To The Veteran Suffering From PTSD: I Feel You

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The Mighty

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Author’s note: New data shows an average of 20 veterans take their life each day

Pushups. 22 per day for 22 days to raise awareness that on average, 22 veterans lose their lives to suicide daily.

With each press against the floor, I think of you.
When my triceps collapse from strain, I think of you.
As my form turns solid and shoulders stabilize, I think of you.

The #22Kill movement, created in response to the Department of Veteran Affairs’ 2012 Suicide Data Report works in conjunction with Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. Together, they educate the public about mental health issues like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can lead to suicide and offer empowerment programs to transitioning military brothers and sisters.

#22Kill strives to “bridge the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support.” The final words to flash across the screen of the website’s video are “We’re here for you. We hear you.”

Today is day 22. As I post my last set of pushups to social media and tag fellow CrossFitters to accept the challenge, I need you to know something.

I feel you.

I am a civilian. I have not sacrificed my life and time to protect our country’s freedoms, but I have survived child sexual abuse. I have experienced trauma. I know what it’s like to live with darkness, peer down the spiral, and question the value of my life.

For 25 years, vigilance, control, mistrust, and detachment managed the pain, angst, hurt and rage brought on by traumatic experience. But I found a way to push up; to rejoin life and contribute in a way I always imagined.

Treatment through therapy made the difference. With a pride too big, walls so thick, and shame so deep, at first I couldn’t ask for help.  I didn’t value myself enough to reach out; vulnerability translated into weakness. There was peace in solitude.

But I valued those who loved me. When I could no longer dodge my husband’s plea, when I reached the edge; feeling as if my skull might split, I answered this question:

Who do I have a responsibility to?

Mac and our new marriage suffered from my trauma. I knew my mental health would damage our children. This was unacceptable and unfair. I resolved to do my part and agreed to keep the appointment Mac had made with a social worker on my behalf.

Once there, I harnessed the strength used to endure and suppress my experience to open wounds and talk.

The session discussions, albeit uncomfortable and scary at times encouraged trust. With consistent support, I learned tools to tackle triggers, reframe the rage, be mindful of mood shifts, channel destructive tendencies into a safe and productive rush, express vulnerability, and deepen relationships. I came to understand the genesis of my emotions, recognize they were typical for survivors, and accept I wasn’t alone.

The likelihood of full recovery is slim. But now, over a dozen years later, I’m equipped to fight the funk when it drives a heel into my back. With each win, trauma loosens its grip and I gain power.

I’ve also gained direction, purpose and most importantly, worth. I can approach parenting with a healthier perspective, contribute to a more loving, respectful, and meaningful marriage, and pursue career goals, creative passions and fitness aspirations with assurance. I am a better friend; know how to navigate social situations, and enjoy being with people.

Bad and unnatural things happened to me. My mind and body reacted to them. That doesn’t make me less deserving of a rich, positive, and fulfilled existence. I have every right to be here; to push, to grow and to live.

And so do you.

VeteransCrisisLine

 

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A Great Hill

Sharing resolutions and lesson learned from a personal experience with the hope that it might one day help someone.

Sharing resolutions and lesson learned from a personal experience with the hope that it might one day help someone.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
Nelson Mandela.

Eleven years ago today, I climbed a great hill.

Sitting in the mall parking lot in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s white Oldsmobile, I told her the family secret that I had harbored for over twenty years; that her then husband of twenty five years sexually abused me as a child.

When the words finally came out, my body decompressed like a flattened tire.  I thought I was done, fixed, as if sharing this piece of information would easily mend everything and solve all problems.  That New Year’s Eve morning I stood at the top of my great hill expecting to see a welcoming horizon.  And at first, I did.  But understanding that I couldn’t stand in one spot forever, I continued on my way.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  I was born into a generation of women and men who, when experience trauma, are often encouraged to talk about it and seek help.  I eventually had someone to tell and immediately had someone who believed me.  I had the guidance of a talented, dedicated professional who worked tirelessly to give me the tools I needed to work through the rises and falls.  And I have a husband who has supported me every step of the way.  Even the bad guy went to jail for a short time.

These fortunate circumstances coupled with determination to live clean, if you will, helped me to move forward.   As a result, I have been able to scale more overgrown, rocky, and unmarked hills than I thought existed.  And although I couldn’t reach the top every time, I’m content with where I ended up.

However, one of many things I’ve learned in the last ten years is that there are consequences to pursuing one’s truth.  Expecting people to reflect, discuss, and perhaps change is a tall order.  Maintaining thin relationships, living in a box, and avoiding issues are seemingly much easier paths to take.

So why rock the boat?  Because as I started to value myself, I realized that regardless of what I was going to get back, I had to let people know where I was coming from.  Several times I’ve been pleasantly surprised; other times, not so much.  I’ve had family members haul off like a Real Housewife of New Jersey, friends just throw in the towel, and to mourn relationships of key people who weren’t able to meet me half way.  It’s unfortunate and sad but as my grandfather says, “That’s the way it goes.”

I’ve often wondered if it is worth some of this residual agida to continue my version of clean living.  It may sound reminiscent of a Kelly Clarkson song, but for someone who lived the first third of her life putting up walls, keeping things surface, and feeding the elephants in the room, I intend to spend the next two thirds of it living the most honest, genuine, meaningful, loving, and forthright way that I can.  For myself, loved ones, husband and most importantly our children; this I resolve to do.

As we welcome a new year, I wish you a year filled with health, truth, cleanliness, and the courage to climb.