Tips to Heal Amputation-Related Trauma
It doesn't matter whether you had a traumatic amputation or had time to prepare for it; you can still develop trauma. Trauma is a natural emotional response to any situation where you feel afraid, powerless, and threatened.
There is no set tipping point that determines how intense harm is to cause trauma. Having a brush with death could be a traumatic event, as well as something that's repeated and ongoing, like abuse or neglect. Trauma that lingers long-term is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And PTSD that remains unacknowledged for a long time can lead to dire consequences, like depression, anxiety, and issues with alcohol or drug use.
Healing from trauma is slow, and progress isn't always linear. Everyone embarks on a different journey involving various obstacles, detours, delays, and setbacks. And just as trauma can take other forms, trauma recovery can take multiple paths. While there's no single roadmap toward healing, the following tips may prove helpful.
You go through phases in the healing process
Recovery doesn't happen in a snap. While recovering from trauma, you will notice going through phases.
The first is the rumination phase when your brain processes the trauma. Expect to have a lot of intense feelings and intrusive memories.
The second is called the turning point. This is when you take stock of how the trauma of amputation has changed your life and how you will move forward.
The third is control. This is when you become proactive in changing your life and coping with your trauma symptoms.
The last phase is mastery. This is when you begin adjusting to your post-trauma life and refining your coping skills. The trauma may still affect you at this phase, but it no longer controls your life.
While these phases may seem like a neat pathway you can follow, it's essential to remember that your recovery journey might look different from this. These phases are more of a rough framework than a pattern.
You don't need to compete with others' healing progress
It's natural for humans to find comfort in reading or hearing the stories of others who have experienced similar traumatic events. This is because stories about healing can inspire and help you feel less alone, which is why we feature such stories here on Amputee Store.
However, avoiding using someone else's story as a measuring stick to judge your journey is crucial. Everyone's recovery journey will look different because everyone has different experiences before and after the trauma. So other people will respond differently even if they face an identical trauma.
A better way to track your recovery progress is to consider where you began. Also, remember that another person's success doesn't undermine your progress.
Growth after trauma is possible
It is possible to experience positive changes in your life after you've recovered from the trauma. The recovery process—not the trauma—leads to improvement. Simply put, you can become stronger despite the pain and hurt.
Examples of post-traumatic growth include:
- gaining personal strength,
- developing closer bonds with others or growing your support network, and
- strengthening your appreciation of life.
However, don't despair if you feel like your growth isn't linear. Many people experience a mix of growth and challenges, so it's normal to feel empowered and vulnerable at the same time.
Don't rush the process
Society isn't designed for healing. There will be a lot of people who tell you to "move on" or "just get over it already". But this advice suits their needs better than yours.
Trauma is often physically and emotionally draining, so you may need to rest more than you think. So, it's okay to take naps when you feel tired, watch your favorite TV show or read a nostalgic book repeatedly, or sit quietly when you need a break. You may feel unproductive, but you need to rest.
You have various options for support
Family and friends aren't your only sources of support during the healing process. You may feel unsafe disclosing your trauma to certain people, so connecting with a support group could be a good option.
In an amputee support group, you get to meet and talk with people who share similar traumas, and their experiences could help you recover and heal.
Get professional mental health support
Getting support from a mental health professional, especially a trauma-informed therapist, can offer myriad benefits as you work toward healing.
If you're unsure when to get professional help, keep track of the following symptoms:
Difficulty focusing on daily activities
Changes in your eating and sleeping patterns
Experiencing relationship conflict due to the trauma
Negative changes in your performance at work or school
Everything may feel hopeless right now, but healing from trauma is possible. It just requires patience, self-compassion, and complex inner work. However, you don't have to go through this journey alone. Family, friends, and a trusted amputee support group can provide emotional support, and therapists can offer professional guidance.
You can do this.