Acceptance – ‘Achieving’ Post-Traumatic Growth

“People with PTSD have their floodgates wide open. Lacking a filter, they are on constant sensory overload. In order to cope, they try to shut themselves down and develop tunnel vision and hyper-focus. If they can’t shut down naturally, they may enlist drugs or alcohol to block out the world. The tragedy is that the price of closing down includes filtering out sources of joy and pleasure, as well.”

Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score


This quote hit so deeply this morning because I’ve sadly lived – and sometimes revert back to living – the truth of this statement.

 
But, thank God I’ve also been able to pull the pieces together to move beyond PTSD to PTG… post-traumatic growth! 


And the first step to achieving post-traumatic growth is this: Acceptance – the first piece of my ABC theory of bouncing back from adversity.

Acceptance is often misconstrued, so before I define its meaning, let me illustrate it.

Acceptance – An Illustration

This Is NOT Acceptance

In 2012, I jumped beyond the Olympic ‘A’ standard and effectively qualified for the 2012 Home Olympic Games in London (yay!).

Unfortunately, I finished 4th at the Olympic trials in Birmingham and was deemed unworthy of a spot on Team GB that year.

I was devastated. I was heartbroken. I was a whole mess.

But you wouldn’t have known that.

I went on as though life was normal. I didn’t cry. I didn’t release any of the feelings. I just kept them inside until they were buried soooo deeply, it took me a couple of years to get in touch with them and learn how to feel fully again.

I guess that’s why that quote above prompted me to write this today. As I said, I truly lived that truth, especially this particular part of the statement – ‘the tragedy is that the price of closing down includes filtering out sources of joy and pleasure, as well.’

Fast forward four years – another Olympic year. Another opportunity for redemption.

This IS Acceptance

In 2016, in my first competition of the outdoor season, I opened up with one of my biggest season openers ever – 6.63m! Only 7 cm away from the Olympic standard. Yay!!!

Unfortunately, in the final round of that competition in Texas, I ruptured my achilles tendon (boo!).

Related Post: 2016 – Big Opener, Big Disappointment

I was devastated. I was heartbroken. I was a whole mess.

And everybody would have known that.

For the next few months, if you’d brought up the topic of the Olympic Games, my injury and surgery or even asked me, ‘How are you doing?’, my response would have either been a complete breakdown into tears or a very true, ‘It’s tough. I’m struggling. Let’s not talk about it right now because I’ve had enough tears for today.’

Guys, I was proactively choosing the path of ‘acceptance’ – the path of least resistance.

Acceptance – Healing Your Grief – 2016

Thankfully, it took me to the end of those few months – that period of acute mourning – to pick up the pieces of my life and reshape what my new life, post-athletics would look like.

(I appreciate this all sounds a little dramatic, for sure. You may think – how is any of this ‘trauma’? But, hey, it is what it is!)

Anyway, what resulted from my heartbreak in 2012 was a series of successive injuries, misfired attempts at representing my country and two years of routine, just-getting-by, not-super-pleased-but-I-will-just-deal-with-my-lot living. Nothing spectacular or new happened. I was literally stuck in a cycle of failure and banality.

Yet, what resulted from my shattered heart in 2016 was a whole new friendship group, positive experiences including a brand-new business – Manchester Tutors – and eventually a return to athletics and ranking and performing higher than I’d ever previously done in my pre-2016 decade-long athletics’ career.

See the difference?

One is called post-traumatic stress (PTSD); the other post-traumatic growth.

How do you achieve post-traumatic growth?

Acceptance.

Well, at least that’s the start.

Defining Acceptance

So, after two contrasting illustrations, let’s return to my definition of acceptance.

Acceptance is not acquiescing to defeat. It is not accepting that you will be in this place of adversity or brokenness forever.

Acceptance is also not putting your head in the sand and pretending that everything is okay. It is not hiding every single emotion and feeling so that you can ‘get on with life’.

Acceptance is a beautiful middle-ground between absolute acquiescence and Pollyannaish platitudes.

Acceptance is… acknowledgement. Being true and real about where you are.

Oh, I’ve ruptured my achilles. This sucks. This hurts.

Oh, I’ve missed out on Olympic selection. This sucks. This hurts.

Why is acceptance important?

Because feeling the emotions that automatically sprout from this form of acceptance releases them; it allows you to let them all go – however long that takes.

And when they’re gone, there’s a vacuum.

And that vacuum creates space for something new to flourish – ideas, hopes, dreams, growth.

Next Steps

This blog is written as much for me as it is for you. I needed to read and hear these words again because I have not been practising what I preach. (Yikes!)

What did you say yesterday, Joyce?

‘What we know and what we do are often two very different things.’

Joyce A

Time to do what I know! Are you up for that, too?

So, thanks Aaron, Rachel, Sara, Ben, Allison, Chantelle, Joyce and Josh for the reminder yesterday…and clearly God was speaking, because Bessel Van Der Kolk (The Body Keeps The Score) reiterated your words very clearly this morning!

The summary of the ABCs of bouncing back can be found here.

For greater detail on this and how to actually implement them in your life, get in touch.

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