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How This ‘Ted Lasso’ Theme Relates to My Complex PTSD Healing Journey

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“Ted Lasso” is not a TV show that I would have chosen to watch on my own. In fact, until it was recommended to me, I somehow hadn’t even heard of it. It’s the stuff of delicious irony that I know myself well enough to recognize that even if I had come across this series, I can guess that I would have seen what looks like a goofy sports comedy and said, “pass.” I would have missed out. You see, “Ted Lasso” isn’t really about sports and while it’s certainly silly at times, it’s equally thoughtful.

• What is PTSD?

In my own life, I want to be seen as more than one thing. The other side of the coin is that I also want all of my parts to be given acknowledgment and space in the room. This encompasses my own internal narrative, as well as how I want others to treat me. Surprise! This is the key theme of Ted Lasso.

When this show introduces you to a character, it purposefully causes you to assume they are going to fit into a common TV character trope. And for a while, they might. Yet, in the magical world of Ted Lasso, the characters are given the opportunity to develop into something more. In some cases these qualities were already there, unrevealed in the background, which we get to see as things progress. In other cases, folks transform due to being given space to consider who they want to be or because people take the time to see others more fully. I’ll risk being a little bit corny and say it’s actually quite beautiful.

I have a history that includes being a survivor of sexual abuse and related trauma. Due in part to this, I experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), depression and anxiety. I’ve been on my healing journey on and off for 20-odd years now, and each year along the way has had its ups and downs. Truthfully, 2021 has been a pretty difficult year on my path, but it has also been a year full of unexpected detours that have been both welcome and healing.

Mild spoilers ahead.
Here are some examples of how Ted and friends will surprise you. The “famous for being famous” influencer is in fact very perceptive, loyal, kind and great with marketing. The hardened, calculated “boss lady” actually has a life outside work that involves friends, love and being charitable. The shy self-doubting kit-man is witty, knowledgeable and committed. The gruff, moody, aging sports dude is secretly contemplative, awesome with kids and a considerate romantic partner. The self-absorbed, hotshot star-player is also trying to figure out who he is and what type of person he wants to be. Ted himself — the seemingly happy-go-lucky title character of the show — isn’t quite so happy as it always appears. I could continue down the full list of characters in this way. We see these things because the show refuses to portray its performers as one-dimensional. I love that.

I regularly struggle in medical settings. I have a hard time communicating, I freeze and I don’t’ feel heard. This often involves anxiety, frustration, crying and feelings of shame. This is all related to having C-PTSD and my resultant cranky nervous system. At the start of 2021 I had some minor injuries that brought me to the door of some medical folks. It wasn’t easy for me, and some interactions did not go well. Yet in keeping with our theme, something happened that was unexpectedly positive. I got a good feeling from a professional, and instead of running away as I have in the past, I decided to be brave. I have been compensated for this bravery. Someone in the form of a chiropractor has been willing to attempt to see me. It’s not that other professionals haven’t — they certainly have. At the moment, it’s been a “right-person, right-time” type thing.

A standout moment occurs in season one of Ted Lasso. Again, mild spoilers here. Ted is challenged to a game of darts that includes a bet that would have undesired consequences should he lose. He does the classic hustler move and pretends to not know anything about darts, and then turns around and shocks the onlookers by being a pro. He sums up his win with a Walt Whitman quote: “Be curious, not judgmental.” His overall message being that if folks (both past and present) had took the time to kindly get to know him, they may have known some important details.

As I was busy being brave, I emailed this aforementioned chiropractor an article I’d written on the healing nature of kind curiosity. He replied with an email that included a clip of the above scene. I watched it, and then I watched it several more times. I was hooked, and thus began my journey with Ted. I’ve viewed season one a handful of times and I’m devouring season two as they release it. This show gives me hope.

To quote one of my own poems, I am terrified of being seen only as, “that case of such and such, the girl who cries and sleeps too much.” Some folks have put me in a box, yet often this also involves my struggle to see “me” as a whole person. This can be a common issue for folks with C-PTSD, so much so there is a phrase for it; “the fragmented self.” I regularly hyperfocus on my faults (real or imagined), and have a hard time seeing the whole picture. In a similar but different way, I also occasionally worry that my more “positive traits” or “life wins” will cause folks to forget about the support and care I may need at times. Apparently, like all things related to C-PTSD, it’s complicated. And that’s OK.

I find it fun to think about how I might initially be portrayed as a character on Ted Lasso. Likely I’d be shown as a colorful but timid person who is a bit of a downer with psychological issues that all but scream “stay away from me.” Then it would turn out that I am much more. The folks in this world would learn that I am smart, funny, empathetic, delightfully nerdy, a devoted friend, brilliant gift-giver, a writer and much more. They’d learn these things by choosing to look beyond the surface, as well as through giving me the opportunity to move past my initial resistance or fears. To share my own Walt Whitman quote, the viewers would see that “I contain multitudes.”

The bonus surprise is that I don’t have to go to this fictional world to get this gift. Many folks already in the here and now do see me, and future connections will as well. There will be those that don’t, but hey, it’s their loss. I also need to remember that sometimes, it’s actually me who isn’t recognizing my whole self. I want to, but because of how my brain is wired it can be hard sometimes. Now, when I find myself drifting in this regard, I can turn on an episode of Ted Lasso and be reminded that my full self deserves to be seen. And as Ted himself would say, “that smells like potential.”

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Image via Apple TV/YouTube

Originally published: September 8, 2021
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