A little over a year ago I broke my leg really badly. For most of the year that followed, my leg has been the focus of my life. First because it had me hospitalised for two weeks, then because it kept me immobile for three months and then because I had to recover from it for another six months.
It was a big process - a very significant part of my life. I gave myself over to the process, accepted that it was indeed significant and had to simply accept that for a while it would dominate my life.
For most of the year that followed the number one ‘story’ that surrounded my life was in some way to do with the accident and subsequent recovery. I was off to see the physio, doing my exercises at home, choosing the stairs at the shopping centre on purpose to give me that extra stretching, sitting with my leg stretched out in the evening, using a heat pack when it was painful……compensating, accommodating, managing. And I was always ready to explain….yes, I do this because I am recovering from a broken leg.
But a little while ago it occurred to me that this particular story was fading into the background. I wasn’t needing to compensate as much any more. It wasn’t as present an issue. I will always have broken my leg on the fifth of May 2016 – that detail will never change, and I did spend most of the rest of that year recovering, that also will never change but it was beginning to be a less current story in my life.
Can you imagine living as a survivor of child abuse as if the abuse and even the recovery from it are matters of the past? As if these aspects of your life are less current stories?
It is almost 18 years now since I began recovery from the seventeen years of sexual abuse I had experienced during my childhood. I worked a recovery program, read a lot, had counselling, and got my life together. I recovered. And then I began writing about recovery. It was my life. It dominated and flavoured my every day for so long but like with the recovery I experienced over the last year following my broken limb, I reached a point where I felt .... dare I say it......normal.
The thing is, life is all about growing. For everyone. Whether they have experienced abuse in their lives or grown up in healthy, functional homes. Developing, maturing, progressing, ‘wiseing-up’..... call it what you will. We are never done growing - until the day we stop breathing, but there can come a time when we are living a post-recovery life - where our growing and maturing is on a par with others, and not the catch-up game we have had to play in order to overcome the deficits our early abuse left us to face.
This post-recovery life is much like the life I lead following my broken leg. My injury is still there, the scars still visible though healed, and now and then it will give me a little trouble and I will be reminded that yes, a year ago I suffered a major break, but it will not be the focus of my daily life, it will cease to be a dominating feature - still there - still part of my story but not my story in entirety.
I used to say that first we survive and then we recover but these days I feel we need to add another step in this journey - first we survive, then we recover and finally we lead a post-recovery life.
And what that life looks like is akin to every other human being’s life. We have ups and downs. We suffer losses and griefs. We have good days and bad. We age, we experience changes. We notice the joys, we feel the happiness of being alive and being human. We experience gratitude and we experience down days. We live, we laugh, we cry, we smile. We are human.
Everything we experience in this post-recovered life is not directly linked to the abuse we experienced. Every time something goes wrong it is not linked directly back to the years we suffered or the years we struggled. We are simply normal human beings. Grappling at times with our humanity, but no longer tied so tightly to either the abuse we experienced or the recovery we worked to liberate ourselves from the abuse.
Happy, sometimes sad; healthy, sometimes not so healthy, people who are living a normal human life.
A post recovery life.
Sue Parry-Jones is a trained counsellor, a social worker and survivor of abuse. The content of the blog is both personal and sound. The words are relate-able and widely appealing to those struggling with survival from abuse in their own lives. More and more we are appreciating in our society that abuse affects a number of people’s lives and as more people are beginning to openly discuss what they have endured, so there is a huge need for encouragement and hope in the form of texts that deliver clear and concise yet real input. THe words shared here are honest, real and heart-felt.