The other day, my friend Hannah, who is a runner in the very real sense, (she’s run the Boston Marathon, as opposed to the “runner” I am, where I run out for pizza.) posted something to her Instagram account about her recovery from an ankle injury that I thought was beautiful:
Injury continues to teach me to be grateful for small victories. Healing feels frustratingly slow, indiscernible day-to-day, and then, poof all at once change! Small realizations that you’re able to do more, that you feel a little closer to “normal” are sprinkled along the way. There aren’t fireworks or confetti. Just quiet satisfaction of returning to yourself.
She is, obviously, talking about her physical injury, but I thought her words also spoke of so much more. The trauma of childhood abuse is an injury in a very real sense. My first therapist, who was left to explain to me what was happening with my fugue states, probably put it best. She told me trauma is like having a physical injury, but to your psyche. You don’t just keep going after an injury. You have to take the time to let it heal, you have to let yourself mend, and you have to then work your way back to being yourself again.
Many survivors don’t see fireworks, or don’t see “big” changes and give up on their healing without realizing that isn’t how it works. Healing happens bit by bit, until one day, you find yourself with the ability to do things that you couldn’t do the week before, and then maybe a month later, there is a realization that the bits have added up to something big.
For Hannah, those victories are represented by the physical ability to work up to running again. She won’t go from an ankle injury straight to running a marathon. That’s not how it works. For survivors those victories may be finding the strength to get slightly out of our comfort zone, or to stand up for ourselves, make strong decisions or reach out to a friend. There won’t be fireworks and confetti when we do those things. It will just be one small step that guides us toward better mental health.
And one day, there will be the realization that all those little victories that we never gave ourselves any credit for, were giving us the confidence to do things that we never dreamed we could do before. Then maybe we can light off our own fireworks.
Thanks for the reminder Hannah!