What the Autumn Leaves Taught Me About My PTSD

I love all the seasons, but the colors of autumn make me love it the most. Here in Australia we are well into autumn — nature is becoming vibrant, filled with bold hues of red, orange and yellow, right before the starkness of winter covers over what is left with its blankets of frost and snow.

Though, as someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is another reason I love autumn. For me, nature’s beauty has a way of soothing my soul and reminding me what is important. The trees of autumn show me how truly beautiful it is to let the dead things go. Their leaves, although dying and wilting away, bring warmth and delight, then once the last of the life drains from their veins, the tree lets the wind carry them away.

If the tree was to hold on to the dead things, there would be no room available for the buds of spring growth or the shadow of the fully grown summer leaves. In the simplest of ways, I can see letting go of what I no longer need, the things that no longer serve me, is important for my survival.

PTSD is thought to be from toxic stress caused by trauma and exposure to an event when the victim felt there was no escape. There are an infinite number reasons why someone may be traumatized, and there are just as many ways people display the many symptoms. Just like no tree lets go of its dead leaves the same way, no human can either.

However, it can be so very hard to let the dead wood go. I know it is something I find difficult. The nightmares do not help me to heal, and my near constant state of alertness and anxiety only wavers in severity. To let go of the past is difficult, but learning from nature, I can see without doing so, I am never going to get to experience the joy of growth either.

So this year, as autumn melts into the blur of beautiful colors, I will be paying special attention. I will long to let my painful past go, to let it drift off on the coolness of the wind and to allow myself to be stripped bare and vulnerable for a season — before sprouting into beautiful new growth, ready to embrace the new seasons of recovery!

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