by Lauren Webb
Today, a year ago, changed me. I joined the ranks of healthcare professionals who experience trauma as a byproduct of their commitment to their work.
The initial shock rang in my ears for about a week, as the long term effects of depression settled in like a fog. For months, I wore my grief like a second skin. PTSD stole my sleep and isolated me from my relationships. Daily routine situations felt unsafe. Decision-making skills became erratic and reckless. Short term memory was stunted. Simple tasks, like picking up the phone to schedule a haircut, were out of the question. And any attempt at socializing seemed to reinforce my damaged sense of self.
For months, I wore my grief like a second skin...And any attempt at socializing seemed to reinforce my damaged sense of self.As a woman who only knew how to be entirely self-sustaining, this loss of competence was probably the most devastating. Layers of shame and doubt are painted on when you congratulate yourself for actually working two consecutive days. But I learned more in my 6 months of survival mode than I had in the rest of my adult life. I learned that vulnerability isn’t a choice when you’re just trying to stay afloat, but that doesn’t make it feel any less exposing. I learned that the kindest people are the ones who sit with you while you can’t function, without expectations. I learned that healing comes in waves, with both high tides and low. And that no one gets to define self-care for you. I learned to eliminate.
I learned that the kindest people are the ones who sit with you while you can’t function, without expectations. I learned that healing comes in waves, with both high tides and low. And that no one gets to define self-care for you.People that I love are having a hard time right now. People that I really love are having a really hard time. I see the cycle of grief playing out around me - the fear, the frustration, the overwhelm, the withdrawal - like characters in a book I’ve read before.
Today, I’m pushing beyond my privacy, extending myself in ways I couldn’t a year ago. And if you find yourself in grief, you are simply allowed to. The anger today may feel like guilt tomorrow and helplessness the day after. You may feel the fresh air of empowerment next week, and the confusion of stunning numbness the next. You are never regressing, as healing is not linear.
And whenever you feel able, share your story with someone else.