Post Traumatic Growth.
What is Post Traumatic Growth? What is at the other end of the scale? Post Traumatic Decay? Decline? Derail? I’m not sure. Why do some people seem to be able to get back on the horse and move on after a trauma and some don’t?
‘What doesn’t kill (can) make you stronger’
After receiving life changing injuries in Afghanistan, I have thought long and hard what made me ‘get back on the horse’ and live life as best I could. I remember what it was like to feel my life drain away. I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to make it back home to see my wife and family. In those first few confusing moments I really did want to keep living.
They saved my life in surgery then I was flown back to the Birmingham in England. I knew that I had to make something of my life, I couldn’t let these injuries define me. My journey of Post Traumatic Growth had started. I didn’t know what the destination would look like whilst I was in hospital. but I knew that I wasn’t going to be beaten. Before my injury I was extremely active, I deployed all over the world on military operations and training exercises. Adventurous training and sport featured heavily in my career, in the winter I took part in cross country skiing in the summer I ditched the ski’s and got back into training for triathlon. I loved extreme sports so the swimming, cycling and running was perfect for me.
Back on my hospital bed I thought about what I had lost after loosing both my legs, another part of me I was thinking about what I could achieve given my limitations. I remember two things which helps me get back on my ‘feet’.
Firstly I decided to start my own physiotherapy, I used to lie in bed moving my limbs as best I could given all the tubes hanging out of me. I would also breathe in and out really deeply, I figured that the last thing I needed was pneumonia!
Secondly, I had a conversation with one of the nurses. We had a short conversation about something which has stuck with ever since. She told me to try and find three good things from one bad.
‘Try and find three good things from one bad thing’
When I heard that phrase, I thought to myself. Why three? Why not Five? So that was my challenge to try and find five good things from one bad thing. Initially those ‘good things’ might have seemed quite trivial and a little too easy. I had to start somewhere.
Finding The Good.
So what did those ‘small good things’ look like?
Everyday I watched a T.V programme on my hospital bed called ‘Homes Under the Hammer’. Its a morning time trash T.V about people buying auctioned off properties then fixing them up to either rent out or sell. I loved watching the progression people made with their new house or shop and how it would look after they had finished the work. For me this show was a little bit of escapism, I could think about something else for 40 minutes.
In my hospital we would ‘earn’ the opportunity to nip down the pub for a pint of beer. It was a rite of passage for us as we knew that we were getting better. We were close to leaving hospital. My wife pushed me down to the local pub, it was cold, I remember that I felt anxious being outside for the first time. After drinking my first pint I was quite drunk, but I felt good. We didn’t hang about there for very long. My bed was calling me.
A New Challenge
My hospital stay ended after five painful weeks. New challenges were waiting for me at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court which is near Epsom. Firstly, I had to settle in to my new surroundings the was made easy by having loads of others who were in a similar situation. Secondly, I made a bet with on of my consultants that I would be walking before Christmas. I won my bet with time to spare. Two months post injury I was up on my new legs and taking steps. I wasn’t allowed out of the parallel bars and taking them home was out of the question. At this point I wasn’t strong enough to use them outside of Headley Court. What I had at this point was a start, something which I could build on.
Over the following months and years my goal was to have a go at the sports and activities which I used to do. Since my injuries I have achieved that aim, granted sometimes I have had to do them in a different way, but I have ‘got back on the horse’.
Post Traumatic Growth
So what are the nuts and bolts of Post Traumatic Growth? It seems that people develop in one or more of these five area’s.
- new opportunities have emerged.
- closer relationships can develop with family & friends.
- an increased sense of one’s own strength.
- a greater appreciation for life in general.
- some individuals experience a deepening of their spiritual lives.
My Post Traumatic Growth has happened in a few of these categories. New opportunities have emerged which would never have been an option before I was injured. Also I feel that I have a greater appreciation for life. I intend to live my life to the full with my family and friends.
Before I finish growth doesn’t have to come from an event which has directly affected you, it could come as a result of something which you have seen someone else go through. Lastly, why wait for any event to get you moving, live life to the full now.
I have used a few other websites for some guidance if you would like to check them out I have included them here.