This is another love note to your nervous system for crisis times. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for weeks.
Driving home the other day I thought about having been diagnosed with PTSD and the shock and shame I felt.
I thought of subsequent visits to therapy, shrinks and all the times I got prescriptions filled.
I thought of how often “experts” talk to us, one by one. How we sit in the same chairs in the same offices and they listen to us.
But we don’t get to hear each other. We don’t talk directly to one another. It helps trick us into thinking we’re alone.
People with PTSD and trauma survivors have almost always been in total silence, shame and isolation outside of clinical settings, VFW’s or cyber chat rooms.
Things are changing. We are coming out of the shadows. We are using our voices. We are saying, “Here we are” and claiming our role as experts and knowers and truth tellers.
But even so, still, too often, we speak in whispers. We hesitate and stammer and apologize. How could this change?
How could things be different, better and easier for from the get go for those getting the PTSD diagnosis?
What if instead of pills, pity or pamphlets we got a letter or a hearty handshake too? What if we got a talking to from someone who has been there and walked the same road?
What if we gave and got letters, notes and messages?
Dear Kick-Ass Warrior,
You survived something meant to snuff you out.
Congratulations. You Win.
P.S. You have PTSD.
Wouldn’t that be a little bit better?
What if we were that real, irreverent and honest?
What if we shared survival recipes, tools and secrets?
I know it’s been epic hard and you’ve battled – are still battling…. There might be times you wish you didn’t live, but you did. That’s how gritty you are and I’m so glad.
What if we said ALL OF the unsaid things we feel, think and notice?
- I know the blood isn’t dry and the wounds are still gaping.
- I see the wind in you is still knocked and shows no signs of returning. But it will.
- I know it’s been forever and still feels fresh and raw.
- I know some of those bruises are from using your face to break another fall.
- I know you’re tired.
What if we said it all without censoring or apology? What might our words do for one another if we gave them freely?
- I know you feel weak. I still think you are stronger than steel. Rest up.
- Let me tell you what I see – your bravery is staggering. Go you.
- Your victory was unlikely. The odds were stacked against you. Trauma raged and furied and slammed your life and you’re still here. Wow.
What if we gave each other permission to swear and rant and be angry?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck it hard and often. Piss-Shit-Damn. Go-t0-hell. It hurts. Uncle!
Can we say to ourselves and each other what we know. feel, believe and live?
It hurt as much not to be believed. Or worse.
I saw people step over my cold and shivering body and not reach out hand or blanket. It felt like a knife in the back not a chip on the shoulder.
I don’t know how to dislodge trust issues. I prefer animals to humans.
What if we admitted it all that and the other things?
Fuck-yeah. I’m angry.
I can’t forget the too many good ones who got pulled under, didn’t make it, who fought hard.
Who deserved to live.
Would we tell of the ones we saw ended by trauma on contact and right away?
Would we honor the ones who lingered, decayed and were spirit stolen and soured by depression-disease-addiction-despair-pain?
Could we say how we miss those ones? How we needed – still need them now?
Or envy them because they don’t have to live with nightmares, flashbacks or memories? We wish maybe we could be numb or drunk or doped up too. And how even that makes us feel guilty because we know we are lucky to be here.
We just don’t feel lucky all the time.
What if we remembered, respected and honored all of it?
Ourselves and each other?
Would those still struggling feel more hope if they knew that those who made it once hoped lighting would strike and kill the pain?
Could we bear witness to despair and coming through? How we say we survived sometimes despite ourselves even as we feared we would not?
Could we be Brene Brown brave and viscerally vulnerable?
I want to claim my instincts, strength and backbone. I want to admire your mind-boggling will to persevere?
Can we own it and even celebrate a little?
I see your eyes are cast down like your shoulders. I think you reading this don’t believe the words. Are you too pained to trust even this. I get that.
What if I said I still see confetti falling, hear music playing and pray for your spirit to soar.
What if I said I’m glad you are making it. What if I promised someday it will be safe enough to get back up and let others love you.
Or love yourself.
“What you were will never be again.”
Charles Bukowski said it. It’s true.
But your scars and injuries will not scare everyone forever.
Not even you.
It’s grief that’s deep and real and raw.
But what you are is so beautiful, meaningful and needed.
Can you trust that or even try to?
Those who have walked where you are now know it’s hard. But possible.
You can fall back in love with living and the dazzling self you are.
Can you see-hear-feel us cheering, roaring and on our feet for you?
We know what you don’t.
Someday you will feel pride not shame. You will marvel at your spirit and know the miracle moment when you know you overcame when peace doesn’t feel fake or fragile or temporary.
You will know you are not damaged or broken beyond repair.
That feeling awful is just a feeling.
A horrible and hard one.
And it can change.
Let’s say true things and be a lifeline to one another.
We have to tell the truth. It’s the only thing worth building on. No sugar flower bullshit or sing song sunshine when it’s raining inside. No platitudes. No lies.
Rainbows will return but it might be stormy for a long time.
Trauma tried to kill you. It didn’t. That alone makes you all kinds of amazing.
Trauma sucks hard and often. Trauma sucks. You don’t.
If that’s you shaking your head and saying no way can someone get through this if they even knew half of what you’ve seen or felt or lived.
Well then, you are who this is for.
I know I believed for so long that the best I could do was manage, gut it out and suffer with some grace.
I gave up on happy or peace or love.
I gave up on people and myself.
And I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it. I love life and myself now.
You might be wrong too.
Someday you might feel and even say, “Congratulations fucking warrior – you have PTSD.”
And you won’t feel pity or shame.
You Matter Mantras
- Trauma sucks. You don't.
- Write to express not to impress.
- It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
- Breathing isn't optional.