“Be as one with all creation, in beauty, in harmony, and in peace, and may you walk your own road with a cool body.” R. Carlos Nakai in Hart, 2000, p. 151
The title and this quote are separated by two great rivers: my Post Traumatic Stress and the misunderstanding of an unhealthy culture. Recovery is the only bridge. Shall we walk it?
Reminder: For the past few months, this blog has been dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.
This leg of my journey ends today, for I have closed Dr. Hart’s little book. I shall continue blogging on other topics of PTSD Recovery, but first, one last post on this one.
I am an invalid. I feel it. I know it. And, you tell me so.
We didn’t win in Vietnam. I didn’t die there. I didn’t even bleed. But I hurt, and the pain I feel is not validated, and that compounds the hurt to indignation.
Dr. Hart says on p. 149, “Vietnam veterans often feel this lack of validation and wounding for being part of a war which was not won.”
There is more. Dr. Hart also refers to ‘Secondary Wounding’ as the pain we feel when our wartime experience is not validated by those around us. We instinctively turn to silence rather than to face the invalidation of blank stares or worse, a form of dismissal or disgust.
I will go further. When people around us ignore our feelings, ignore our triggers, we feel not only invalidated; we feel unsafe.
Where can I go during this election season without hearing people complaining about politics? Most any kind of conflict or complaining can trigger me, but certain kinds, including war stories, religion, or politics, are especially dangerous. I feel unsafe—as though at any moment I may fly into a full-blown dinosaur dump of rage beyond my control. So, I stay home, indignant.
I wonder, do people not know what it feels like to be triggered? To endure days of anxiety and rage that aches in the middle of your chest? That leaves you drained as from a fever for a few days more? Do people really not know? Or, do they not care?
Now, in this time when I need the support of others, I cannot trust them to validate my feelings, to respect my need for harmony and ease in all things. I cannot trust my friends, so I isolate. I bunker down.
There are medical professionals who discount the validity of PTSD and there are multitudes who simply ignore it. They tsk, tsk, and shake their heads at suicides and homicides, but do they ever pick up a book and read. Do you?
So, here I am spilling my guts to you because I can. I have a very mild case, and I have the faculties and opportunities of expression. It reminds me of a story about a boy walking along a beach strewn with stranded starfish. As he picked one up and threw it back into the sea, an elder counseled him on the futility of his actions, telling him that with all these starfish, the boy couldn’t make a difference. The boy responded that he thought it might make a difference to that one (starfish).
One problem with emotional disorders is that they self-perpetuate by causing trauma in others. So, families of people with symptoms get wounded, themselves. They wound back and it escalates. PTSD is hard on families. Can you make a difference for just one?
We each live in two worlds, one internal and one external. I may not find peace in this external world of dangerous humans, but I know of two safe places. I know how to find that clear space Dr. Hart talks about, that inner peace, and I know an external world that never invalidates me. Nature. Next week I will pause to refresh with Nature. I may even share it with you.