The Real Recovery Process

I often write about trauma recovery as a process or steps.  I do this for many reasons.  First, I have always loved making a confusing thing more understandable.  I think this is a gift that I was supposed to bring to the world in one form or another.  Second, it is a defense mechanism.  Let’s face it.  Trauma recovery is messy.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense except in hindsight.

And I love to be in my brain.  It feels safe.  It feels controllable.  It feels less scary.  And even though I may be fooling myself, it helps a little.  Third, it appeals to your defense mechanisms.  I love that I can make you feel a little safe too.  And if we are able to create a community of momentary relief from the trauma recovery process, we should do that.

But today, I wanted to do something a little different.  Today I am going to get super-real.  I am going to discuss what the real process looks like because we all know it doesn’t come in 4, 5, 6 or even 7 steps.  It looks more like a child’s finger painting project with a dot at the end (or realistically there may be no dot at the end but we will hope).  It doesn’t make sense.  We can’t control it.  It never feels safe.  And we just want the whole thing to be over.

So here is a realistic account of what trauma (and in my case, memory) recovery looks like:

  1. I have an energetic or physical release somewhere in my body.
  2. I get the sense that something isn’t quite right.
  3. I convince myself I am making it up and everything is fine.
  4. I convince myself I am done with recovery work and any minute, I will be having a “top of the mountain” enlightening experience that will change my life forever. There will be no more pain.
  5. I spend five minutes indulging in that beautiful thought.
  6. My kids start acting crazy and jumping all over the living room (sign 1).
  7. I get short with them (sign 2).
  8. I begin to feel a tingling sensation in my forehead (sign 3).
  9. I get additional body pain somewhere in my body (sign 4).
  10. My vision begins to blur and my thinking gets a little fuzzy (sign 5).
  11. My thoughts get manic and will not stop (sign 6).
  12. This is the point where I know I am in trouble.
  13. I whine. I whine a lot because I am tired.  I am so so so tired.
  14. I try to pretend it isn’t happening.
  15. I spend thirty minutes pretending I made up all the signs and I am not getting another memory back.
  16. The tidal wave of emotion sets in. Sometimes the tidal wave is fast and takes over my system instantly.  Sometimes it comes in slowly over several hours, making me feel worse and worse.
  17. I now feel like total crap. I feel angry, sad, hopeless and I have lost all motivation to make anything of my life.
  18. Anxiety … depression … anxiety … depression … the swings begin.
  19. There is more physical pain.
  20. I contemplate all the ways I could move to another part of the planet to escape myself which I cognitively know won’t work.
  21. I hate everything. I hate my life.  I hate all my choices.  I hate everyone in my life.  I refuse to do anything ever again.  I turn on the TV and grab a wine glass.
  22. After several hours of wasting my time, I consider the possibility that these emotions are from a past traumatic event and not about right now.
  23. I completely reject that possibility because someone just sent an email to reject a proposal I sent to them. Clearly, I would feel this way over a rejected proposal.  Of course I would.
  24. I lay my head down next to my computer and have a complete meltdown or temper tantrum.
  25. Fifteen minutes later, I consider the possibility that these emotions are from a past traumatic event and not about right now.
  26. I completely reject that possibility because I just found a bill under a pile of paper that I forgot to pay. Clearly, I would feel this way over a bill I forgot to pay.  Of course I would.
  27. A couple of hours later, I consider the possibility that these emotions are from a past traumatic event and not about right now.
  28. I go to bed.
  29. This cycle will repeat. It will take hours if I have mustered the strength of 1,000 horses.  It will take days if I am just not having it.
  30. I finally convince myself to write from the emotion despite all my defenses telling me not to. I write about how much I hate everyone and everything.
  31. I flash. I have a flashback of something from the past.
  32. I spend several hours or days piecing together a memory from the past and I write it down, mostly in pieces as it comes back.
  33. I start to get a sense of clarity. Literally, my eyes start to clear.  The world begins to get brighter.
  34. For a few minutes, I feel a sense of complete confidence. I can do anything.  I OWN the whole world. I am unstoppable.  I am invincible.  I can’t stop thinking of amazing projects to do next (but not in the manic way).
  35. I have an energetic or physical release somewhere in my body.
  36. Damn!


Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW

The Real Recovery Process was originally published @ Beating Trauma and has been syndicated with permission.

Our authors want to hear from you! Click to leave a comment

Related Posts

Subscribe to the SJS Weekly Newsletter

Leave a Reply