What if the reason there is so much STIGMA around PTSD is thanks to those of us who run around like Chicken Little screaming, “PTSD! PTSD! We’re all going to DIE! I’m going to live in my dark basement for the rest of my life and only my dog can get me out! PTSD! PTSD! We’re all going to DIE!”
Have we done such a good job telling the world about the risks of this injury that it has become cemented in the psyche of the world that if you have PTSD you are going to live a miserable, isolated existence until one day you get up, find a strong beam and swing from it? No wonder nobody wants to fess up to the symptoms! Here’s something that has to make you stop and think. USAF Psychiatrist William Sledge was shocked to discover that 61% of American aviator POWs in Vietnam saw their experience as beneficial.
“At first I thought I had cotton in my ears or something”, he recalled after speaking with the POWs, “The things they told me didn’t make much sense. They had a hard time, they were clear about that. But so often they would say things like, ‘I kind of miss it. It was an intense experience. I learned a lot.”
It gets worse for that brain of yours which is trying to come to terms with this concept. The POWs who received the worst treatment, the cruelest, held for the longest and on the receiving end of the harshest tortures were more likely to report positive changes than those who had it easier. In other words, the worse the trauma the more it was viewed as a good thing. I’m not the only nut bar in this chocolate factory after all! Woo hoo! People have long looked at me askance when I’ve said something similar. I am grateful for the shyte I went through – without being tested, hurt, traumatized I would not be who I am now.
And who I am now? I love. Do I screw up? Oh hell yes! Spectacularly so. Do I pick myself up? Oh yes. Do I laugh at the stuff I say and do sometimes? Yup! That there? That’s called resiliency, it’s something that very few humans have (with or without a mental health label, mostly I’ve found the ones without are the least likely to have it).
I was out on my 17’3″ Friesian (very big black horse), Donny, galloping at full speed across a field and up through some woods. I was pretending to be an eagle, as you do, arms stretched out wide and standing in my stirrups. Flying. When out of nowhere a man stepped out from behind a tree with his dog. 1400 pounds of horse travelling at breakneck speed with a human eagle on top came as a bit of a shock to the poor man I assume as he screamed. Donny and I pulled left. But neither of us are graceful at speed. We scooped our legs and knees left, we pirouetted, we flipped a 360… it was a jumble of human and horse limbs, branches and tree trunks. Then, pow! We were suddenly upright and not dead.
“Yeeeeee haw! Didn’t die!”
I shrieked at the top of my lungs.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw that the man and his dog were leaning against a tree, quite white but untouched. So they didn’t die either.
Maybe if we turn our thinking around on this thing. Yes PTSD is a dangerous and freaking terrible injury. Yes the trauma that injured us was horrendous. But guess what? We didn’t die! Still here. Dammit.
Change the tape.
Check out Jim Rendon – author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth. Summary? Bad things make us better people. Trauma and PTSD hell, provides us with a growth like nothing else can. One of the things we are trying to do with PTSDChat.org is to create a hub of PTSD/Trauma information that spans humanity: geographically, economically, socially, across all walks of life in order to provide the RESEARCH material needed to help all of us. As we build our community across the world, so all the voices you will see and join, sharing and communicating will BE THE CHANGE!
Tape deck switched. This is a positive movement towards the light. Healing. Recovery. PTSD is not to be feared anymore than a broken knuckle from a fist fight.
Enough Chicken Little “We’re all going to die!” Every Police Force on the planet knows about PTSD. They know it so well that they fear it like the plague; some senior cops I know think of it subconsciously as contagious, such is their instinctual fear of it. It’s not their fault. It’s ours. We have done such a good job broadcasting the risks, the horror and promoted the “Woe is Me, My Service Hurt Me” stories that it’s seen as a life sentence, the end of the line, no hope Charlie. In doing this we have created a situation where those with this injury feel hopeless, their career at an end. My best friend is a Cop who has survived PTSD, fought hard and back to work within 5mths but was devastated when his Platoon Sergeant said “What am I supposed to do with you? Can you even go on patrol?”
We did this.
Time to change the tape deck and send out the messages, the stories that this is not just an injury that can be healed but is a blessing. Through this injury you will reap benefits across the horizon of our humanity: intellectually; spiritually; morally; our ability to love ourselves, trust in ourselves and others will be enhanced beyond imagining. There is a clarity that comes from riding bravely through the storm of trauma, with an eye firmly fixed upon recovery that nothing else can gift.