A few years ago after receiving a new liver via transplant, the doctors said to ‘give it time’ when I asked how long it would take to recover. At first, I had plenty of time; I spent two months in the hospital recovering from one complication after the other, and despite the lost hours watching videos, writing, sleeping, and processing my situation, I found myself back at work (teaching yoga) a mere three months after my surgery. I didn’t understand, at that time, that this wasn’t the kind of ‘time’ they meant.
After six months, I seemed to hit an emotional wall, which felt like the smallest tasks were unachievable due to enormous anger, fear and exhaustion. I was angry that I didn’t have the control I once thought I had over my body. I was fearful of the impending death sentence that I had cheated my way out of with the operation. I was exhausted from the cycle of anger, fear and other related emotions bubbling up with wild abandon while trying to get on with my life. At the same time I was busy trying to delude myself and everyone around me into to thinking that I hadn’t been through an extreme, life-changing event.
No wonder I felt stressed.
I write this today, on the eve of my two year transplantiversary. It has taken me all this time to realize that this is the time scale those doctors meant when they said ‘it would take some time’.
Trauma is just a label, and can mean different things to each individual. While sometimes we can get stuck into a label without taking the time to understand it’s meaning or purpose, labels are also hugely helpful in creating a framework for evoking meaning; when we understand where we have come from, we can evolve from that place rather than getting stuck and dragged down.
I was so eager to be well again and to have the answer all of those hopeful and loving faces around me asking me ‘how I was doing’ wanted to hear. The fact remained, however, that I had been through something bigger than I could comprehend, and I really had no idea how I was doing, or how long it would take to know the real answer to that question.
Then, without a particular day or time, about eight months ago, the rhythm of life found a more regular beat. The swinging pendulum of extremes of having almost lost my life, on the one hand, and then regaining it with some big (dare I say unrealistic) expectations of myself and those around me tempered to a softer, and more sustainable tempo.
No doctor or friend could have told me how long my process would take, and the truth is, it is an unfolding thread in my personal story. The process has merged with my life, and is a lens through which I see the world that will forever be in changing color and force. I am grateful for this lens. It has given me a panoramic view with depths of which I could never have anticipated.
Today I feel more grounded and satisfied with my life than I did a year ago, and two years ago I was living day to day, waiting for someone else to die so that I might live. So that’s progress, right? I am still full of ideas and expectations of myself and what I hope to experience, and I am not without a bit of nervous energy about the how and when life will reveal her plans for me. My biggest goal over the past two years, however, has been as a mother: to restore stability and confidence to my son. On that note I am happy to report that my son is settling into school with enthusiasm and curiosity, and without the same separation anxieties he had this time last year.
The last thing I want to say is how important it is for those suffering from any kind of anxiety or trauma to be honest with someone about what is going on. Settling for a life led by fear is a prison. Our greatest purpose is to be kind to one another, without resentment. Our greatest gift to one another is the present of presence. I can’t say how blessed I am to have forgiving friends and family whom have held a rather huge space for me over the past years to come to terms with the process of dying and living. I have learned a lot about meeting people where they are, from you. Thank you.