my pulse ox dropped to 88. They got it up to 95 to discharge me. The pain was worse than expected. I walked out of the hospital that day with a cane, but the past two days have been difficult. The swelling and pain increased. I’ve been icing it and keeping it elevated, and I’m temporarily on crutches. I didn’t want to take the Vicodin they prescribed me because I hate that stuff, but it was necessary. I guess that’s what I mean by balancing the pain. I’ll stop taking them tomorrow, but right now I deserve to escape some of the extreme discomfort. It’s the same with emotional pain. Sometimes we must sit in it, but if it becomes too unbearable, we must take care of ourselves and try to numb it a little to make it manageable (with safe coping skills and distractions).
I miss exercising, and it’s only been two days. I ran 8 miles the day before surgery. Soon I’ll get my stitches out, and I’ll be back in the pool. My friend and I have plans for ultra training and marathons in the future. She’s also recovering from a surgery, so we can add the miles together. I’m sure I’ll be back up to 8 miles in a few months, then I’ll just keep going after that. It’s going to be so much better this time, because the pain of the metal made it difficult over long distances. Sometimes you have to open up the old wound and go through acute pain in order to heal and be stronger in the long run.
Right now my life is about recovery in a lot of ways. I’m surrounding myself with kind people, and I’m grateful for them. My friends and supports have been amazing this past week. I can’t thank them enough. People went out of their way to help me through this, both in driving me around, visiting me, and sending supportive messages. I know I have a lot of pain in my life, but it feels more manageable surrounded by people who are healthy and caring. I’m amazed that I can feel gratitude and love as deeply as I can feel fear and sadness. My capacity for intense emotions is a gift when I can learn to balance them.
I look at the before and after xrays of my ankle with pride. I can’t believe I ran long distances with that much hardware in there. If I ever needed proof that I’m a badass, it’s right there in those pictures. Every injury and scar I’ve ever gotten is proof that I’m strong, and I sure as hell have a lot of them. There are still plenty of days with intense pain, both emotional and physical, but every day I’m even stronger. I let the light in now, and I also don’t fight the darkness. I let it wash over me until it leaves. I ask for help if it sticks around and feels like too much. There is strength in asking for help, in being vulnerable. There is strength in knowing when to feel the pain and when to evade it.