Have you ever had to chop wood before? My guess is that unless your family had a cabin in the woods or you grew up in a rural area, the answer is no. Chopping wood can seem like a pretty simple thing. You need an axe, a piece of wood, and a block to place it on - swing away!
As you can probably imagine, chopping wood can be back-breaking work. If you have the wrong form, wrong grip or even wrong equipment, you could be in for a world of hurt. It is not just a simple swing, but a precise swing. It is not just holding the axe, but it is a specific grip that must be learned. It is not just putting the piece of wood up on the block, but it is placement of the wood that will result in the wood splitting easily.
While it may seem like a simple thing, there is a lot more to chopping wood than one would think.
The same can be said for the psychological trauma recovery that the women of Amirah face each day. Most people would gather that there are some psychological issues that are a result of exploitation. But, the sad fact is that most people think there has to be a simple formula for dealing with these things - get the right medication and everything will be fine.
The reality is that as a woman is working on her psychological trauma, if the pieces are not all aligned right, she can feel like she is making no progress whatsoever and her growth can be stunted. We call this the hamster-wheel effect (and yes, I know I am mixing my metaphors here).
Each day will present some mental health challenges for a woman, and if something goes wrong with her progress, she can start the "what if" questions and end up on the hamster wheel.
What if I don't get this job that I applied for?
What if I can't get a car?
What if I spend this money I saved up on drugs?
What if I end up hitting this girl and then they kick me out of the program?
What will happen then? What will I do? Who can I turn to?
It never ends.
So, what is our goal for each woman that comes into Amirah? The reality is that we see a variety of individual psychological trauma, that each have a different need to address and a different solution. But our goal for each woman is that she would be able to function fully with her present reality and not get deterred by the bombardment of outside forces that would prevent her from moving forward.
This means that each woman works to build her mental capacities around the trauma that she endured. She works on the triggers that would snap her into a funk; she works with her doctors to make sure that she is on the right medication to help her while she builds up the mental strength; she works on recognizing the signs and symptoms of what mental health barriers she has.
This is slow progress, and when all of the pieces are not aligned right, it can be painful to process. But, day by day, we see her making her way towards her goals and we watch as she learns how to function in the present reality while beginning to dream big, attainable dreams for her future, allowing her painful past to be a part of her history, but not the future she will possess.
This post is a part of a series on The Goals of Whole-Person Care Recovery.