June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and I suppose, as a beneficiary of that legacy, I should chime in and make all of you aware. May was Mental Health Awareness Month and September will be Suicide Awareness Month, so obviously, whoever designates these months has a thrilling summer planned for us.
I’m not sure I really feel like making you aware of PTSD and its variants. I’m sick of the whole thing.
I’m sick of waking up at 2.00 AM because of a thought or a smell, and being so inundated by panic that I am afraid to move so much as a finger. I am sick of taking hours to get out of bed and feeling vulnerable and afraid when my feet finally touch the floor. I hate feeling afraid to see people—especially people that I know like me—because of the horrid things they might do. I abhor my vulnerability; my fearfulness makes me feel weak and pitiful, and I am most certainly not my most ardent fan.
I admit, I’m also sick of those who are unaware, who avoid me because I prefer nighttime, when it’s safer and people are less likely to hurt me. That has been a real life issue for years. I am sick of their not understanding the very lively and brutal battle that is going on within. I’m tired of being in perpetual limbo because they think people with PTSD should be avoided. Limbo is a lonely and empty place, and I’ve lived here since forever. I can’t get free of it—it’s in my mind, but I could be distracted from it. I’m tired of telling people, ‘this isn’t my fault, I didn’t ask for this,’ after they’ve said PTSD is my choice, my faith in God is weak, I need to let go of the past (when actually, the past needs to let go of me).
There is a great deal more that goes with the PTSD injury—that’s what it is, an injury. Someone, or some people, did this, and it bothers me that they’ve moved on with their lives, while I (and people like me) have been left with the detritus of their inhumanity. I do not like unanswerable injustice. Of course, not every occasion of PTSD results from someone’s actions. It might a result of a fire, or an earthquake, or a mining collapse. The untimely death of a parent at a time of extreme vulnerability, and even the inability of a child to comprehend the chaos, may leave a person with the condition I have described. The remnants are the same—insomnia, nightmares, depression, hypervigilance, memory problems, irritability, isolation, and subtle yet complex triggering systems—to name a few.
Some of us describe ourselves as ‘warriors’—we will not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light. I admire them because I cannot do what they do. My injuries are mine. My nightmares and fears interest very few people. To be fair, no one can ‘rage against the dying’ of my light but me. It is not a fight I will lose, but neither is it one I will win.
I understand why people resist our explanations, and dismiss the advice of experts because such a state of affairs is really terrifying. We are petrified when anyone is out of control. We fill our films with monsters and villains because we can manipulate and control them, and ultimately vanquish them. We can face down anything we can see, but we can’t do so with the villains and monsters that inhabit our minds.
Or our pasts.
I said I’m not a warrior, but perhaps I’m wrong. William Blake wrote: I shall not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand. He was talking about building Jerusalem in England’s Green and Pleasant Land.
We live in Limbo; we want Jerusalem.
So do you.
Paul TN Chapman
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