Monday, March 2, 2009

PTSD Healing: Beginning to Reach Out

A lot going on this past weekend. We wrapped up PTSD Healing Resolution No. 2, and I also outlined how the focus of Parasites of the Mind is being broadened.

Today, we begin PTSD Healing Resolution No. 3: I WILL REACH OUT.

I want to begin by telling you a brief story:

Every Presidents’ Day weekend in Jupiter, FL, we have Artigras, an enormous art show featuring some of the best artists from around the country. It’s a juried show, so the quality of art is very high. My mom and I always go together to ramble through the stalls and spend the day together outside in the Florida winter sun.

This year, there was an exhibitor whose art is backpainted glass. Eric Lee of Presteau Studios does things with color that make me want to jump into a vat of paint and splash around. I'm not a visual person, but I fell in love with the vibrancy of the colors and the way he uses his brush to create swaths of life-affirming brilliance on the glass. Eric wasn’t in the booth, so I got to chatting with Pam (his wife and business partner) who is the kind of person you immediately feel comfortable with and want to sit down with for a long chat. Her eyes are bright, her smile quick and her laugh even quicker. She’s a happy soul. You feel good just being around her.

After looking through all of the pieces for sale, I chose a piece of art for my office – a long, horizontal electric-over-late-evening-blue piece with a wave coming out of a sort of mist at one end trailing across the glass to the other end. (If I was more tech savvy – which I will be soon – I’d upload a picture. For now, you’ll have to use your imagination.)

As we discussed the piece, I told Pam I wanted it for above my desk. I’m doing a lot of PTSD advocacy work, I told her, and the blue will add a calming and soothing but creative energy to the room. To which Pam replied, she’d had PTSD, too. You can imagine how the conversation deepened and unfolded after that. We compared notes, commiserated, exchanged ideas on healing and became fast friends.

This is what happens when we do the most simple kind of reaching out: We easily and immediately find others like ourselves who are wanting and willing to share. We find we are not alone. We begin to build a community that celebrates our similarities instead of making us feel isolated in our uniqueness. We make friends whose insights and contributions to ways of thinking and healing become invaluable on our journey.

Last month on Parasites of the Mind we took a long, good look at the value of talking. Specifically, that meant finding ways to communicate the story of our trauma. This month, exploring the I WILL REACH OUT resolution will build on those skills in less specific ways. We will discover venues to reach out both in person and virtually, plus methods to do this that make us feel safe, secure and strong. The goal will be to widen the mix so that by the end of the month we are less alone, more surrounded by people who understand us, and more engaged with the world outside our PTSD.

Standing behind the booth chatting with Pam, I did not tell her the details of my trauma. It was enough for us both to say, “I had PTSD.” We instantly understood the road each other had traveled. She, too, has healed. When I asked her how, she said simply, “Love.” Pam reached out and connected with a man who has restored her faith in love and the world and whose relationship with her has encouraged her to discover and find her whole self again. It’s a wonderful thing to see, and even more wonderful to know her and now count her as a friend and so benefit from her wisdom. This kind of connection can happen any day. You never know when you will cross paths with someone whose past is similar to yours. You will never find those people unless you develop ways to reach out, and then act on them.

Since today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, it seems appropriate to end with this Seussism, which I think would be a great healing anthem for us all:

T0day you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.

We should all celebrate who we are - traumatized, healing or healed. In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, do something that appreciates You today. Any suggestions on what kind of things this would be? Leave a a comment or shoot me an email.

(Photo: Chat in the Hat)

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