PTSD, Depression and Courage

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, I learned as much as I could about the disease and its treatment.  I thought I was prepared.  However, I was not prepared for the emotional ride that took place.  No one talked about it.  No one acknowledged that it was part of the situation.  Instead, I learned about it after the fact and I got it confirmed on a recent post from PTSD Perspectives, an excellent blog dealing with the subject.  Check it out at http://ptsdperspectives.org/category/ptsd-blog/

I was not prepared for the emotional ride that had me crying when I least expected to.  It had me feeling like I was in another person’s body, observing what was going on.  It caused me to be in a place that I neither knew nor trusted.  I was the proverbial stranger in a strange land.

What was going on was post traumatic stress.

I encountered PTSD again at a meeting Amy and I were giving for caregivers.  One of the participants was the sister of a soldier returned from Iraq.  She had observed the changes in her brother, had seen the mood swings, had noted the strangeness at times of his behavior, dealt with his depression.

What she wanted was not just for him to feel better.  She wanted, as she put it, her brother back.  She went on to talk about how they would have talked about anything and everything, how they could laugh and cry together and have a good time.  That was no more.  Another person had taken over.  She missed her brother, and not only was he dealing with PTSD, she was also.

There are different levels of PTSD that affect individuals but whatever level a person may have, it does not make it any less difficult.  PTSD also affects those who love and care for those with full blown PTSD.  These caregivers need to learn how to deal with a “new” person, one who has been shaken to the core by a very difficult situation, to stay centered despite the surrounding depression.  The caregivers have to deal with a new person, grieve the loss of the old one, and at the same time help their loved ones through the terrors that haunt them.

I am reminded of the words of Solomae, a spiritual teacher, who wrote, “Opening the heart is an act of courage.  Keeping it open is an act of love.”  That’s what people with PTSD and depression and those who love and care for them have to face each and every day.  They are courageous people.

-Bernadette

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2 Responses

  1. Oh, I love this post, especially the words of Solomae. Thanks for spreading the word about how devastating PTSD can be for those who suffer from it, as well as for those who care for and about them.

  2. wonderful post, makes us aware of things that we never would have imagined. But now, after reading this, it makes perfect sense!

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