How to Reframe a shitty experience into Resilience Superpowers
Warning: this publication contains expletive language. Additionally, it references the discussion of trauma. Reader discretion advised.
This is a challenging story for me to share with you. One of which I am still working through. But on the suggestion by my therapist, I’m breaking down the various anger aspects where I feel stuck.
By minimising each aspect of the larger problem faced, I am increasing my opportunity to reframe and find solutions. Reframing enables me to feel like I can take back my control and power and return to being resilient once again.
After I finish sharing my perception of this experience you may just agree it was pretty ‘sh*tty’. But here’s the thing, I can choose to remain stuck in the sh*t, or I can choose to reframe various aspects to enable my healing.
I chose to turn the sh*t into a superpower in order to supercharge my resilience. If I hadn’t I may have ended up a dribbling mess huddled in the corner of the room, sucking on my thumb — you might call this a hot mess.
The Sh*it That Hits
You would think a breast cancer diagnosis would be traumatic. And it is, believe me. I likened the diagnosis phase to the ‘shit that hits’ and you didn’t see it coming. It’s much like when you’ve been travelling and get Bali belly.
Your guts grumble with stress, in terms of digesting the fact you have cancer. Your body goes into flight or fight, and to be able to run away from the perceived sabre-toothed tiger, your body wants to eliminate all of the faecal matter inside you. This means that every time you even think about sneezing, it could result in something far worse. So you’re on tenterhooks the entire time.
To flush this shit, I reframed using breath meditation. I journaled out all the fear-based emotions. I researched a lot and asked a tonne of questions with my medical teams. I empowered myself with what the diagnosis meant, and then drafted a treatment plan moving forward.
But in my cancer chapter that wasn’t the worst or shittiest part.
The ‘Shit a Brick’
If you think a mastectomy would be shitty you would be spot on. I liken this to the shit a brick experience.
You know it’s coming. It’s building up over time and there’s nothing you can do to avoid what’s coming. It’s painful and difficult to pass. It requires slow deep breathing and concentration. And takes time to recover. Afterwards, you feel like there’s a piece of you missing.
To flush this shit and prepare for surgery, I reframed by visualising all the negative emotions I was experiencing into the breast tissue to be removed.
I held a ceremony for myself and thanked my breast for all its gifts I had received until now. I celebrated that I fed my child. I celebrated my big Boosie had lived a magnificent (and larger than life) experience and now it was time for retirement and downsizing to a motorboat worthy booby.
But it still wasn’t the shittiest part of the experience.
The Shitty Splinter
The shittiest part of the experience I likened to the splinter in the arse. It’s completely unexpected and pokes you hard. Just like using an old toilet and remembering how uncomfortable it used to be, having a shitty experience like this digs up all your old trauma — that you thought you’d dealt with.
Any experience that you liken to shiting over the pit so to speak, means that there is no buffer from the odour of the shit. This means the emotions are right there in your face, much like flashbacks, panic attacks and anxiety which can’t be avoided. Neither can the smell of shit.
You see when I had my ‘routine’ mammogram, the biopsy driver machine malfunctioned, with the needle still inside my breast — and I was trapped for more than 45 minutes.
My immediate issue was that my shit couldn’t be repaired with a simple reboot of my hard drive like the machine.
I’ve needed to clean the toilet bowl, bathroom and frankly take stock of the entire house and rid it of the stench left behind.
Let me go vomit as my PTSD relives that all over again, and gift you time to let that ‘shit stink’ sink in. Trapped inside any machine, laying in a single static position with a body part sandwiched ready for imaging is what I would define a shitty experience. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s right up there with the shittiest.
The leftover shit from this entrapment experience is painful and often runs deep like a festering wound. It often requires external assistance to remove the splinter and deal with the festering mess left behind (pardon the pun).
Removing the shitty splinter has been confrontational, and something that I am working through with my therapist, my doctor and loving support from my friends.
Therefore I don’t flush the shitty splinter alone. I sought help when I wasn’t coping. I reach out and ask for support when I’m having a bad day so that I don’t spiral down any further. I allow others to nurture me. I allow myself to be vulnerable so that I can continue to heal.
The ‘Shit Sandwich’
I was told the biopsy ‘could’ be uncomfortable. I wasn’t told it would be sadistically excruciating. That was a fucking shitty sandwich to swallow.
The procedure commenced with the administration of the first local anaesthetic. The breast was clamped and the biopsy needle commenced its repeated penetration.
I. FELT. EVERYTHING.
I jumped from the pain and moved positions. The machine was halted and the staff re-administered more local. They expressed their frustration at having to disrupt their testing process.
The additional and unwanted mouthful of the shit sandwich arrived when desperate staff repeatedly administered local anaesthetic on more than five occasions to manage my pain and stop me squirming.
The reflection with my therapist, of this procedure, identified I had disassociated from my body and gone into survival mode with this shit, especially when the machine continued to jam with me still confined within.
Believe me when I say that when I was finally able to roll over and sit up, on the procedure table, I told the staff in no uncertain terms what I thought of their briefing before we had started. That was after I had stopped shaking and crying hysterically.
There was no one in the room who hadn’t taken a bite of that shitty sandwich and enjoyed that experience. None. We were all traumatised.
I was and still am infuriated. So there’s more shit to work through. I’ve had to break it down bit by bit, just to get to this point.
To commence flushing this shit I continue to utilise a visualisation technique when I meditate. I grant permission to my subconscious to get creative and show me where I’ve stored the unwanted frustration, anger and rage. I allow myself to experience what this emotion feels like and I then visualise flushing that shit down the toilet.
For the really shitty rage, my therapist encouraged me to get physical. So I’ve banged a foam bat onto a pillow and screamed as I tapped into and released some of that rage. I nearly threw my back out a couple of times, but the release was so worth it.
The Simple Shitty Shit
Prior to undergoing the follow-up invasive testing, I expressed my concerns about excess mammogram screening and my preference for manual biopsy. That was dismissed, and twelve radiation images later they still couldn’t get the film they wanted. So they switched machines to enable the biopsy to be taken. We know how that shit went down.
Lying on your side with your breast compressed as flat as the machine can take it (which equates to bloody painful) and your free arm draped over your chest is probably the most uncomfortable position I have ever laid.
It’s taken more than 4 months of PTSD flashbacks just to be able to lie on my left side again without perceiving that trapped sensation. Ultimate shit.
To deal with flashbacks, I attempt to visualise flushing that shit by acknowledging the vision isn’t real right now. I remind myself it is just a connection to a point in time. I use breathing exercises to calm myself which often leads to reiki induced meditation. There’s always crying after one of these episodes so I’m usually purging out emotions into a tissue or my journal or a combination of the two!
The Stinky Shit
Prior to commencing this experience, I had reiterated to each staff member that I had issues with being naked in front of strangers. You see I wasn’t covered with even a gown or blanket when I was in the cold metallic machine. I’ve talked with my therapist about how I felt vulnerable and exposed, not to mention cold!
It stank that since this incident, I’ve had issues being touched, or even people being in my personal space without experiencing panic and anxiety.
Since this shitty incident, I’ve had multiple surgeries for breast cancer and have commenced treatment. Needless to say, I had a lot of shit to deal with. Working with my medical teams and support network, my resilience is returning. It’s a slow process and one that is forcing me to re-evaluate everything in my life.
As a former law enforcement officer and hospital recertification auditor, I’ve confronted organisation in question in writing, which probably for them will be the shittiest complaint they’ve ever had to deal with. I am pleased to report that they are making some significant changes to their statewide systems and staff training.
It took me more than a month to deal with my emotions enough to write that piece. I had to confront and address my emotions bit by bit. On the other side of lodging that complaint, I see that working through my emotions was an absolute gift for healing, on so many levels.
This piece has formulated just a snippet of my therapist’s homework for me to deal with what I’m calling a shitty experience. My hope and wish for you are that you can take away some of the tools I’ve used to overcome the challenges I have experienced.
Remember we all have shit occur in our lives. How we migrate our healing journey is a choice you too can make to take ownership of your outcomes. You can choose to change and bloom from within.