themighty logo

How I'm Growing Through the Pain of PTSD

It took me four months to say the words: I have PTSD. And that strength only came after I listened to someone share their story. Four years later, my inner critic tells me that it’s been long enough. “Get over it.” “Move on,” it says.

And I know that’s not the reality. That’s not how it works.

Here’s what else I know: doing the really hard work of digging in and healing, and committing to my growth as a human — it’s changed me. I might not be able to stop the rage from coming. I can keep strengthening my skills. I can keep rising. And with that, I am able to come into my body faster — most of the time.

I’ve learned how to release the rage. Not perfectly. And that’s OK. I share because there is strength in knowing we are not alone.

Rumi said, “Live life as if everything were rigged in your favor.” These words struck me this morning as I was listening to a podcast — stirring something deep inside of me. And part of me began to rage with fury.

Rigged in our favor? Really? With all the things that feel so unfair, unjust and downright painful in the world… how could this be the truth?

Within seconds, the sights, smells and sounds of being in room two took over my body — filling my veins with cement and my heart with anger and fear. I was right back there. Heart racing. Sweating. Thinking of all those beautiful souls who never got to ride out of eight south. Whose rooms I walked by, but couldn’t bear to look into.

Rigged in their favor? Bullshit.

I could feel the anger pulsing through my veins. The crushing weight of all the things that have been thrown our way — personally and collectively, as people. The resentment surged through my body — my face got hot.

I was ready to fight — it’s a place I know well.

And thankfully, it’s a place I’ve learned to navigate. With patience and compassion.

Over these last four years, I’ve learned how to shift back into my body — slowly, over time. I’ve learned how to ride the wave by becoming the “compassionate observer.”

As our family calendar came back into focus, I noticed the heart on November 21st — marking the fourth anniversary of M’s surgery. Just a few weeks away. And here she was — sitting right in front of me with a mask over her face, connected to a machine. Grounding myself in gratitude, I found myself thankful that it was just a nebulizer, just pneumonia. I was able to recognize that it was hard, but today’s hard. We weren’t back in room two.

As I wove the strands of her hair together into a braid, I came back into my body. As much as this quote enraged me, I knew deep down, it was everything.

Freedom comes when we live life with deep knowing and trust that the universe has our back. Even when things don’t make sense. Even if they never will.

Making that leap shifts us from a place of victimhood to a place of empowerment.

Our beliefs often form the lens through which we view the world. And up until that night in room two, I believed — so deeply — that if I just tried hard enough, I could control all the things. Including protecting my daughter from death.

If I had just tried harder during my pregnancy, her heart wouldn’t have had that hole.

If I had just stayed by her bedside that night, she wouldn’t have gone into heart failure.

If I had just.

The reality: death is part of life. And though we may think that we can control all the things, there is so much we cannot.

I think we always have a choice in how we see the world, in what we believe. And those beliefs are intricately connected to our emotions, thoughts and actions. Our beliefs become our reality.

Choosing to see the world as “out to get me” leaves me exhausted, depleted, resentful and so angry. And I know — I write this from a place of privilege. We can be mad that things happen. Angry. Furious even. And resentful. It’s part of being human. And it’s necessary.

These powerful emotions can be the catalyst for meaningful change — giving us the courage we need to speak our truth. But we can’t do that from a place of powerlessness. Staying down there too long keeps us stuck. It stops us from fully living our life and seeing the magic that is within each of us.

“Control the controllable.” Words shared by my mentor. Words that have stayed with me. Words that I have to remind myself of often.

That moment in room two changed me. It cracked me wide open. And through it, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve stepped into a life with more passion and purpose. I’ve learned to let go of deeply held beliefs that were holding me captive.

I’m awake now. I’m whole.

And I’m home.

About that quote. This is it. This is our one life. We have to ask ourselves how we want to spend our time. What would it mean if we made the shift — to live as though everything were rigged in our favor?

Because, what’s the alternative?

Follow this journey here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Margarida Moreninho