In the past month I’ve learned something very interesting:
In all sectors of society our traumas are individual (and yes, we are oh, so very special in our tragedies), but the more I talk to and hear from people of all backgrounds, the more I’m realizing how united we all are, despite country, culture, age, race, social orientation, etc. PTSD is an equal opportunity invader. We are all experiencing the same things in PTSD land: we have the same symptoms, the same distresses, the same weariness. Which means, we can find more strength and support in each other than I ever suspected. Our stories and experiences cross any perceived boundaries; regardless of the origin of our traumas, there are no state lines on the map of our suffering.
This has been a fascinating discovery for me. For the 25 years of my PTSD I felt so alone, so isolated and freakish in my symptoms, my dissociated fog, my psychologically and physically impaired functioning. And now… I’ve been approached to write about PTSD for a law enforcement newsletter, plus do an interview for a military radio show. I’ve been asked to write articles for other general PTSD websites, and I’ve been approached for an interview by a mental health writer. Do you see what I’m seeing here? We are a large, non-partisan, non-denominational group. We are not alone in our suffering – and we are not individual in it. We are walking around and through and past each other every day without even knowing it.
Recently, I read that the American Psychiatric Association did not formally recognize PTSD as a legitimate psychological affliction until 1980. But in the intervening years to 2008 not so much has changed in terms of how well prepared the medical and psychiatric industries are to help us. We can help them help us (to use a by now cliché Jerry Maguire reference) by being proactive about what our symptoms and suffering are, mean, and how they manifest. The more we reach out to each other and the world around us the stronger we will all be. Each of us can contribute to the collective good (and, by the way, bridge part of the PTSD gap between victim and society) by educating ourselves and everyone around us. That means learning as much as we can about PTSD’s symptoms, effects, treatments and cures so that we understand ourselves, and also, educating those who interact with us, which includes family, friends and the medical community.
Together we have pull. We have power. We have strength. If our voices rise up we can be heard. If we advocate for ourselves others will begin to advocate for us. Together we can bring PTSD to the forefront of medical and psychiatric thoughts, which would hopefully lead to more proactive, immediate, and deliberate treatment for all of us, including those who follow after.
Part of healing PTSD comes from reconnecting to the world at large, coming out of our trauma induced comas and resuming life with purpose, passion and promise. How can you do that? What one thing can you do to reach out today? How can you begin to bridge the gap?
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