Saturday, February 21, 2009

PTSD Healing: Voices Around the World

Think you’re alone, you’re the only one who’s ever experienced your particular trauma of PTSD? Think your thoughts, symptoms and daily turmoil is your exclusive world? Well, think again! The first thing we all come to understand when we begin bridging the gap between ourselves and the outside world is that we are not unique. We are not special. We are not the Lewis and Clark of the PTSD frontier. There are tons of others who’ve come before you, and just as many that walk beside you.

I received an email from a friend this week. In it she says, “Lately it’s been like I want the help, but it’s like walking into a blind fog. I’m hesitant, I don’t know what to expect and it keeps me moving slow.” Ever thought that to yourself? I know you have. I used to think that often. It’s one of the major crossroads of healing and we all travel past it.

I’ve been struck this week by how much we all think and feel the same things, no matter the source of our trauma or the location of our lives. From Australia to the United Kingdom to America we all speak the same language.

I follow some other PTSD bloggers. Interestingly enough, we’re all writing about the same things this week. That is, VOICE and IDENTITY.

For us here at Parasites of the Mind, I’ve been writing about developing the ability to talk as part of the healing process of deliberately constructing a post-trauma identity. For me, constructing a post-trauma identity was the basis of all my healing. After my trauma I knew I was changed, but I didn’t know what to do about that. I was terrified of whom I had become, plus I was lost. Also, I was so sad that I had warped into this twisted nightmare of a person. I sank into a really deep morass of nothingness: I lost my voice because silence was less threatening than speaking, and I lost myself because I didn’t know what to hold onto or how to get the old me back. The original person was gone. Who was the new person supposed to be? It wasn't until I began making choices about who she was and could be that I truly began to heal.

We all struggle with these same issues. The more we share our experiences the more we realize that while our traumas are individual, our PTSD experience is very universal. Listen to the voices of these other bloggers:

In her post, ‘It’s a Start, and other thunderbolts from nowhere’, Catatonic Kid writes “I had things to say”, and “I never felt like I had a voice before but down a seemingly dead-end road I found mine and I won’t give it up”, and “Saying it, mustering the breath and the body to utter each slippery little syllable, so maybe you stutter, stumble but you do it. And then you see how what’s inside is a little more real, a little closer somehow.”

Jacqui in her post 'Emotions By Proxy' on 'Welcome to Earth' says, “I can only feel by allowing myself to imagine what it would be like to explain my life or how I’ve been to someone else.”

Mike H on Mike’s Musings writes “With PTSD you meet all sorts of aspects of yourself … that you'd rather not face. In the end however you have to face it.”

Yes, in the end we each must find our voice and face who we are! We must decide who we are today and who we want to be tomorrow regardless of who we were yesterday. We are entirely capable of constructing a post-trauma version of ourselves that incorporates the good things we’ve learned about ourselves since/because of our traumas, and the good things we choose to develop so that we become whole, functional and happy adults. All we need is a plan of action.

Ultimately, we are not defined by our traumas. We can be anyone and we can do anything, regardless of what we have suffered. We choose to drag the past around (or let it drag us), or: We rise up and choose to do something to stop all of that.

We have choices to make, people. BIG choices. For that we need to exercise our voice. And, we need to work toward a clear vision of who our future self will be.

The past does not foretell the future. The present is where we choose to let the trauma win, or triumph over it. What choice are you making??

Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(photo: Sara Lee)


Marj aka Thriver said...

I'm pretty big into using my voice, now that I've found it. Hey, thanks for the links here. I enjoyed them.

Kelli said...

Thanks Michelle for creating this site. You are an angel. The isolation of PTSD has been a struggle. I think one thing we all can do is reach out to the vets that are coming back from Iraq. I went to a see a documentary Fri. night and author Aaron Glantz has written a book about the guys coming back from Iraq with PTSD that the VA is not giving care for. It is called "The War Comes Home; Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans". Check it out, I am so glad Aaron is doing this. He cares very passionately about this issue. I work with the homeless and thought these guys stories (Vietnam vets)would never be told. The vets from WW2 and Vietnam want to help the guys coming back from Iraq and they are banding together to do so.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Marj - Glad to see you're back online. Your voice is certainly one that should be heard. I liked the poem yesterday.

@kelli - Thanks for the info! The vet issue is one of the biggest in the PTSD field. I wish I could figure out some way to help.

There's a great blog by a Gulf War vet, 'A Soldier's Perspective' that covers the daily struggle of a vet with PTSD. He's actually very proactive about it, too.

There are so many areas of PTSD awareness that need to be built, for all of us! Only if we join together as a community can we make it happen and find relief.