Yesterday was one of those days that continues to inspire, excite and surprise me. The reason: I’m working with some really terrific veterans as well as civilians recovering from PTSD. Over and over again I am astounded at how universal the PTSD experience is.
Case in point: Recently one of the vets turned an incredible corner and definitively crossed over to the healing side of the PTSD equation. Yesterday, we had a long conversation about how strange it feels to be calm, happy and at peace. These are not adjectives he’s used to applying to himself. He’s not entirely comfortable with this new state of being. He feels, in a word, ‘lost’.
I remember that experience so well myself. When I finally shed my PTSD symptoms and persona I walked around on eggshells. I couldn’t believe the new me was possible. I didn’t believe this relief would last. I expected it to go away at any minute. I waited for it to abandon me. I actually began to feel anxious because feeling free was freaking me out.
In order to ground myself I gave myself space to navigate this new territory. I let myself move slowly. I concentrated on the present moment: experiencing it, evaluating it, appreciating it. I didn’t rush myself through the process of getting to know my new self. Instead, I approached the whole thing the way my mother has taught me to approach all of life: “Live the questions” she always said, quoting Rilke.
And so I lived the questions and tried not to worry about the fact I didn’t have the answers, which isn’t exactly comfortable when suddenly your whole world has changed but I couldn’t figure out what else to do.
I’m wondering today if it’s possible to plan ahead in healing post-traumatic stress. Can we prepare for those days when we realize how far we’ve come, how much better we are, and all the possibilities this freedom opens up for us? Is there any single thing we can do to make the transition a little more …. planned out?
I never thought ahead in my quest to recover PTSD. Are you? Did you? Do you?
How can we set ourselves up for the strange new space of recovery??