After nearly two years of waiting, I am due to be starting therapy.
At the beginning of last month I was so relieved, so pleased to receive the news that I was, at last, going to be receiving the therapy I need – and even considered a priority. Since Hugo died I have been passed from pillar to post in my search to get the support I need to deal with the trauma, the sorrow in a more helpful way, and help me to move forward.
In many ways, I have moved forward. In many ways, you could even say I have been thriving.
But that moving forward has been borne from coping mechanisms that are unhelpful longer term. I bury the trauma, the sorrow, deep down. I’ve bunched it all up, and shoved it in a cupboard all in a huge mess, and shut the door. Whenever I try to open that door the trauma and sorrows that have been shoved so haphazardly in that cupboard tumble out on top of me, so I quickly duck, push them back in, and slam the door again, and lean my back against it for good measure. I’m probably breathing heavily, such as when the heroine in a horror film has got a door in between her and the monster (for now, anyway).
Crisis averted. Phew.
The trouble with that approach is, of course, the cupboard cannot stay like that forever. And that is the source of my fear. During therapy I shall have to open that cupboard door. I shall have to resist the urge to immediately slam it shut again as the contents come tumbling down.
Opening that cupboard door feels like Harry Potter entering the Forbidden Forest to face Voldemort. Like Luke Skywalker being sent in to the cave on Dantooine by Yoda as part of his Jedi training
“A domain of evil it is. In you must go.”
I shall have to have the patience and the strength to methodically take each item out of the cupboard, examine it, and think about what to do with it. (Perhaps this is why I have been recently decluttering and reorganising my house, which is very much against my nature; my subconscious getting me prepared. Or, more likely, it is another cunning diversionary tactic to avoid me indulging my thoughts). But that’s where this analogy falls down! I can’t chuck items away, give them to the charity shop, sadly. But on the other hand, why would I want to?
Those items comprise my pregnancy – such a very special time in my life, feeling my much-wanted baby grow inside me, move inside me, kick me.
They involve memories of my precious little boy’s life. Cuddles with my Hugo. Marvelling at our son. Our cheeky little Hugo Boss.
Those items include everything that has happened since Hugo died – the good as well as the bad.
These items make up who I am.
The therapy will help me put the items away neatly, able to open the door to them when I need or I want to without fear of them attacking me.
But first I need to get through the fear.
So be strong, I must.
An irony, is that I feel brighter at the moment. That’s really positive, but I know that is false.One of my current coping strategies involves doing my best to ignore all the awful stuff that is currently stuffed in that metaphorical cupboard. The meltdown I had in October was terrifying and so I have been keeping that door firmly shut.
Ignorance is bliss.
I am immeasurably frustrated I have had to wait for so long. If I had had a broken leg, I would have been assessed straight away by a team of professionals, had treatment at the appropriate place by the appropriate professionals and at the right time. I’d have had after care to make sure my leg was healing properly.
I would not have had to have insisted that my leg is broken, I would not have had to have proven my pain.
In short, the things that would need to be done to help and support me would be more obvious, the pathways clearly defined.
Just because you cannot see my illness it does not mean it is not there. Just because I do not have a living baby it does not mean my illness is not perinatal. Just because you can’t see my illness it should not have to mean I need to prove it exists.
My illness (PTSD) cannot be diagnosed with a scan, xray, or a blood test. There is no easily quantifable way of saying what is wrong with me, or of tracking my progress.
Unfortunately, I know in more ways than one that my illness is not a broken leg. It is not something that is going to completely heal, become a distant memory. There is no timescale, of any sort.
It will be a permanent scar. One that I will carry with me always, like my love for Hugo.
Completely erasing all the sorrow would be like erasing my son, my immense love for him. And that is even more unthinkable than facing the fear.
Another consequence of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ coping strategy is that I can forget that I have already survived the worst.
I want to move forward, to thrive, to blossom.
So I shall face the fear, have faith in my personal strength. Perhaps, like Harry, my bravery in facing my foe will help me defeat it.