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Post-Trauma Stress - Support is Key

Four years ago, on March 15, my husband took off a neck brace he had on for over three months. On March 16, he came home for the first time since I brought him to the emergency room on November 28, the year before. 108 days! On day one, the doctor told me, "IF he lives, he WILL be paralyzed." I knew this was not true. It wasn't that I HOPED it wasn't true - I KNEW. At that moment, I was not alarmed or scared. I knew he would come out of this. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew he would be different, but he would survive and walk. Even knowing this did not prepare me for the journey in my heart.

The 108 days in hospital(s) was tough. There is no doubt on that count. Days 109 and on? THAT is when the road got tough - for me. While he was in the hospital, doctors, nurses, interns, cleaning staff, physical therapists, etc. When he came home, there was ... me. Suddenly all the things handled by a rotating schedule of multiple trained people were now my responsibility. Yes, we have an adult son living with us who was in college and an adult daughter who did not live far and was looking for a house. Yes, we have amazing people in our life who are wonderful and supportive and have jobs families. And ... I did not know what I needed.

Just a few of the amazing people who support and love us.
This was the first 5k my husband walked after we were told he would not walk again.

Throughout this whole experience, while he was in the hospital and even when he came home, many people let us know if we needed anything to let them know. They would be there. I know they would have. What I did not know was what I actually needed. While all this was happening, I lost my job, got another, lost that one, my plumbing separated from the house (on Christmas day) and had to be dug up and repaired (the day after Christmas); my washer broke. With every obstacle thrown, I just kept moving forward. I hid the job losses from everyone for as long as possible. (Actually, how and when the news came out is a funny story that maybe I'll share someday.) My head was working so fast to put out fires and take care of every detail happening at that moment I never had a second to stop to ask for help. Add the feelings I had, like worrying about letting others down because I was not readily available for them as I had been in the past, or the seclusion because people "didn't want to bother me" as they knew I had so much on my plate.

The stress from the event was tough on my health. Every year since, on specific days, the memories flow like a movie in my head. We, my husband, my children, and I, four years later, still suffer from the effects of the trauma we went through that many years ago. How we each deal with that stress is vastly different, but it does not make any person's trauma any less real. The stress from past trauma sometimes is challenging to recognize. It is essential to talk about the things that bother you and find support. There are also current stresses that bring up emotions from past trauma that you may not realize you have buried deep. Finding someone to talk through your feelings is usually the first step towards healing. No matter what - Support is key.

It is unclear who put the idea that everyone needs to "tough it out" or "pull up their bootstraps" for every situation. Some moments call for being tough and digging in. Some moments require a deep breath, a hug, a good cry, or just simple silence and rest. When someone says, for example, "When I was pregnant, I worked right up to the moment I was in labor!" or "I had a hundred-degree fever and was throwing up and still made it to work every day!" It is not helpful and, frankly, not wise either. No one should be going to work or anywhere if they are sick with a fever (especially if they are throwing up). The mentality of bullying through this world is ridiculous and unhealthy. No, I am not saying that we need to coddle our children. I am not saying we need to put padding everywhere to make things safe. There is a time to be tough and a time to be gentle. We need to find the balance.

More than anything, we need to recognize that we do not have a clue what any person has been through (or maybe going through), and maybe, just maybe, we can all take a step back, take a breath, and listen. We might hear what the person smiling across from us is really saying behind their smile. Lend a hand, give a hug, love lots, and smile often. It may be all they need to get through current or past trauma. Tread lightly through this world; kindness is never wrong.

My family in October 2017, approximately one month before he went to the emergency room, and my family in October 2019 hiking at Letchworth State Park 2 years after!

Love Lots; Smile Often



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