Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Sentiment: A Letter To Those Living With PTSD

I've been having a lot of fun with this particular post series this year, writing letters to both the younger me and the older me, as well as to the husbands my daughters will someday marry. It has been a lesson in growth for me, not only as I revisited my past self to share my wisdom of today, but also as I contemplated what wisdom I might possibly have to share with the me of the future. It took strength and kindness to write to my future sons-in-law, because what I most want to say is, "If you hurt my daughters, I will gut you," but I must also remember that those future men are right now some other mother's precious young sons. They are people too, and they will come to my daughters with their own mix of needs - their own mix of quirks and injuries. Their own mix of monsters and shadows from their pasts.

The truth is, those things WILL touch my daughters, just as the things my daughters have survived WILL touch those boys. And as humans, my daughters and their husbands will mess up together. I only hope that I have taught my daughters how important it is to love the people in their lives actively - not only with the power of emotional feeling, but also with the strength of behavioral choice. I pray daily that my sons-in-law are being taught those same lessons somewhere.

But while I've been having fun writing to myself, and writing to the men of the future (and maybe having some sway over the men of the present?), I've also thought it would be a special honor to write to the you of today.

This blog (and in many ways, my novels as well) runs on the belief that people are survivors. That we are born and bred with a certain dignity and strength. That despite what we survive, we can continue to choose to move forward. It might be slow, and it might be terribly, incredibly painful - but it can be done in bits and pieces, one small step at a time.

In surviving trauma, we don't always move forward at the same pace other people wish we could - but if you're one of the people spending every day trying to get from one moment to the next ... if you're one of those people who walks through life while the shadows of the past continue to haunt the present ... if you're one of those people who trudges through every day regardless of the lack of sleep, regardless of the stress-induced body aches, regardless of the change of appetite or lack of motivation ... then I'd like to tell you something.


Dear Trauma Survivor,

I don't know how you ended up with PTSD. I don't know if you're a combat veteran, a rape survivor, an abuse survivor, an accident survivor, a cancer survivor, or a survivor of some other trauma that I haven't had close enough experience with yet to think about. I don't know if you're living with PTSD alone, or if it's the kind of complex PTSD that comes with survivor's guilt or crippling despression.

What I do know is that you are a badass. You are a warrior. Life threw you into a pit - and you, with the strength of a grizzly bear and the ferocity of a honey badger, clawed your way back to the surface and kept on moving.

Even if you cowered in the beginning (like I did), you eventually stood up and squared your shoulders. You raised your chin and found your voice again. And you made a change.

Even if you couldn't help what was being done to you or what was happening around you - you made it through. Even if you felt utterly useless and completely powerless - you pushed on, from one moment to the next, taking breaths even when you couldn't take steps. Even if you were drowning in hopelessness and self-doubt so thick and heavy that you couldn't even breathe through it anymore, you still kept on, one heartbeat at a time, making it through by the sheer animal force of your own will to live.

You made it.

If you're a survivor now, and no longer a victim, you made it.

You might be scarred and battered, but you're here. You might be aching and injured, but you're alive. You might be bent and cracked and damned near demolished completely ... but you're stronger than you think you are, and I have proof.

Look in the mirror.

Look at the face of a survivor. Look into the eyes of a warrior. Examine the heart of a hero.

That's you.

You with the bad memories and the nightmares and the fear of being alone in the dark. You with the exaggerated startle reflex and the hypersensitivity and the vigilance to never sit anywhere with your back to the door.

You.

You, who survived the worst of what life has to offer, who missed out on privilege points but had the nerve to demand a second try. You, the human soul who was dealt a terrible hand and yet you found the strength to recreate your own deck of cards.

You, with the strength and will to win the game.

I see you. In part, I know your struggle. In part, I know your weakness and your strength. In part, I know your wounds, and what you crave in order to find healing. I don't have to know you to relate to you - because I am you.

In the mirror, I see my own wounds, my own bruised and battered spirit. I see it wrapped in the armor of "I don't care," protected by the shield of "it doesn't matter," covered by the inadequate bandage of "I'm fine." I see my suffering, hiding behind mismatched eyes and a face just beginning to show the wear and tear of my time in this life. I see the heart too, if I look hard enough - the beating, meaty, blood-filled bit of muscle that sustains life for me even when my mind is so busy aching that I can get up to walk to the bathroom and forget I had to pee before I even get there.

I see you. I see those things in you, just as I see them in myself. Because they're valid. And while some people are not required to dig so deep ... while some people are gifted with another, less challenging path, I am proud of you. I am proud of your grit and your determination. I am proud of your willingness to keep on, even when you can't see a good reason to do it. I am proud of you for having what it takes to walk through darkness when there is NO LIGHT to guide you - and only a dwindling hope that if you trudge on, the light will come again.

Because knowing you're out there, trudging through the darkness with me, mostly out of reach but still so very THERE? That is my light. You push me on.

Because you're amazing, and strong, and an incredible, almost unspeakably powerful inspiration.

Thank you.


I have to tell you, I went in search of a very specific concept for today's "Featured Favorite Product" - and as I searched for what I wanted to share with you, my book wish list grew like there was no tomorrow. It's probably a lucky thing I've got such control at times - otherwise I might have one-clicked myself right out of next week's gas budget! I did find what I was looking for though. This book, called I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal, is a powerful exploration of practicing mindfulness and the discipline of drawing yourself consciously back to the moment you're in.


Mindfulness practice has made a world of difference for me, and even when I'm at my worst, exercises similar to the ones shared in this book are my most effective and favorite tools. Making an effort to stay with the moment I'm in has helped me shorten panic attacks more times than I care to admit, and mindfulness games I can play by myself are part of how I manage to sleep at night. So this book looks like a $10 miracle to me - and I think if you're a PTSD sufferer (or just a person who wants to practice being more solidly in this moment), it will be pretty miraculous for you, too.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links, remember that if you choose to click any product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
Do you or someone you know suffer with PTSD or something similar? Please remember that there's no reason at all to suffer alone or in silence. Even if traditional therapy isn't an option for you, there are self-help books like the one I shared above, support groups, and countless other ways to seek effective help. I know it doesn't erase the trauma or the symptoms ... but sometimes even just having someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world. If you'd like to, leave a comment below to share your experience or your thoughts - or just something encouraging for people who are living with PTSD. If the comment section is too public for you, I would like to encourage you to send me a personal email at the address found on my contact page (it's near the bottom). I know from personal experience how much a listening ear can mean in a moment of suffering - and if you need one, I would be happy to provide it.

While you're here, if you'd still like to hang with me and follow more of my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. This blog may not always be easy to read, but I truly hope we'll learn from and inspire each other along the way.

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However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, or on Patreon, you can rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." And what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed right here on the blog! The first interview was a total success, and I already can't wait to introduce you to September 2017's Undaunted Woman!

For those who just want the inspirational parts of my content without all the personal aspects, connect with me on social media - that's where I like to share all sorts of things, from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more. Either way, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

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