Reflections from the Other Side of Reason – A letter to myself

Since 2013, recognized author and community leader for mental health, David Gibson, has battled the inner world of PTSD to find some measure of hope within. He uses his writing to explore how his journey as a survivor has enabled him to come to terms with PTSD and the new reality of his life. His 'Reflections from the Other Side of Reason' not only invite the reader into his life, but offers insights on how to grow and build resiliency. By sharing his experiences he takes away any toll for others to walk down the same road


Emerging from the shadows of a past eternity,

So cold was the air as I stepped out.
Still silence to reign, was there no one there?
The shadows of the night had passed, before the rising sun,
Awakened from its eastern slumber, in glorious gold array,
It cast its crimson mantle over the full length of the quiet bay.
The sparkling waters glistened, like a golden crown,
Or a rich embroidered tapestry adorned with priceless gems.
A golden path stretched out across the vastness of the sea,
To be lost in far horizons – perhaps – infinity.

“The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.”  ~Proverbs

Letter writing is truly a lost art – a vintage skill, if you will. The flow of the pen gracefully etching out your thoughts to someone… The mere thought of it fills me with nostalgia when I used to write letters to my grandparents, parents, siblings and friends. I know it is crazy to think about letter writing in this e-mail and text-crazy world where attention spans are about 5 minutes long. But oh how I miss them. They were fond treasures of my young life in the 70’s and 80’s.

My suspicion is that in a world where we are constantly chatting and twitting, very little is actually being said. We substitute human emotions with punctuations :> :< and emoticons, hoping somehow they could substitute our sensibility and taste and convey the nuances of our lives.

Marshall McLuhan, Canadian professor of Renaissance literature, foresaw the decline of all that he loved and knew — the age of literacy. He predicted, instead, the rise of new oral/aural technologies. People chatting while driving, reading their e-mails at the coffee shop, but not pausing long enough to reflect or even truly connect.

Longing for this chance to reconnect, I tried something new with my Psychologist.  Why not, he said, write a letter to yourself reflecting on your time since the accident to now.  Alright then – I will give it a try.

A few weeks ago, as I opened a letter I had put aside exactly two years ago when I did the therapeutic excercise, I realized that I had forgotten what I had written. As I read those plain and simple statements, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

“So that’s how your past can speak to your present,” I thought. But my biggest takeaway from the exercise was not what I had written on that piece of paper, but what the exercise itself taught me.

Writing a letter to ourselves is a practical way to help us listen to our inner voice. When I read my own letter, I realized that it was the first time I had heard myself so clearly. Often, we don’t really pay attention to what our heart says. Instead, we listen to well-intentioned advice from others, which can sometimes confuse us, leaving us at a loss of how to think or feel. Writing a letter to myself enabled me to reflect on my life in the past two years, and ask myself some hard questions.

When I was writing the letter, I treated the exercise as if I was talking to someone else, and spoke honestly and sincerely. Here’s something I wrote (and read) that struck me in particular:

Hey, how have you been? Have you done what you intended to do? Is this a good year for you? I want you to read this with a cheerful spirit and be proud of what you have done so far. Knowing you, I’m worried that you might not have accomplished what you set out to do. But if you did, congratulations! I’m so proud of you. If not, hang in there. Don’t be disappointed with yourself. Remember that trauma takes some time to heal from… And even if we don’t see the results; it doesn’t mean that you haven’t moved forward. You will get there my friend.

The most valuable things we can take with us through our lives aren’t things, but lessons we’ve learned. And one way to learn lessons is to ask ourselves questions. These push us to find answers, just like how we are pushed to determine the destination before we start to navigate a route. Writing down our goals in a letter will also remind us why we made a decision to walk that path. As Thai writer Sorakon Adunyanon once wrote: “The question is more important than the answer. Questions serve as a compass. They give you direction. Answers are merely the result of the questions.”

Are you ready to write a letter to yourself?

Until next time.