Driving home the other day, I thought about my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, and all the shock and shame that came with it.
I thought of subsequent visits to therapy and all the prescriptions I’d filled.
I thought of how often “experts” talk to us — those with PTSD — 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.
It tricks us into thinking we’re alone.
People with PTSD have almost always been in total silence, shame and isolation outside of clinical settings or cyber chat rooms.
But things are changing. We’re coming out of the shadows. We’re using our voices. We’re saying, “Here we are” and claiming our role as experts, knowers and truth-tellers. We’re bonding as rape survivors, veterans, adults abused as children and those who lived through horrific car accidents.
We’re starting to notice, nod at and bear witness to one another.
But even so, too often we speak in whispers. We hesitate and stammer and apologize.
How could this change?
How could things be different, better and easier from the get-go for those receiving a PTSD diagnosis?
What if instead of just pills, pity or pamphlets we got a letter or a hearty handshake, too? What if we got a talking to from someone who’s been there and walked the same road?
What if we got a mentor?
What if we gave and got letters, notes and messages from the been-there tribe?
Dear Kick-Ass Warrior,
You survived something that tried to snuff you out. It didn’t. Congratulations.
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 epically hard and you’ve battled – are still battling. There might have been times you wished you didn’t live, but you kept at it. 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 know it’s been forever and still feels fresh and raw.
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?
F*ck. F*ck. F*ck it hard and often. Go to hell. It hurts.
What if we admitted it all?
F*ck-yeah, I’m angry and sad.
Your scars and injuries will not scare everyone forever.
Not even you.
And what you are now is beautiful, needed and meaningful.
Can you see me cheering, roaring and on my feet for you?
You are not damaged or broken beyond repair. That awful feeling is just a feeling.
And it can change.
Let’s say true things and be a lifeline to one another. No sugar flower BS or sing-song sunshine when it’s raining inside. No platitudes. Rainbows will return, but it might be stormy for a long time.
Keep going. Hang on. Trauma tried to kill you. It didn’t. That alone makes you all kinds of amazing.
Trauma sucks. You don’t.
I believed for so long the best I could do was manage, gut it out and suffer with some grace.
I gave up on happy, peace and love.
I gave up on people and myself.
I was wrong. I was wrong about all of it. I love life and myself now.
You might be wrong, too.
Someday, you might even say, “Congratulations warrior – you have PTSD.”
And you won’t feel pity or shame.
Not a bit.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.