Happy Birthday!

I have just celebrated my 63rd birthday, and I thought it important to remember how far I’ve come in 365 days.

A year ago, I was stranded in a hotel in Pittsburgh, full of doubt and worry, with no transportation or material resources.  The over-worked staff in the hotel were terrific people, but stretched so thin that it would have been wrong to try to claim special attention from them.  I sat in Room 432 and wondered a) how the hell I got into this situation, and b) how the hell I was going to get out.

My rescue (it was exactly that) came in the form of an old friend who I suspect being a closet super-hero.  A year later, largely due to her efforts, I’m in a permanent apartment, I’ve been reunited (after 18 months) with my stored property, and I’ve learnt an incredible amount about adaptation and faith.  Life is less fractious, and the stubborn icebergs of creativity are thawing.

Thanks to social media, I’m not quite as odd-man-out with my PTSD as I have seen myself.  While no one with PTSD runs around announcing it,  online people are less reticent to acknowledge what they have an how it affects them.  Having PTSD, curse that it is, is also a sort of badge of merit–we went through terrible things, we were marked, and WE SURVIVED.  It speaks of a resilience and strength especially we didn’t know we had.

In the world, it’s a little different.  I’ve become involved with a local parish; the priest is a wonderful lady who has dealt with me kindly.  I’ve explained how the PTSD-mindset makes things like Passing of the Peace uncomfortable because it encroaches on personal space (there has been much online verification to say I’m not alone in this).  Many of us are socially awkward, perhaps even antisocial as a means of self-preservation.

Being part of this parish has caused me to adapt my self- understanding.  I have physical issues that make me look strange (I am the Vampire at the Communion rail).  I have PTSD issues that make me flee as soon as service is over.  People think it puzzling, but no one shuns me for my differences.  People can see you as different and still accept you–they just have to be informed.

On that empty birthday night in Pittsburgh, 2016, I thought to myself, ‘This will never end.’  How happy and surprised I am to tell you I was wrong!

I’m sure there’s a life-lesson in here somewhere, but I’m too shy to tell you what it is.

Paul TN Chapman

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