The news is filled with tragedy and trauma, and the implications of this run deep.
The ‘story of the shattered vase’ says that should a precious vase break it may be glued back together. The vase can look as it did before and the glue may not be visible to the eye. For many people, a trauma event is like this and while they may change some of individual’s core assumptions, the overall world views are not changed. The individual is able to integrate and ‘assimilate’ the experience relatively easily. However, should the vase smash into a thousand tiny pieces. Devastated. This may be more difficult for the individual to put them back together and the vase may seem to be beyond repair. Even if the vase can be repaired the cracks and sticky tape holding can be seen, look scruffy and even the smallest of knocks may result in the vase falling apart all over again. Like this, there are many people who experience trauma who are more fragile. Live cautiously and in fear; vulnerable to being shattered again. There are also people who may gather up the pieces of the vase and build something new. While they are sad at the loss of the old vase they have accepted that it is broken and they begin to consider what they can construct from the broken pieces. At the core of the shattered vase theory is the belief that people are growth oriented beings who are instinctively drawn to ‘accommodate’ our psychological experiences. The story is a useful metaphor however, in reality, growth following trauma is likely to require processes more complex than simply ‘rebuilding’. In fact, rebuilding and moving forward will undoubtedly result in changes to us and who we are.
Sometimes I grieve for the old me. I miss the carefree person I used to be. Fearless and grabbing at life with both hands, unafraid of the consequences. Illness and diagnosis shine a spotlight of uncertainty over everything you do. Some people find a way to avoid it. For me it is unavoidable. I am left with a great deal of health anxiety that remains largely voiced only in my head. I have steady and sometimes overwhelming fears about what will happen to me; not just in regards of MS but other sinister and life threatening conditions. To me and my loved ones. In part this is because once an unthinkable happens to you, the naive confidence that you are indestructible is lost. And so I am pretty sure that some of my oldest friends might say I am less fun. I can be morbid. Anxious. That I have gone form vivacious to vulnerable. My thoughts about life, the world and relationships have been altered and for them, at times, it must be confusing. I am sure I have been hard work and I’m grateful for their patience and support.
Watching haunting images of tragedy and terror on the news is a cruel reminder for me of how trauma runs deep. When I see reports of terrorist attacks, or the tragedy of Grenfell Tower in London I cry. Not only for the lives lost but also for the tragedy for those left behind. The ripple effect of trauma that will go on changing lives for years to come. The families, friends and community who remain. Emergency services; the police and fire service personnel who had to see things no human should have to see. Because moving on after trauma does not mean getting back to normal. It means being changed and finding a way to live. Putting the vase back together, even though we all know it’s going to look very different.