There is an old adage that says, “Once burned, twice cautious.” It sums up how we often respond to negative experiences in our lives. When negative circumstances are extreme, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may result. Estimates suggest that over five million people live with PTSD in the United States at any given time, with almost 30% of war veterans being affected.
Having PTSD often results in social isolation and a life robbed of meaningful experiences. Finding the strength to reengage can be daunting, but is well worth the effort expended. It’s when we begin to let others back into our lives that we rediscover ourselves and find contentment again.
Reengaging is not an easy task to undertake though. It requires challenging our current belief system and stepping outside our comfort zone…and none of us like doing that! The problem is, if we don’t, PTSD becomes the box we live in, and it can limit who we are and who we can become. It may stunt our emotional growth and it can destroy our relationships with family, friends and colleagues. We may find we no longer enjoy the social interactions that would normally bring us pleasure, or allow ourselves the luxury of relaxing and feeling at peace. PTSD may rob us of many of life’s best moments.
So, how do we reengage? Very slowly and very deliberately. We must go slowly in order to let go of our fantasy of control. It is a delusion in that none of us really ever has complete control over any situation. Things go well in spite of us most of the time. If we remember that, then we can let life happen, slowly, trusting that we will survive. That trust is hard-earned, and we only get there by taking tiny steps at a time. Slowly we move toward reclaiming our lives. When we do take those first steps, then joy begins to seep back in and contentment begins to grow. We may actually find a time when we know peace of spirit again.
PTSD can rob us of much of the goodness and happiness in life. Don’t be afraid to take that first step toward reclaiming your life. Don’t let PTSD rule you forever. It’s taken enough already.
Christine Wistrom is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.