I feel like I’ve recently been given a “do over”. Like when we were kids and we didn’t get it right the first time we would say “DO OVER!” and we would take another shot.
I struggled with Post-traumatic stress for well over 30 years, undiagnosed. I was severely burned as a young child and have many physical scars as a reminder. I also served in the United States Coast Guard. While being a part of search and rescue operations, I came to develop some deep emotional scars that for many years I thought I could bury. I thought because they happened so long ago that they “shouldn’t” be an issue. I should just be able to move on. Part of the “do over” has been learning many lessons. I’d like to share three lessons I’ve learned. The first lesson was to learn how to not “should” on myself. We get enough “should-ing on” by others, we don’t need to do it to ourselves.
Trauma, physical and emotional trauma affects us. What I didn’t understand until recently, was that stress after trauma; Post-traumatic stress, is normal. Most of my life I believed that it was abnormal, that this “post-traumatic stress disorder” meant that I was somehow broken or something was fundamentally wrong with me. But in truth, I was having a perfectly normal reaction to extraordinary circumstances.
Through the process of healing I’ve learned that the depression, emotional pain and the confusion that I constantly experienced was exhausting. These things weaken us, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I needed to find some kind of inner strength, not strength to keep pushing these pains down but strength to address them.
When I got out of the Coast Guard, I was really struggling. I remembered a scripture from the bible that said “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Hmmm “The Joy of The Lord Is My Strength.” Joy equals Strength. The problem was, I had no joy. PTSD has a way of making joy scarce.
I started reading books on depression and motivation but the second lesson was one of the greatest. The lesson of gratitude. I call gratitude the gateway to joy. Even though I had no joy, I decided to find three things that I could be grateful for each day. Somedays, all I could come up with was the roof over my head, the bed that I had to sleep in and hot water for a shower. But it was a start.
Gratitude is like a muscle that you have to build every day. As that muscle grew, I got stronger and stronger and one day, I had the strength to tell someone my pain. Those pains that I had buried for decades. Lesson number three, telling my story to someone who cared, created connection which created my “do over.”
So my encouragement to everyone these days, “be strong and courageous” and that translates to: “go with gratitude and joy”.
Website: www.rescuetorecovery.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org