I’ve been ill for the past two and a bit weeks. I have what the pharmacist called, “A viral”. I think that’s a technical term for a head cold. Anyway, I’ve had a lot of the unpleasant symptoms of a cold, notably exhaustion, coughing that wakes me up in the night and all that stuff in my head (where does all that snot came from?)
The pharmacist told me that virals just have to work their way through the system, usually about two weeks. I told her that two people I’d met the previous week, who were full of empathy as they had had a very similar bug, had said that theirs had lasted four weeks. She agreed that some bugs took longer, three, four weeks. Her mum had had a bug over Christmas that had lasted six weeks.
It is interesting that, although I sort the advice of a trained professional, the pharmacist, and followed her advice – steam inhalations, rest, ibuprofen, sucking sweets to stop the tickly cough starting – I am more convinced by the possible time-scale for recovery from this bug by the two strangers I met who had themselves had a similar experience.
As I start my third week of viral, I am making sure that I notice all those small, incremental improvements that show that I am getting better. I didn’t have to get up to steam last night. I managed to walk, albeit pretty slowly, along one and a half fields this morning with the dog – I only got half-way along the first one on last week. My ears don’t crackle when I blow my nose any more. Although some symptoms frustratingly return they are less severe than before.
Being unwell has largely taken over my life at the moment. It is frustrating, particularly the lack of energy, and I want it to stop. I want to be well. I want to be “normal”. However, I have had similar bugs before and have recovered from them. The two strangers were healthy, so had recovered too. I know I will be well again.
Being ill reminds me of all those times when I felt overwhelmed by the abuse that I experienced and its effects. I could see no way out, I would never recover, never be well. When I was in the middle of it all, when I could see no light at the end of the extremely long tunnel, it was really hard to notice those small, incremental steps that I had been making.
And yet. I was still alive. That was something to hang onto. My mind, brain and body had all done their best to help me to survive as a child. Now an adult, at various points along the journey to recovery, it was important to notice the progress I was making in therapy and through my own research. For example, a few years ago, discovering that I could recognise a trigger. Later, I learned how to manage my reactions to triggers, partly through gaining knowledge about how my brain had protected me and how I could now re-set it to be in adult, non-threatened mode.
If you are on the long, convoluted and often painful journey to recovery from child sexual abuse, it might not feel like it at the moment, but recovery is possible. Keep noticing those small, incremental steps that you are making. Together they’ll all add up to something really special, your own recovery.