Over the past 30 years I have experienced traumatic events, been diagnosed with PTSD, shut down, and failed at two marriages. In spite of these experiences I learned. I took a self accountable look at me, and I changed. Because of the way I changed I was blessed with another chance and have a wonderful relationship with a beautiful lady. A lady who knows everything about me. A lady who tells me how she is feeling. We have no secrets, past or present. This change has allowed me to learn about and deal with trauma and somehow, I am considered an expert. It is not because I have a PhD. or Dr. with my name. It is simply because I have experienced it and am able to talk about it, to admit my failures and my growth. No matter what I know or how long it has been, trauma still hits me.
My son shared an experience when he was walking across the lawn covered quad on his way to a class. It was late afternoon/evening. Years before, he had been in several firefights a day for several months in Afghanistan. On one occasion he was injured severely when an IED exploded near him. Even though it had been several years, something about walking in that open area in the failing light triggered him and he had a flashback. Suddenly he was in the middle of a firefight. Explosions, bright lights, loud sounds assaulted his brain. Adrenaline kicked in and he was in the fight. An unknown amount of time passed. He came to, standing like a lone sentry in that open lawn, heart pumping, drenched in sweat. He didn't know where he was. After, what seemed like an hour, he realized he was on campus at school. He looked at his watch and realized he had missed half his class. He was drained, exhausted and struggled to get back to his car. He had missed class and the way he was feeling, just needed to get home. He sat alone, beaten, worn out for awhile in his car, trying to get the strength to drive home safely.
A few months ago something was triggered in me and the trauma reared its ugly head. I did not expect it and did not realize it was happening. I closed down and it snuck in gradually until nothing worked. It was all I could do to get out of bed. I couldn't focus on tasks, I couldn't write, plan, work through projects. I became so depressed I couldn't function. I didn't write my blog as I had promised myself and scheduled. I planned to make calls to promote my program, but it just did not happen. I couldn't even shower. Things were going no where. I started spending excessive time on the internet, losing myself in the videos and tapes. None were educational or productive. They simply allowed me to lose myself with no effort in meaningless videos. I was in survival mode.These two experiences are different, yet the same. One is more dramatic but the end result, anxiety, depression, and a feeling of failure are the same.
Wait, I am supposed to know what is going on and how to deal with it. I do and I couldn't. Finally, one morning, I woke up and jumped in the shower. I thought, today has got to be different. I deleted tik-tok. Get rid of the videos. I had missed martial arts for a month. I went back. A friend called and we talked. (Thank you Chris) I was still struggling, but it was one step in the right direction. I forced myself to move forward. I talked to my wife. I visited a counselor friend of mine and we talked. Now I was awake again. I became aware. I participated in a Tibetan bowl session and saw the future. It is amazing. Now I felt alive again. I felt like me again. I got an email and will be presenting at a conference. I have a class to teach in Michigan. I have a book signing in Colorado. Wow, This is an amazing world.
Another lesson relearned; Trauma never goes away, no matter how well we deal with it. It is always there. We work through the reoccurrence the same way we worked through the original trauma. It is an ongoing effort and we cannot let our guard down. 1) have good friends that will recognize when something is off and who aren't afraid to talk to you about it. 2)Have a counselor or someone to help you work through things. 3) Trust yourself and have tools in your toolbox to handle the feelings. 4) Use these tools. 5)Don't punish yourself or beat yourself up for something that is not in your control.
Funny thing, the week after getting back on my feet, I accomplished more then I had in the previous two months. I feel good, and my business, my book, and my life are back on track. Sometimes it is the detour and the lessons we relearn over and over that mean the most in life. Survival mode is okay to survive. When we push through that darkest time, the light becomes brightest. Now is the time to thrive.