Learning to Live Fully Despite Recurring Trauma

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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Alex Karev, a fictional doctor on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy,” once said, “Trauma always leaves a scar. … It changes our lives. Trauma messes everybody up, but maybe that’s the point. All the pain and the fear, … maybe going through all of that is what keeps us moving forward.”

Trauma does mess us up.

Trauma clouds my thinking, numbs me to my pain, and forces me to think I somehow deserve the bad things. Going through trauma makes me feel disconnected from my body, as if it were not my own.

I have been told my reactions to trauma are a fear-based response seen in others with post-traumatic stress disorder. I question how to manage these responses to emotional and physical stress when my pain and distress are ongoing.

Every time I return home after a hospital stay, the real emotional and physical work begins as I learn to live, despite the trauma that has passed and that which lingers.

During a recent hospitalization, I endured more pain than I ever thought I could overcome. I experienced multiple instances of emotional and physical trauma. When I first left the hospital, I was numb to everything I had endured. My body felt in a state of shock, unable to process the hurt, the pain, and the upset.

When I leave a hospital, I am crippled by fear, worry, and a deep pain. Much of that strong emotional response stems from knowing that with chronic illness comes pain. Even if it is not the same type of pain, more suffering is inevitable. I will experience moments when I feel defeated and lack control over my body and mind.

People may assume that the hardest part of recovery is the physical healing, but this is far from the truth. For me, the biggest challenge after a hospital admission is figuring out how to move forward.

How do I overcome this specific trauma and live my life fully until the next trauma or crisis? How do I begin to feel like I’m living in the world again? How can I return to myself?

Talking about my trauma helps me move past the pain and the emotional distress. It is important for my healing to have a support system that allows me to vent, cry, scream, and feel the hurt. I have learned that shutting down my emotions and pushing the hurt to the back of my mind only leads to destruction.

I am grateful to have an outlet and a safe space where I can acknowledge how awful my experiences have been. Doing so allows me to move on. Healing doesn’t happen without emotional support.

Focusing my attention on small victories has also helped me move on from traumatic events. I see the progress I am making instead of thinking about how far I still have to go.

I try to focus on things that make me happy, and I fill my days with as much joy as I can. Spending time with my family and practicing self-care prevent me from walking down a path of self-destruction and negative thinking.

Trauma certainly messes us up. But it also provides opportunities to reflect, talk, and find things to be thankful for. It will hurt and leave a scar, both emotionally and sometimes physically.

My traumas demand to be felt and not suppressed. I am grateful I am learning to live despite the trauma.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Brenda Denzler avatar

Brenda Denzler

I have medical PTSD, too. I am reading your posts about mPTSD with great interest.


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