So, I am feeling somewhat apologetic as I have not been maintaining my 7 day rule of trying to keep up with posting new content. But I can assure you, it has been for a darn good reason. And, yep, you got it, that reason is LIVING.
A funny thing has happened to me in my journey through PTSD. I have begun to live life again as if PTSD wasn’t part of my life. Or maybe a better way to put it is that my PTSD no longer has absolute control over how I live my life. It really is strange how I got to this point of pushing through to PTSD Growth verse wallowing in the darkness. As much as I would love to tall how I did it, I can’t tell you the specifics. But I can tell you a bit of the journey to get here and it is fair to say that Bob was right once again. Freeing yourself from mental slavery is the biggest part of it.
Although this is going to sound simply, anyone dealing with PTSD will understand just how monumental of a task it is not only to simply live with PTSD but also to do the work required to simply keep living. For me, this journey has been one year of regular therapy with an awesome psychologist who wasn’t afraid to tell me just how fucked up some of the situations I got into as a police officer were. She took the oddity of PTSD and normalized it for me making me realize that those things would mess anyone up. She helped laid the foundation for me to work through my PTSD and helped position me for success as I continued on.
The next step was talking everything I learned about myself and my PTSD and ripping it wide open for others to see. Now, I am not referring to some public display or uncontrolled outburst. I am talking about sitting in a group of my peers, all who are also dealing with PTSD, and baring my inner most darkest moments. And, in the process, I sat and listened to their stories as they related their darkest moments too. Some amazing things happen when you lean in and allow your mind to begin breaking away from that mental slavery that PTSD commands. Sometimes, those amazing things are so unexplainable as well that you just have to sit back and go for the ride, taking in everything that happens.
And that is exactly what I did. I leaned in and accepted what was happening. But I never would have expected what happened. Anger that I thought I dealt with came out. Pain I never realized I had surfaced and then it happened. I hit the bottom, looked over at the wonderful person that runs Project Trauma Support, had tears streaming down my face and said “I just realized how fucked up I am.” I couldn’t hide it, I couldn’t suppress it any longer. It was all there and I was miles below it looking up trying to figure out what as going to happen next. I then remember looking at her, seeing unconditional love and acceptance while I was dealing with my lowest of low and heard the words “Now we need to figure out where to go from here.” But here is the funny part. I’m not sure who said that to me but it in the end, it doesn’t really matter.
Seeing how Avengers was just released, I think it is a perfect depiction of what happened. In that instance, it was as if Thanos snapped his fingers and things started to disappear. Everything came to a head and I knew where I needed to go – Upwards out of the darkness.
In that moment, I made the decision that I had to accept that PTSD is part of my life but in no way shape or form is it my LIFE. I other words, I know that I was the only one that could free my mind and that is exactly what I did.
Has it been easy since that moment. No fucking way! It has been a challenge everyday to stay focussed on moving forward and not allowing myself be sucked downward. And, there have been a few times that the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee took over and started leading me downward but luckily, I have been able to stop the decline. In those down moments, I make myself rise to the challenge to go through the issue. I process it, ask what is happening, why is it happening, is this real or something that my PTSD is making me think is real and what do I need to do to get past this?
Usually, this means journaling what is happening, stepping back for a moment and checking in with others to help change the focus. Most times, it turns around pretty quick but I have had a few moments that lasted. One of the biggest ones was a trip to the ER with my wife. It poked the sleeping PTSD dragon in an ugly way and it was few days of processing to work through but I did. And what was the straw that helped me break free from it? It was me remembering the expressions on the doctor and nurse’s face when I thanked them that helped break me free from the downward swing. That simple gesture of giving unconditional love brought back so much in return and it is truly the secret weapon against PTSD (hint: this is definitely be an upcoming post).
Now, I am not suggesting that you have to hit bottom before you can start living again but for me, that was exactly what needed to happen. I was stuck holding on to anger and I was pretending that my PTSD wasn’t so bad, that it could be handled and controlled. What I will suggest is that anyone dealing with PTSD needs to 1) find the right people to help them through their journey and 2) at some point, you need to make a mental choice or decision to lean in and move forward from the place you are at, even in a micro way.
And that movement forward doesn’t have to be a monumental step like being the first to step on the moon or to plant the flag on the top of the world. It can simply be getting out of bed, having something to eat, sitting on the front step on a warm day, calling a friend up out of he blue or smiling and saying thank you to the barista at the local coffee shop. I doesn’t have to be huge but the results will be. Eventually, you will notice that for the first time in a long time, you live a little without PTSD being in the forefront.