Memorial Day. A day where as a veteran I typically experience three types of responses.
The first falls into the standard “Drive-By Caring” that these days is inflicted upon us routinely. This is where someone notices you are a veteran and/or disabled and sick and they tell you how much they care and that you should contact them for any help you may need. In nearly every instance of drive-by caring, the perpetrator makes sure that they are seen by others offering to help you. They also never ask what can they do to help you right now, it is always some vague time in the future when they will help, a time that when they are no longer under the public gaze so they can reject your request for help, sometimes nicely, sometimes not.
As a PTSD survivor and a person who remains chronically ill, I learn to recognize drive-by caring people quickly. I know they don’t mean it, they don’t care, and often they are looking for some sort of social feel-good that comes from offering to help. Self-described Christians are they very worse, followed by those in alternative spiritualities. The true downside to their selfishness is that the PTSD afflicted person, having been abused by these folks, is compelled to draw into deeper isolation and to never ask for help, even when in one of those rare moments the offer is sincere. If I commit suicide they will be able to say how much they offered to help me, but I just never responded – forgetting to mention when they turned down my last appeal for help.
The second Memorial Day response is rather rare. Someone remembers I am a veteran and simply thanks me for it. They mention they thought of me, perhaps offered a prayer for my well-being. They are not seeking anything from me. They just want to let me know that I still matter, that my life has value. They don’t do it so they can be seen and score social points. They don’t make vague promises or talk up what a fine person I am. There is no outside audience they are trying to impress. They do it, because they care. They don’t think I should commit suicide and just get out of the world’s hair.
The third Memorial Day response is from those who just could care less that I am a veteran or that I am in pain or that I have any needs. I never hear from them. There is no money to be made off of me or my pain, there are no social points to be scored by claiming they will help me. They are fairly honest people in this regard. I appreciate it. They don’t set me up for trust and then squash me like a brittle spider under foot. If I committed suicide, they would not notice.
The majority of Memorial Day responses across the country will fall in to the third category. They honestly don’t know, and when they do, they honestly don’t care. While they are not helping me, at least they are not making me even worse, and I appreciate that.
There are several in the first category. Some are in the new growth industry of PTSD Helpers. Others are just folks looking to feel good, act as if they have experienced your trauma by simply deigning to talk to you and tell you things like they will help or that they “got your back.” I’ve learned that when a person tells me they’ve got my back that I had better start walking backwards.
But I deeply appreciate the second category. It really helps me to know that I have value. It really helps me to know that others respect my service, respect what I went through back then and what I go through now. It helps me to know that they want me to stay alive. While I can write these wordy PTSD Spirituality blog entries, I lack the vocabulary to articulate properly how much it means to me that some people really do care. To them, I say thank you, they have blessed me.
A valuable editorial from the LA Times can be read http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-whitney25-2009may25,0,831467.story
Please pray for those affected by trauma, whether military or non-military. Trauma creates PTSD and tears at our souls. Our families, even our pets, are touched by the hazards of PTSD. We can choose to help or hinder. Pray for people by name, and if you don’t know their names, then you can pray for them by their circumstances. Praying for the PTSD-affected is never drive-by caring, God knows when we are sincere and when we are not.
Beyond the outward modes of caring, prayer also helps to keep us alive. As part of my own healing, I need to pray continually in thanks for those who want me to stay alive, and also to pray for those phonies who tell me they have got my back. It is easy to give thanks, it is harder to forgive. I need to learn better how to forgive. Semper Pax, Dr. Z