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Redefining definitions

Posted by Racer on August 11, 2004, at 14:48:08

In reply to Re: ruffled feathers Shadowplayers721, posted by AuntieMel on August 11, 2004, at 11:22:29

That's my answer. I did suffer severe trauma as a child, both physical -- hit by a car when I was 4, with very severe injuries including skull fracture -- and emotional. Oh, yeah, and including sexual abuse, too, for that matter. And I have *agonized* over the question about whether I could ever "recover" from those traumas.

Now, this isn't to be misconstrued as anything like CBT, 'K? But when I'm less depressed and actually functioning in the world at something close to my optimal level, here's how I define my goal to myself: "I'm not ever going to have the same physiological brain function of someone who has never experienced trauma. I'm never going to lose the potential for the sort of reactivity that creates problems for me. My goal in therapy, as in life, is to maximize my functioning within my realistic limitations caused by the interaction of genetic susceptibility and childhood trauma."

In other words, if you consider "recovering" to mean wiping the slate clean so that you can experience life the way someone without either the genetic susceptibility or the trauma would, you're very likely to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you define "recovery" as making the most of what you got, and finding more adaptive ways of handling stressful situations, and you modify -- not "reduce" but "modify" -- your expectations, you have a great chance of total success.

Here are two of my own, personal agonies related to this. First, I am interested in politics, and have always wanted to get more involved -- ie: run for office. Guess what? I've been involuntarily hospitalized for psychiatric problems! There goes that ambition. (Please -- we all know that that's the cold truth here, and I have learned to live with this. Please don't try to convince me to resurect that particular dream, 'K?) So, OK, I can't run for office, but there are plenty of other things I *can* do to satisfy the impulses behind that dream. I can work in non-profits that bring me into the political arena -- check. I can do my best to educate myself about the political issues that affect me and my community, and get involved either directly or indirectly -- check. I can write to my elected representatives, telling them my opinion on those issues with legislation pending -- check. You see? I may not manage my actual dream, but I can do a heck of a lot that comes awfully close. Shall I give up, because I can't have the cherry on top? Or shall I enjoy the ice cream that is available to me?

Second, I have always wanted children. This is much harder for me, so I won't say as much -- especially since it's still really unresolved. Aside from the physical side of it, I also worry a great deal about my emotional ability to rear a child. Would I be able to handle the stress? Could I maintain enough stability to provide a healthy enough environment? You know the sorts of questions, right? The closest I've come to an answer on this one, by the way, is that if a miracle occurred and I managed to carry a pregnancy to term, my child would have a mixture of good and bad in a mother that balanced out to being pretty similar to a lot of other children's. Sure, I suffer from severe depression. But I am aware of it, and do know that I need to be aware and get treatment for it. So, there's a bit of a balance there -- and it's sure better than someone who suffers depression and *doesn't* know about treatment, or doesn't believe in treatment. I get hyperreactive and anxious. And I have coping strategies that work for me when my depression is under control. Again -- a balance.

I guess I'm going on too much again. I hope that the basic point is clear, though. It's not an all or nothing proposition. As Dinah said, the outcome isn't a question of whether you're reset to 'normal', but whether you're better than you would be without treatment.

(Gee -- food for thought: my long post versus Dinah's single sentence... Some day I'll have to learn that skill...)




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