The thing about trauma is that you don't have time to recognize its significance when you're in it. You don't have the luxury of stopping to consider, "Gee, this may be life-altering. This...will shape my story." You just dig in and focus on surviving. Because that's what we do: We survive.
In the year following the trauma you are still in survival mode. You check your own pulse; you monitor your own body temperature; you contemplate those twinges of pain and wonder if they are...or are not...something.
This week I hit the two-year mark... two years from when a doctor told me, "I feel pretty confident I can help you, if you can trust a doctor again," two years from the surgery (the sixth one) that saved my life (seven months after the one that nearly took it), two years from the time I had to carry my own urine in a bag for a month, two years from when I needed help to use the restroom or take a shower.
Two years after the trauma I have reached the point where I feel safe enough to exhale, to cautiously risk not knocking on wood when I say I am ok. At two years I am finally ready to reflect, to look back, to offer compassion to my former self, the one who didn't see it coming, the one who trusted a surgeon for a "routine surgery" (and didn't consider the fine print as relevant )... but who would then be so gravely violated and betrayed.
What do I say to that woman? How could I prepare her for the road ahead? (I have many times said that God spared me the knowledge of those days and how hard they would be, how humiliating they would be, and how violated I would feel). Empathy overcomes me when I consider that woman, desperate for a surgery in July of 2013 that would stop the pain more intense than childbirth, migraines, and reconstructive knee surgery combined. She was presented no other option. She didn't think the risk would be hers. But it was. Oh, how it was.
To Carol Reeve on July 1, 2013:
You go, girl! Big day ahead with this press conference. You've worked your butt off for your client, and that work will pay off. Tomorrow will start a tough journey, though. You will learn a lot from it. You will see who your real friends are, who your real God is, and the cloth from which He has made you. This road ahead will not be easy, but You Will Survive This, and you will live to tell the story. Your God is sovereign. Your husband and your mother will carry you (literally), so model grace and gratitude. Your daughter will watch you, so model faith and courage.
Reconstruction is more than physical. What can be done in an operating room cannot be done -- or undone -- so easily outside of it. The brain, the heart, the spirit, need time to catch up, to process, and to heal. And that may take more than two years.