This is Grace Victory's personal experience, as told to Sadhbh O'Sullivan
Editors' note: This story has been updated to reflect this is a personal experience and not advice.
Healing from trauma can look unexpected to people who can’t understand what you’ve been through. You might think it means therapy, medication and an obvious moment when you feel ‘better’. But I know from my experience it’s not that simple. In December 2020, while seven months pregnant with my first child, I was admitted to hospital in London with COVID. After delivering my child via emergency C-section on Christmas Eve, I was put into an induced coma and wouldn’t meet my first born for three months. I have been healing from this ever since.
I started therapy at 27, nearly six years ago, to work through my experiences of sexual trauma and eating disorders. This was long before my coma, so working on myself has always been a massive part of my life. I have talked a lot about this as a YouTuber, influencer and author because it is so important to me.
But this year, I decided to take a break from therapy.
It wasn’t necessarily a choice but rather due to financial reasons — my therapist was outpricing me and with two children I've got to prioritise being able to feed them. So I made the decision to try to integrate all that I've learned: it’s useful to remember that everything we feel is valid; feeling your feet underneath you is a quick and easy way to ground yourself; trauma resides in the body; crying is a sign of strength. I thought that I would be really triggered and really struggle, but actually, I'm doing quite well. What I've learned during my sessions changed me on a core level. I didn't actually realise how deep those changes have been until ending therapy and taking the time to reflect and see how far I've come.
Because of my experience of critical illness, being in the ICU and being away from my child I've been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events). With that comes grief, denial, acceptance, shame. Mothers, in general, blame themselves for every little thing that could possibly go wrong with their child, birth or pregnancy, so it’s been a journey to get to a place of self forgiveness and acceptance. Some things you just can't make sense of because they're so unfathomable, and that's okay.
But trauma isn’t just psychological: my body went through hell and back too. I had a clot in my lung, I was paralysed, I couldn't speak, I couldn't eat, I couldn't walk. The physical recovery for that was long and hard. I think a lot of what I'm feeling now is the energy of trauma stored in my body, not just from the past few years. I'm having some issues with my hip postpartum, which are being looked at in terms of an MRI and osteopathy, but I’m now also working on somatic trauma release (an alternative therapy that aims to treat trauma through the mind-body connection) in my own time. It's all well and good doing loads and loads of therapy, but there's actually a lot of physical work that you need to do as well.
A lot of times we suppress our emotions because we're scared of how they feel. We're embarrassed, we're full of shame, and we're scared of that darkness. After my COVID coma and the ICU and that specific trauma and not being there for my child, I was an absolute mess. I wasn't just crying, and then getting on with my day. For months I was beside myself. I was a shell and I didn't recognise who I was, and I couldn’t acknowledge what I was actually going through.
So many experiences that I've been through in terms of trauma have made me leave my body because it hasn’t felt like a safe place. When I was in the coma I had these intense, insane coma dreams, which was me leaving the situation that I was in. The sexual assault that I've experienced made me leave my body. Eating disorders, too. I now know that to be able to fully acknowledge your feelings, and to reach a place of feeling grounded, is healing.
Healing looks different for everyone. There's a lot of self help jargon on Instagram and loads of self help books, and it's really easy to just read them, post a quote on your Stories or repost certain things or even just talk about certain things. But actually, the real work is doing the work: going into yourself and your deepest, darkest shadows; learning to love the parts that you don't like about yourself; working on self awareness. We're in a generation where there's a lot of talk around mental health and mental well being and we need more examples of what doing the work actually looks like. It's really messy, and it's really hard and it can be quite confusing. I see people quite often talk about going to therapy for six months and feeling incredible and I'm like, well, I've been in therapy for six years, which is also very normal. I hope that people can see my journey and the fact that I've been doing it for so long. There are twists and turns and the more work you do, the more work there is to do in your own healing process.
Healing is also joy. We talk a lot about trauma, especially the trauma of Black people and brown people — let's talk about their joy, too. I try to take some joy with me throughout my everyday life and work. My social media brings me joy and so too does celebrating the very small, mundane moments in my life as well as the big things. I try to show gratitude to that, so no matter what I'm going through I always try to remember that there's always joy waiting for me. And equally, it's also wise to take a step back once in a while and actually look at your journey. I think as women we are really hard on ourselves or celebrating ourselves, our joy. In 2023 I’ve entered my ‘celebrating myself era’ and it’s bringing me so much joy as I continue to heal.
Always speak to a licensed professional if you're considering stopping therapy or making any changes to your mental health routine.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please call Beat on 0808 801 0677. Support and information is available 365 days a year.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 500 2222.