Out with the old…

As we close out yet another year, we find ourselves reflecting, making resolutions and promising ourselves that we will change for the better. And we can try…

There is certainly no harm in trying something new. Trying is a success unto itself. Trying is the manifestation of courage. Trying is expanding your zone of limitations. Trying is what keeps us hopeful and hope is what keeps us alive.

I was told very early in my experiences with PTSD that I could never be the person I was ever again, that I should mourn that person and become acquainted with this “new” person. I think what the message should have conveyed was that the person I am at my core had not changed and all of the fear, the physiological chaos that was going on in my body that left me feeling so disconnected, was merely temporary.

You see, when I was told I could never be the same person I’d always known my entire life, that core me that experienced things and evolved and learned, I was in the grips of the tumultuous experience of immediate post traumatic stress. That is a phase of great physiological interruption, a phase where your very brain is so preoccupied trying to regulate and interpret responses to its environment that it has no ability to attend to the “frivolity” of new learning.

Let’s put it simply, my brain was in shock. It suddenly found itself in a version of the movie Groundhog Day, only this version was a horror movie where horrible things replayed over and over and my poor brain was in a constant state of defense trying to protect me against unseen threats.

It settles. It takes a long time but eventually that chaos settles. For some that process will be much longer than for others. It’s been 12 years since my trauma, in that time I’ve endured more trauma and grief which have severely complicated my recovery. My recovery involved sanctuary trauma, stigma, and battling against a severe lack of social support. Through it all I held onto the belief that I was still the same person at my core that I had always been; my Self was still there buried somewhere under chaos trying to get clear again.

I am still that person.

I look at the world differently now because of my experiences; my perception has evolved but my physiology still reacts inappropriately to threat or misinterprets daily occurrences as threats, just not nearly as visibly or as often as it used too – it is still a work in progress.

It’s been a huge learning curve; re-learning how to control my physiology again. It’s biology, neuroscience and psychology all entwined. It’s like untangling a jumble of cords and seeing how they’re supposed to connect then working to reconnect everything. It’s a slow process but there is light at the end of that tunnel. I’m still working to untangle a lot of the mess but at least now, I can function. I can hope. I can see.

I think somewhere along this complex journey, I plugged in a lamp.

PTSD is not a death sentence. It’s merely an evolution of your Self, so promise me this one little thing for 2021, that you’ll hang in there and that no matter what it is, or how insignificant it may seem at the time, you will Try something.

Trying is half the battle.

In solidarity.

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World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is world suicide prevention day. Suicide is one of the most difficult topics to bring up, especially if you’re experiencing suicidal ideation.

Most people are not prepared to have this conversation. It makes them uncomfortable and no one likes being uncomfortable. If you’re struggling with thoughts of wanting to end your life, it can be difficult to find someone you trust enough to open up to. Even then, your trusted source may not be comfortable with the conversation and sadly, may make light of it or brush you off in some way. This can deepen the wound you already feel and sever the trust you thought you had.

How do we accept being uncomfortable? How do we normalize talking about suicide?

No one wants to believe that someone they love and trust would not want to live. They will deny it and they will unwittingly deny them the opportunity to unburden their soul, the opportunity to feel less alone.

There are still people who vehemently believe that suicide is sinful, that you go to hell, that it’s cowardly and the act of a weak person. Judgements. These are all judgements and no one was placed on this earth to judge the life of another. If there is one thing to keep in mind when dealing with someone contemplating suicide, it’s that they are being extremely brave and you cannot feel their feelings for them, so stop trying to tell them how they should feel.

People in this world need to feel connected, valued and worthy. So keep this in mind. How can you give this to someone, anyone, each day of your life? Doing so may just save someone’s life that day.

Don’t post on social media that you’re there, that all they have to do is call you. Don’t say you’ll be up all night with someone if you won’t answer your phone after 11. Don’t say it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem because for a person in crisis, temporary doesn’t exist.

Stop telling people to think of those they’d be hurting – do you realize how much internal hurt they are already enduring? Did you ever consider that those words would only add to that pain?

Most people contemplating suicide are doing it to ease the burden on others; they feel they are a burden. So how can you make someone feel less of a burden? How about practicing that each and every day with anyone you encounter?

“She says I’m miserable all the time. If I wasn’t here, she wouldn’t have to deal with my misery anymore.”

“He said it was such a hassle to pick me up every day. If I wasn’t here, he wouldn’t have to worry anymore.”

“She gets gifts and everyone seems to love her more than me. I don’t even exist to them, so what difference would it make if I died?”

“No one listens to me when I try to speak. I feel like I’m invisible and no one cares. They wouldn’t even notice if I was gone.”

Most people who are considering suicide don’t want to die, but they believe they have no value here and life itself is pointless. No one wants to feel unloved, invisible, forgotten, unheard and alone. Most people considering suicide are doing it for you – to lessen the burden they feel they are on your life. So lay off the guilt trips, they believe they’re making your life ultimately better.

I know it’s not true. I know it’s the worst hurt anyone could feel to lose someone this way and I know it’s not a simple grief that you just get over. I know. But I also know what I feel when I start thinking I want to die too.

On this world suicide prevention day, think of how you can make someone’s day just a little bit better, it doesn’t matter whose day, a complete stranger, a sibling, a parent, a cousin…live your life giving light to those who might need it.

And if you feel you need help, don’t be afraid to talk. Call a crisis line, talk to your religious leaders, your confidantes, your therapists, teachers and supervisors. Don’t suffer in silence. Promise me just one more breath.

Dedicated to every first responder we’ve lost to suicide; to my husband, never forgotten.

In Solidarity.

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