In spite of more coverage, and one would then hope, more understanding, there are still stigmas that goes with PTSD. We are often harshly judged and criticized for the basic fact that we are human enough to have been wounded by traumatic events.
The drive-by caring crowd often pulls their vampiric ghoul number on us. They attempt to splash around in the malarial swamps of both our past traumatic experiences and our ongoing present suffering from PTSD and other wounds.
All the while they claim, that “they only want to help,” and offer us no credible assistance. When they have fed on us, they flit off and leave us with our re-opened wounds. God, save us from these leeches.
The drive-by caring crowd wants to do some sort of continual autopsy on us, without anesthesia. And, all the time, they say they pry only because they “care” … usually it is just bullshit and voyeurism on their part. One thing I learned early on was that there is no limit to the amount of personal and intimate information that these vampires want to suck out of us.
One of the ways the drive-by caring crowd damages us further is through attempts to shame us for not having willy-nilly gotten over our traumatic history – as if that were an easy choice. Sadly, there are too many people ready to tell us that they know of someone who has experienced much worse and they never talk about it (No surprise there. If the choice is between confiding in a vampiric interrogator and keeping silence, well, I choose silence).
The ghouls push us to “get a job,” “get over it,” and yet at the same time fill up their appetites for our misery from our physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, like someone who has tapped a maple tree for its sugar-laden sap. I swear, they’d record our nightmares if they knew how.
They are the type of person who would tell someone with a compound fracture to “Shake it Off! Think Happy Thoughts! Run! Woohoo!”
Yes, they are models of realism, they are!
So … Some Context … Disparagement
I am writing much of this in reaction to those amongst the drive-by caring clan who disparage trauma survivors for not getting a job, when they are not able to do so, or being able to get a good night’s sleep. It is also written in response to those who disparage recipients of either military or civilian disability as leeches or lazy.
It is also written in the context of those who blithely say,
If you had a job you would be so much happier!”
Oh, really! … Tra La La!
Work, employment, has the potential to be very satisfying and fulfilling. It can, indeed, contribute to our happiness and even make us healthier. The reality, however, is that the condition of “employment” can often be one of fear and repression (I am reminded of the film “Bread and Roses”… hard to go wrong if a film includes Adrien Brody). Over and over again, employers have been confused why worker productivity drops when the employees are consistently threatened with losing their jobs … goes with the old joke: “Beatings will continue until morale improves!”
It is actually quite possible to “love one’s job,” but few love every single aspect of it. I love the actual act of teaching, but grading sucks, as does dealing with whiney students who say they “have to have an A” but never bothered to come to class or ask for any sort of assistance. I knew a Youth Minister who loved his job when he actually was ministering with youth, but was destroyed by all of the non-youth ministry functions thrown upon him.
Can We Have PTSD and Be Happy?
This all leads to the deeper questions about what is happiness and what are the sources of happiness. I was crushed when I lost my physical strength and abilities, became fragile, and lost the ability to reliably work fulltime. Why?
I was crushed because so much of my self-identity and “happiness” was built around my physical ability.
Those were the abilities others praised me and valued me for.
Without those abilities, did I lose my value?
I managed to not kill myself, although sorely tempted, and eventually learned how to deflect and ignore the drive-by caring people.
Ultimately, I discovered my happiness had more to do with who I choose to be and who I want to become,
regardless of my physical abilities and/or employment status.
We can become happy, or at least happier (less sad?), as we try to figure out what purposes and goals we might embrace.
Our sense of purpose becomes a contributor to our own happiness. Having a purpose, a goal, makes us long to continue living and achieve it. Conditions may still be hard and painful (I doubt I shall regrown some missing bone, ligaments, and cartilage, no matter how happy or sad I am), but when we achieve a goal in spite of those obstacles, the savory taste of that accomplishment is ever more deep and satisfying.
When I choose my life instead of a PTSD-induced death, I experience a basic happiness in myself that was not apparent to me before.
We, you and I, cannot just say “La La La” and pretend we have never been wounded by our past traumas. Yet, we can strive to wrest control of our lives and how we view ourselves away from PTSD. This is one of the reasons I encourage writing and creativity so much … it heals. And it is a wrestling match between each of us and PTSD, between each of us and a society which encourages ghouls and vampires to drain of us hope and meaning. If we are momentarily pinned, we can dust-off, and with renewed hope keep wrestling for the right to be happy in our life and no longer controlled by PTSD.
As we heal, we can discover resources for happiness that are not freshly stained by the trauma we have endured. If I was molested as a child, I cannot undue the molestation, it happened … and it still frightens me. I can even look back and see how it has harmed my development and some of my poor life decisions. Yet, I can still begin to reduce how much it seeks to cripple my soul now and in the future.
Neither modern society, nor the ghouls, nor PTSD want us to realize how much value we still have. They will try to drag us down as will certain folks who say, “but I only want to help,” to cover up how much they enjoy judging us and suggesting things we simply cannot physically do.
Somehow … Happier
Paradoxically, even though I am now crippled and will never work fulltime again, I think I am generally happier in my life than I was when I was physically healthy, able to not only walk long distances, but also able to run them, and even be fully employed.
Some people I knew suggested I kill myself, my PTSD demanded (and still tries to demand) that I kill myself. But I choose Life, my life.
If I had killed myself any of those times before, well, then I would never have been able to experience a degree of happiness and self-worth that is not based on health, wealth, and social status. If I checked out, there is much beauty I would never have subsequently embraced. And, there are also people who I have only met after choosing Life that I would have been a fool to miss out on.
As the saying goes, “Haters Gonna Hate.” Some will not project obvious hatred, just insinuating disparagement, even as they say they, “really care.” A medical operation is not a success when it kills the patient and the drive-by caring crowd promotes neither happiness nor life … no matter how much they claim to care.
Fortunately, we can come to the discovery that our past traumas do not have to dictate future misery. We can discover our own value and inherent worth. If it all seems too bleak between what you have survived, your current PTSD symptoms, and society’s lack of compassion, know that you still have value. That value, in and of itself, gives you the right and ability to be happy and not always mired in PTSD’s misery.
You Have Always Had Value.
You Have Value Now.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z