The other day I was transcended back to a time that caused me a lot of heartache and stress. You see, my youngest son was (if you don’t know this already) diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and 9 years ago, we chose to move forward with a liver transplant to save his life.
And really, it was either that or allow him to succumb to the genetic disorder. I was not prepared for the journey that our family would face, and yet we walked the path with uncertainty, fear, and hope.
We are still healing from the trauma and the craziness that followed and while we haven’t always done so gracefully, we are moving forward.
The thing that caught me perhaps a little by surprise is my own acknowledgment that the trauma I experienced from sexual abuse and rape was nothing compared to seeing my child not breathe, for acknowledging that he spend 18 hours on an operating table and barely making it out alive due to a lot of blood loss.
Sexual Abuse and rape are never to be undermined or devalued, and I still have moments where my own PTSD emerges from those events but more than anything else, my son’s journey gave me the perspective of what is important and how do we allow events to influence our life.
Heck, it took me years to even acknowledge that I had some kind of post-traumatic challenges in the first place. It reminds me of the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
There are no amount of words that I can share with you that will help you understand the depth of the experience we endured, what I can share with you is, how you moved forward even when it feels impossible to do so at times.
Whatever you are experiencing right now, I don’t want to say temporary because it feels dismissive, but I will say this … you can overcome just about anything… if you want to.
You will want to believe in the outcome that you want
This is a lot easier said than done. I wanted my son to be healthy and well and have a regular kind of life. During the days where he was so incredibly sick, that he either pulls out of the dying phase to return to the living or succumb to the infections that riddled his body… I cried. And I cried a lot, sometimes all day long because it was the only thing I could do in that moment. To shed my fear, frustration, and pain.
And yet at the end of the day, I had to believe that he would one day walk out of the hospital a healthy boy. I didn’t realize it would take 3 years of what I can only describe walking through a tunnel and every time we got close to the light, it moved further away.
The believe I held that we would one day reach the light, helped me get through some of the shittiest days, I have ever experienced. But I wasn’t about to give up on him or anyone else for that matter.
Stay in reality but don’t lose faith
You have to face reality sometimes and occasionally it doesn’t look pretty. It looks dark and is filled with despair.
My son spent about 8 month total on a machine that would keep him alive and fuel his lungs with air. During one of the darker days when the doctors told us that they were doing everything possible, I was asked why I wasn’t angry.
Angry that my son was born with a rare genetic disorder.
Angry that the transplant wasn’t turning as easy as hoped.
And it was in that moment that yes, I had to face reality but that I could not control the outcome. I could control how I act or react to each given moment. It was in that moment, that I had no room for anger but rather I had to hang onto my faith. That no matter what would happen, I had the strength to handle it.
Reach out for help
Sometimes the best way out of the darkness and rejoining the living is through the help you allow yourself to receive.
Up until this point in my life, I didn’t need anyone to help me, or so I thought. I lived through the turmoil of foster care and I lived through sexual abuse and trauma and believed I was doing alright. I functioned even if just barely.
The challenge really is knowing what to ask for and knowing what you may need at any given moment. Because truly, sometimes you just don’t know what it is you need or want during hard times.
The were numerous days when the nurses would tell me to go home, take a shower or a nap. I battled the demons of leaving my child in the hospital but I left, even if only for a little while. I left to see my other kids, to tell them I love them and to let them know I didn’t forget about them.
I left because I had college assignments to complete and nothing feels better than a hot shower at home.
Reaching out for help is not a weakness. It’s acknowledging that even though you might think you are superhuman, even you need reminders that you don’t have to go through things alone.
I don’t think the people I have met during my harder times in life know just how much their support means to me.
Find things to distract yourself with
The more you spend time thinking and focusing on all the negative stuff you are experiencing, the harder it is to believe in a positive outcome and to keep the faith that all will be well.
You may not know that while my son was trying to stay alive, I was in college earning my Master’s Degree. So, when I wasn’t crying about the situation, or briefly on the road between home and the hospital, my nose was in my studies. But it wasn’t enough to distract me or to get my mind off things and so I leaned towards doodling and creating art.
I couldn’t exactly bring the wood-burner into the intensive care unit, but I could bring pen and paper. I found myself lost in the doodles, temporarily forgetting that my son’s life was in limbo and that I didn’t know if we’d make it home for Christmas. I taped the doodles to the door, handed them to the nurses as gifts and shared them with the online community I was part of at the time. My creative outlets have always allowed me to stay grounded and channeled the solutions I needed to get through most situations.
Art in any form helps you relax your mind because it switches off your brain from the hard stuff you are dealing with. It helps you connect to your inner source and can bring forth the things you need to know, such as how to keep the faith or move forward in a tough situation.
Please know that no matter what situation you may be in, you can handle anything that comes your way. Find a way that you can visualize the outcome you want and believe that it can happen. Don’t lose your faith even if reality is trying to show you something different, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And most importantly perhaps, is find ways to distract yourself so you are not thinking about your situation, problem or challenges all day long.
Sometimes there’s no easy way out of the darkness to help you reach the light, but sometimes it is exactly the journey you need to shift your perspective and have a new idea about this thing called life.