A Journey of Healing: My Struggle with PTSD

I once had a friend tell me that sharing your weaknesses, your failures, and your mistakes wasn’t the right thing to do online. Maybe they are right. But maybe they are all wrong. The truth of the matter is for whatever reason I’ve experienced a lot in my life and I believe that sharing is the path towards helping others heal. This is part of my story. For me sharing seems like the right thing to do now.

~Serenity~
Creative Commons License photo credit: JKDs

After a traumatic event about 6 months ago my life spun out of control. I was overwhelmed. A couple of specialists said I had both acute stress disorder and later signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had nightmares of this traumatic event. I was afraid of my shadow. I left my home in San Diego, my friends, and even a family member behind. I packed up only a few possessions and headed out to catch a bus to Montana. I had no plan. I just wanted to get away. Get away from the nightmares, get away from the fears, get away from the pain. I just wanted to disappear from myself. I had no plan on where I was going. I just set out on a journey to leave myself, my pains, my fears, my nightmares, and everything that was hurting me behind.

Honestly I never thought I’d be able to sleep well again at night. Now almost 6 months later I’m ok. I don’t have nightmares. I don’t feel detached from the world. I’m very social again. I’m healing. I feel extremely motivated with work and have been working with some amazing people lately. My days aren’t filled with pain, and bad memories. I cherish the good times and I rarely even think about the bad. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of time. I feel hope and joy again just like I used to. I’m still a bit scarred but life is seemingly getting back to the old normal. In many ways work didn’t miss a beat. But my joy surrounding work disappeared for months. I’m seemingly excited about life and work and relationships again.

A lot of people are afraid to talk about their weaknesses, their pains. Afraid to live life fully because their insurance carriers might found out, their employers might find out, their friends, or others in their community might find out. But honestly their is no reason to be ashamed of PTSD, a health problem, or a disability. In fact you should find strenght in it. You were chosen to bear a burden that most everyone else couldn’t bear. You are blessed. You are chosen. You are stronger.

PTSD is a highly prevalent lifetime disorder that often persists for years. The qualifying events for PTSD are also common, with many respondents reporting the occurrence of quite a few such events during their lifetimes.

At first I struggled so much I couldn’t come back to the balanced mind. I couldn’t focus. Leaving behind people I cared about was hard but I think it was necessary given the circumstances. I arrived in Missoula without a possession and sought help from people that honestly cared about me. People that helped me find what I needed to bring myself back to a point of balance again. When it was time to move on to the next phase of my life I wasn’t completely healed yet, but I was healed enough to began afresh. A new journey the second part of the healing process. I studied much about the forgiveness. I needed to forgive certain people for violence in my life and others. I believe one of the most helpful passages came from Thomas Merton.

“There are crimes which no one would commit as an individual which he willingly and bravely commits when acting in the name of his society, because he has been convinced that evil is entirely different when it is done ‘for the common good.’ As an example, one might point to the way in which racial hatreds and even persecution are admitted by people who consider themselves, and perhaps in some sense are, king, tolerant, civilized and even humane. But they have acquired a special deformity of conscience as a result of their identification with their group, their immersion in their particular society. This deformation is the price they pay to forget and to exorcise that solitude which seems to them to be a demon. “ – Thomas Merton

I had to understand that I could not allow myself to be conformed to this mindset of violence but to let it go. To forgive not only those who had done violence against my friend, but also against me. I had to forgive. More so that I would not take upon myself this way of violence and hatred. I must choose to love them, to pray for them, to ask for their blessing and wish upon them prosperity in the land on their children and their families.

I had to pray and love those whom I hated most.

Next I had to seek peace within myself for the choices I have made, for the paths I have taken. I had to forgive myself and not judge myself too harshly or to the point where that would again lead me down a path of anger, hatred, and violence. Again I drew strength from Thomas Merton.

“It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition. “ ~ Thomas Merton

I again stood at a crossroad of confusion. I was beginning to make peace within myself. But ahead lay many decisions. Why do I exist? Why am I alive? Why was my life saved, and another taken? I realized the answer was simple. I was chosen. Chosen for what I am uncertain. I know this I was chosen to live, another day, like it was my first. Except now maybe for the first time in my life. I know who I am. I am not ashamed of it.

“If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and of acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul. ” Thomas Merton

I realized that the answer to healing, to pain, to suffering, to anguish, to grief to all things that tend to discourage us lies within ourselves. Supernaturally they hold the power to heal us, to comfort us. In that healing we are given the ability to help heal others by sharing our story, to help others learn to dream again, to seek out a life that is lived out to the fullest without selfishness.

The positive side effect of healing is the amazing ability to love more fully, more unconditionally than ever before and to forgive ourselves and overlook our own shortcomings and to find strength in realizing we are not alone.

In Conclusion
I realize my story is unique. It may not apply to everyone. But I hope you can find hope, and healing for whatever it is in your life that hurts. We all have hurts, we all have struggles, and imperfections that hinder us from growing in our lives. The choices I’ve made now, and the path I’m leading is wholly devoted towards being grateful for another opportunity at life. To learn to bless others to give back to a world that is hurting. To design a life that seeks out the common good of mankind as well as my own, yet unselfishly. To repay any debts to society that I might have, and cleanse my mind, my heart, and my soul of the improprieties of living in a selfish society, centered around consumerism, individualism, and greed. This journey based around lifestyle design is learning to love with less, inspire more fully, and impact the world through a different kind of wealth. The wealth of compassion.Welcome to my journey of healing.

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4 responses to “A Journey of Healing: My Struggle with PTSD

  1. I have great respect for the wisdom and insights of Thomas Merton, which you apply so adeptly here. His writings have also been a great source of encouragement and healing to me throughout my life. And of course at the core of his verse is the Christian imperative that you sum up so perfectly here: “I had to understand that I could not allow myself to be conformed to this mindset of violence but to let it go. To forgive not only those who had done violence against my friend, but also against me. I had to forgive. More so that I would not take upon myself this way of violence and hatred. I must choose to love them, to pray for them, to ask for their blessing and wish upon them prosperity in the land on their children and their families.” Some people say that it's easy for Christians to hold such ideas —— until something terrible happens —- and then they revert to the basic human instinct of retribution, violence and hate. But you like many who have come before provide a contrary witness. That's so important, and for that, I am very grateful. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey here.

  2. It was definetly not an easy process. I think at the core American Christianity doesn't do a good job teaching these principles either. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. lovely post, very honest, sincere… obviously a tremendously difficult journey but you seem to have found, as others have before, that the path of healing leads eventually to a life that is more than it was before, despite the pain of its inception. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Thank you, and I agree the path of healing has made life so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. Although the pain was immensely great and more than I thought I could bear mentally and psychologically it actually was good for me. It strengthened me, and has enabled me to focus better and be a more passionate person.

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