The Other Side of Reason – Time shift

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.

[Time shift]
Anger rages deep within my soul.
In my dreams, it takes a toll
Over the black cloud.
A new awareness.
A shift of perspective.
An unveiling of truth.
A surge of power from within.
Knowledge of something
I've always known.
It takes courage to know that what happened,
Was never my fault.
I cannot be blamed for my innocence.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

― Haruki Murakami

This quote is profoundly comforting. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and my healing process. No one has a straight, flat, easy path in life. Every life journey is unique. For those of us who survive trauma along the path, who may struggle with PTSD, and for whom healing is part of this journey, we need to remember that the path is not linear. We will often take great strides in healing, only to be triggered and feel we have fallen back.

I’ve come to realize that these are not steps back, but steps sideways, a time we need to witness how we are triggered, and step forward into healing.

I thought of subsequent visits to therapy and all the prescriptions I’d filled.  I thought of how often “experts” talk to us — those with PTSD — one by one. How we sit in the same chairs in the same offices and they listen to us, but we don’t get to hear each other.  It tricks us into thinking we’re alone.

People with PTSD have almost always been in total silence, shame and isolation outside of clinical settings or cyber chat rooms.  But things are changing. We’re coming out of the shadows. We’re using our voices. We’re saying, “Here we are” and claiming our role as experts, knowers and truth-tellers. We’re bonding as rape survivors, veterans, adults abused as children and those who lived through horrific car accidents.

We’re starting to notice, nod at and bear witness to one another.

But even so, too often we speak in whispers. We hesitate and stammer and apologize.

So often we think of trauma and recovery in terms of what’s lost, destroyed or broken. While those elements may exist in certain moments, the larger picture is that trauma and recovery force us to grow in ways we never may have discovered without such challenges.

We don’t heal in isolation, we heal in community. From my experience there’s an enormous tendency toward isolation. We’re not happy with ourselves and our lives, we don’t feel safe or in control and so we hide out. The problem is that it’s very difficult to heal in that isolated and detached state. We need the support, knowledge and advice of others to help us navigate the ever-changing terrain of trauma recovery. So, one aspect is that we heal better and more quickly when we accept help. The other element of that has to do with my belief in how much survivors can teach each other. Survivors have a meta-language that allows them to understand each other on a deep and experiential level.

When we connect with each other, we strengthen ourselves. When we help each other, we move ourselves forward through an exchange of energy, ideas, education and support.

Trauma recovery is, ‘a long and winding road.’ There will be successes and failures, certainties and doubts. The key along the way is to maintain your hope and develop a deep belief in your ability to achieve your goals.

If you are struggling with the effects of the past, it’s not your fault. Feeling post-traumatic stress is a reasonable response to an overwhelming, unexpected and shocking experience. Second, help exists and it’s your job to seek and engage in the therapeutic process. Third, it is possible for you to transcend trauma no matter how deeply you feel affected or how long it’s been since your experience. It will take time, but you do have the potential to feel better. Fourth, self-care is enormously important after trauma and in recovery. Find a way to take care of yourself in terms of routines and activities that soothe and restore your energy, vitality and resilience. Finally, what I have learned is the key to finding relief lies in finding the courage to face what needs to be faced, do what needs to be done and accept the ups and downs of the process that may take a lifetime to learn and experience.

Until next time.