Yep, that simply sentence is so damn powerful. So powerful that science has proven that it has the same beneficial effect as some anti-depressants because byexpressing gratitude, you alter your Brian chemicals and synaptic processes that produce a change. Neat hey. But I’m not here to provide a neurobiology lecture, I’m here to share with you what I am grateful for and why. It will also help put some context to my “This is me” post.
At the end of every peer support meeting, we go around and express what we are grateful for. This is done so that we all leave the meeting realizing that there is always something to be grateful for in our lives despite all the pain and suffering. For me, I am and will be forever grateful for my wife and son. They are my world. I also express gratitude for Project Trauma Support for showing me that PTSD can be the start of something wonderful if you are open to it. And finally, I always express my gratitude for MY PTSD.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. He’s gone Nucking Futs on us. Call the white coats to take him away. He’s grateful for PTSD…………
Go back up to the last sentence on the second paragraph. I said I was grateful for MY PTSD. But just to make it clear for everyone, I am in no way saying that I’m grateful for having PTSD or even for the mere existence of PTSD as a mental health concern. Now, to be even more direct, that would be fucking nuts on a fucking nuts level not yet achieved in this world if I were to be grateful for PTSD. But I am extremely grateful for MY PTSD and let me explain to you why this is the most important lesson I have learned about my PTSD recovery.
When you are diagnosed with PTSD, or even before diagnosis, you go into hardcore denial. Denial on the level of substance abuse or gambling addiction denial. It is something you want to avoid like the black plague. You know it is a career ender and comes with a stigma that you do not want to have to live with. So, you start fighting against your PTSD (you see where this is heading?) and the next thing you realize, you are stuck in the fight. Sure, you use catch phrases like “fighting for my life” or “I’ll beat this” or my favorite, “PTSD won’t rule my life” as a way of trying to regain control. To put PTSD in its place and show it whose boss. But there is a flaw in that thinking and you don’t notice it until it is too late and you put all your eggs into one basket.
Despite your best efforts and honourable intentions, you quickly become stuck in a ME versus PTSD battle. Sure, some people thrive in the battle and make great strides in their recovery. There is no doubt about that fact, hard work pays off, for some. But what if I told you that by changing the perspective you hold on PTSD as being a negative, something to be overcome and fought against, you can start working smarter not harder in the fight? What if, the combative perspective you have against PTSD is actually keeping you stuck in moving forward and reaching some level of Post Traumatic Growth?
For many in the first responder and military worlds, as a result of our training, we tend to embrace those things that make even the simplest of activities harder. I’ll use my military brethren as an example. During the long marches and maneuvers in the shit conditions of rain, you embrace the rain. You relish the rain and move forward. You accept that you can’t do anything about it so you might as well get on with what you have to do. Now you have to know where I am going with this right? If you embrace the negatives, you still get to work on the task at hand, without loosing energy on fighting agaisn thte rain.
So, I made a choice. I could either accept the perspective that PTSD is a shitty thing to have and fight against it every step of the way or……….. I could take the perspective that maybe, there is something to be learned from PTSD if I stop fighting it and begin to work with it. To embrace it. To look at not what it has taken away from me but to focus on what has it given to me. What can I be grateful for as a result of MY PTSD.
Let me tell you. This was the biggest turnaround in my thinking since diagnosis and really the point that I began to really change my processing of things. To see the perspectives that PTSD had hidden from me. To recognize that there are other wyas of doing things. So, I know you want to know what has MY PTSD taught me? Well, here’s the short list;
- I have learned that the way I was handling stress and trauma in my life were terrible;
- I have learned that I am more than my career in policing, I’m a husband and father first and foremost;
- I have learned that damage that has been done to me is vast and deep, but not infinite;
- I have learned more about myself in the last 30 months of therapy then I ever thought possible;
- I have learned that the people I have met on this journey are some of the most genuine, supportive and loving people you could ever meet;
- I have learned what true unconditional love is;
- I have learned that my vulnerabilities make me perfect and beautiful as I am;
- I have learned to start living in the moment, not the past and definitely not the future as I have no control over either of those;
- I have learned that the way I use to live is not sustainable in the long run;
- I have learned that I will forever be learning more about myself and those around me as I continue with this journey; and
- I have learned that I have a story to tell and a voice to tell it
Yes, that’s the short list a.k.a. the things that I feel okay sharing with the world but that really is not the point. The point is that this was only possible because I chose to embrace MY PTSD. To work with it as oppose to fighting against it. I look at it as say “what do you got for me today, you beautifully fucked up son of a bitch” as oppose to saying “you again fucker”.
Yes, PTSD is shitty and fucked up beyond belief. But, if you open yourself up to another perspective about it, you might find out that YOUR PTSD can teach you some beautiful lessons about yourself and life in general. Now, I am not suggesting that you jump up and yell that you are grateful for having PTSD but maybe just start with seeing what positive lessons you have learned along the way.
But for me, I have openly embraced MY PTSD and everything it has taught me and given me. So, I am honest when I tell you that everyday I wake up, I am grateful for MY PTSD. It has saved my life.