I'm Still Learning
I can't believe I published my first blog post just over two years ago. This became such an important outlet for me. Even more surprising (and welcome) are the connections that I have made from simply sharing my story.
This journey is never ending. In the beginning, that's all the focus seemed to be on. "When would this be over?".
The pain, the fear. Your whole goal is to get to the point where that has finally disappeared. But here is what I've learned over the last 3 years. And what I have to continuously remind myself of.
The end will never come. The pain and fear will always be there. They don't go away. Instead, our life and our healing grows around it until it seems smaller. But it's always there. You may go months without giving it a second thought. Then suddenly one day you will see someone or read something, and WHAM - it will smack you in the face and remind you that you don't get to ever fully remove it from your life. And maybe that's ok. Because it leads into lesson 2.
It's easy to forget the feeling. I can only speak for myself when it comes to this. After our trauma, all those cliche "lessons" that come from it are so easily forgotten. Things like 'no day is guaranteed' or 'make the most of each day'. For the first couple of months, it's easier to remind yourself of those lessons. But after a while, regular life settles back in and you forget that you've gone back into complacency. That's where lesson #1 comes in. And thank goodness for that.
You cannot be everything for everyone. This was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn. By nature, I am a problem solver and a helper. I see someone I care about in need and I immediately want to give them whatever they need. With trauma, it's not so simple. I wanted to be able to protect my family from anything and everything. I wanted to always be strong - to never show vulnerability or "weakness". I was only able to keep that trope up for so long. And when I finally started to crack, it was the best thing that could have happened to me and my family. I was finally able to acknowledge that I needed to give myself the same support I so freely gave to everyone around me.
Recognize the wins. Going through life with PTSD or living with someone battling PTSD can feel like you are constantly facing losses. The loss of what you used to know, feel, and think. The loss of how you used to be able to live life. So when you experience a win, whether it's attending a dinner without an episode or making it through the grocery store without someone asking invading questions, acknowledge those moments.
Don't Deny Yourself. Having a spouse that is living with PTSD can mean that you may find that you start to put yourself last. Not because they are asking you to; simply because their capacity for things has been lessened and you are picking up that extra work. That was the case for me, anyways. But eventually, I faced the hard truth that if I wanted to keep being the caretaker of my family, I needed to take care of myself. And it was the best gift I could give myself and my family.
If there is one thing that I could remind people who are on a similar journey of, it would probably to try and have as little expectations as possible. The more you can move through each day with an open heart and open mind, the easier it will be to adapt as things come to you.
If you are someone on this PTSD journey, I'd love for you to share a lesson you have learned along the way that you think others could benefit from.
Take care and be kind to yourself,