Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Collateral Damage

When you are focusing on your survival, it can be easy to miss your collateral damage. Just like a tornado tearing through a trailer park, you can be so caught in your own whirlwind, you fail to fully comprehend the debris and havoc you are sharing with others. Damage that can literally scatter and wrap around everyone your life touches. 

On the other hand, when you are aware of it, it can eat you alive with guilt and make you think yourself a burden to such a degree you begin to hide what you are going through from the people who are the closest to you.

Case in point, I had brain surgery. The night before, during truly sleepless hours, I spoke to my friends and family. Not knowing if it would be the last time, I assured those closest to me I would speak to them again and see them soon. I stood alone in a shower just after dawn, scrubbing myself with sterilizing liquid, and letting the water wash away fears so no one would see. I striped and laid on a gurney. Signed scary papers and felt many needles. I let go of my mother's hand as I was wheeled away. I whispered the names of people I loved to myself. I went to sleep. I did not dream. There was only timeless darkness. For me it lasted only a moment. But, for those sitting vigil with fear, worry, and love, it lasted sixteen very long hours. 

I woke up. I spoke. I let those I loved know I was alive and remembered them. I tried to reassure and give hope. And, I hurt. I was so weak I could barely move. Every ounce of who I was turned to focus on just breathing in and out. I missed people who weren't there that I wanted with me. I felt alone. I wanted the people with me to give me space. I needed to focus on breathing and not reassuring everyone I was alright. I wanted someone to hold my hand and whisper sweet close things to me. I didn't want anyone to touch me and just wished everyone would be quiet. There was too much and not enough of Me in those moments.

But simultaneously during those moments of Me, there were people who loved me. Who had not slept. Who had suffered beyond worry as an eight hour operation stretched into sixteen. Who sobbed and prayed. Who lost hope. Who held on. Who wanted so very much for me to wake up. People whose lives changed forever in the waiting and the witnessing of my struggle.

Their struggle, their pain, their fear, and their love was just a valid as mine. My survival involved them on every level. My fight was equally theirs. My damage damaged them. My trauma traumatized them. My tornado touched down and tore through those I love.

It is an overwhelming thing on all sides. This happened to me. My body. It was beyond my control. But they couldn't stop it. They were just as helpless against it. They couldn't do anything to change it and they had to deal with the paralyzing reality of that. They bore witness and that was a war in itself.

Realizing the resulting affects your trauma has on others can in many way be harder then surviving the event itself. The emotional damage and scars from it can be deeper, more important, and more lingering than any physical ones. It can cripple you with the weight of the burden you imagine you have become and silence you to protect them from more harm. It can hurt them to feel removed from your struggle since in their hearts they are struggling with you.

Sharing your survival is the tightest of ropes. The most trying of journeys. There is no truly graceful way to navigate through it. Everyone will be damaged. Everything will be felt individually while also in tandem. Some days will be too hard, some nights too long. There will be too many plans and promises, too many dreams and hopes. So much will be shared. So many tears will be shed. Some moments will hold great beauty and importance. Simple tenderness amid the harshest of times.

Allow all of it on all sides. Embrace it. Share it. Talk about it. 

Grant eachother the room to be silent. Allow eachother the need to be clingy. Forgive yourself and eachother. Acknowledge the differences in your struggles and the similarities. Be thankful and thank eachother (even when you feel there is no need to because it is all part of caring for someone). Find the beauty and strength in eachother.

Tell someone you love them and keep telling them. Over and over and over.

None of us survive alone. We endure together. It changes us and makes all the difference in who we become together.

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