Monday, December 22, 2008

PTSD Healing: Don’t Give Up the Fight!

My friend’s son is dying. The Boy is 24 years old. He was born with a defect: He only has half a heart. But The Boy is all about heart. He is fun and loving and endeavors to live and experience every day to the fullest even though he knows time is ticking.

And now, the clock is winding down. This past week the heart has begun to fail. The body is shutting down. Several doctors concur there is nothing to be done.

My friend is an Argentine tango dancer. We all went to a milonga Saturday night. I hugged my friend hello and discovered he is hoarse. “I had an argument with God,” he said, “And She won.”

Normally a jolly, joking soul, my friend was subdued, his eyes red-rimmed and hollow as he works to accept that this is the last holiday season he will have with his boy. My friend is an ex-Marine. He’s a tough guy. He’s all about what he can do, what he can effect, what he can save. He’s not used to accepting there’s nothing to be done. He’s strong, but this will test him to the edge.

How many of us look at our PTSD situation and just accept it? How many of us feel the depression and say, “There’s nothing to be done.”? How many of us struggle half-heartedly because we don’t really believe we’ll find relief? How many of us are actually right about any of this?

The answer is: Zero. Thousands of people recover from complicated mental illnesses every year. Why shouldn’t we be part of that number?

I found an interesting resource last week: National Empowerment Center. Their entire perspective is that we can heal mental illness, and that we can do it ourselves. How do they know? The staff has all healed from various mental disorders, including schizophrenia. On page 3 in a recovery guide posted on the site there is this sentence: “Recovery research tells us that, given the right combination of attitudes and supports, people can fully recover from mental illness.” Now, that’s what I like to hear! And that’s what I believe.

How can we accept PTSD when others have not accepted schizophrenia, BP, DID and a host of other complicated situations? The answer is, we cannot. We do not have a terminal condition. We were not born with only ½ a heart. Every day we must struggle and fight to heal; we must be working toward reaching out, finding support, entering a therapy, believing, trying again until we get it right. Until we find the perfect combination of support, therapy and our own strength that brings us to that aha! moment, and then everything changes.

After 26 awful PTSD years my own aha! moment came on a very dark day, when I was nightmare depressed, insomnia sleep deprived and so hyper-emotional I cried on a dime. And then something in me finally cracked and I thought, I can’t live like this anymore. This was not a suicidal idea; rather, it was the idea that I could spend the years fighting and losing and accepting that this was the way my life would go. So, I chose to fight another way. Instead of fighting against PTSD, I decided to fight for my own healing. I decided to use that fighting energy to seek joy, and everything changed.

When we believe, we move toward that gleaming oasis of healing and then one day life takes on a whole new meaning. We do not have the luxury of accepting PTSD when my friend must accept his son’s imminent death. My friend has no choice. We do. Choice is a gift. We must use it with all our heart.

(photo: dadadreams)

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