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Monday, February 18, 2013

Granting Men Permission to Seek Help for PTSD

As I look back over the year of my greatest transformation, the key to my success in overcoming the paralyzing effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was my deepest desire to heal myself from the pain I was in.  For many years, I had lived a life of quiet desperation, too many failures and mistakes in my life had convinced me I was not worthy of the good things in life, too many unforgivable acts done on my part had placed me in the unenviable position of watching all those around me finding their dreams coming true, while I had to serve out the punishment for committing violations against myself and others.  I was my own critic, judge, and executioner.  I was dolling out the punishment I thought I deserved, and constantly living in the past, wondering what happened to the promising young man that graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy.  This chronic depression, sadness, and self-loathing permeated all areas of my life and in my relationships, and even though I'd have brief moments where life was filled with love and joy, most of the time, it seemed the world had rejected me and I was just occupying space in the time that I lived.  I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the dis-ease I had about my life, a turn that only made matters worse, something that people who suffer from PTSD often do because they have no way to properly release all the pain that lives inside of them.  This only compounded the problem, and made it that much more difficult to climb out of the hole I'd dug myself into.

After experiencing the multitude of family traumas that plagued my family over the span of 6 years, the only refuge I had was in the arms of my ex.  She was my island of safety and security, and although we had issues, (and I certainly did my part to create problems within the relationship), the love I had for her was real and the only thing that gave me hope to escape from the endless cycle of pain surrounding my family was knowing I had her in my life.  Then, my parents got divorced after 40 years of marriage.  Right after that, my ex-fiance left me, in which I have already described in a previous post, and I was left alone, deserted by love, and my spirit was crushed.  The PTSD that resulted from this event was so severe, it brought me to the extremes of choosing between life and death.  I didn't want to live anymore.  I contemplated suicide.  I wanted it all to end.  Life was just too painful and I just wanted the pain to stop.

Men, we need to re-evaluate why we refuse to seek help when we hold on to so much pain inside of us it prevents us from living the lives we are meant to live and being the men we are capable of becoming.  We have been taught to believe that it is weak to let out your feelings, to show vulnerability, to acknowledge the suffering going on within.  Men who express their feelings are considered weak.  We are taught to keep it in, and just bear our guilt, our shame, or our fears inside of us.  Being strong, as we are taught, is not to show your vulnerability, not to acknowledge the pain you carry with you on the inside, and instead, we must pretend nothing affects us, or we compensate for our own suffering by projecting anger and hate on those around us, especially the ones who remind us of the pain they brought to us.  We are taught to keep it all in, show no emotion, as though we are impervious to the tragic events that occur in our lives.

I'm here to say to all of you men out there, this is hogwash.  It takes greater courage and strength to admit one has a problem than it does to deny it.  Those who deny it, deny their own shadow, and that shadow appears outside of us as projections we hate because it's something we hate in our own selves.  Men, I'm speaking about our own evolution.  I'm calling him the 'Millennial Man', one who has the strengths that has defined men for thousands of years, but also, the ability to acknowledge his own sensitivity and vulnerability in ways that are healthy, compassionate, and 'manly.'  We cannot evolve to the next stage on our journey as men through this life if we carry the burdens and pains of the past.  Like a weight, they hold us down, shackled to the rock, and prevent us from reaching new highs and fulfilling our life's purpose.

Let me re-frame it in another way.  If you have a piece of shrapnel in your body, and it's trying to come out, do you push it back down into your body because you don't want it to come out?  No, you let it come out, and even though it might really hurt as the body dislodges it, it might puss up and stink, it might ooze out this green mucus as it is ejected from the body, it might cause you an unbelievable amount of pain, but once it's out, the body actually has a chance to properly heal.  If the piece of shrapnel stayed in there, although it might appear all is well on the surface, on the inside the body is being slowly poisoned to death by this piece of metal that doesn't belong there.  Men, it is no different with emotional, psychological, or spiritual pain.  These are pieces of shrapnel that want to come out, that are poisoning your lives, and keeping you trapped in pain you do not have to live with the rest of your life.  Let me point out something else.  There are four areas of your life that make up a human being: the physical plane, the emotional plane, the mental plane, and the spiritual plane.  Three of these are unseen.  If any one of those areas is not healthy, it will be reflected in the world around us because the world we see is a consequence of the other three, not the other way around.  We must see, acknowledge, and heal the wounds on the inside for the world around us to change.

There is nothing uncool, or un-macho about seeking help.  In fact, it shows an incredible amount of honesty, self-love, and a recognition that one is human.  Human beings think and feel, we have emotions, and it is very cool to seek the help that will help you get better and be the man you truly are.  Do it for yourself, for your loved ones, for the people you care most about.

Men, you want to have the right leadership in your life.  Someone who understands you, who looks at you without judgment, who can see through your pain, who can help you to re-connect to who you truly are, who provides a space for you to release this poison inside of you, who will take out the shrapnel infecting your spirit, and help you heal the wound for good.  These things don't go away if we bury it.  Any pain that is not processed properly and is instead pushed down into the recesses of our minds, will come up in dysfunctional behavioral patterns that will affect the quality of our lives and the lives of our loved ones in a negative way.  We must get it out, and no matter how ugly or bad it may be, with the right leader, he or she can help you release it, and heal your mind and spirit.

Men, especially those coming home from the wars and are suffering from PTSD, find a life coach, a therapist, or a spiritual counselor to work with to help you out of the hells you are in.  Make the decision you want to get better, that you deserve to live free and happy, and that you will do whatever it takes to make yourself healthy again.  Check out the options available to you in your area.  Get input from other sources.  See what people are offering to help you with your problem.  Find the best one for you who you resonate with and feel comfortable discussing your pain.  Look for someone who specializes in PTSD.  You wouldn't go to a family therapist for an alcohol problem, or to a lawyer if you had a toothache.  You want to go to someone who understands your issue, knows what it is, and has dedicated his or her life to helping people with PTSD.

Guys, my experience with PTSD was both chronic and extreme, I've lived with some form of PTSD for a long time, and when my world collapsed 14 months ago, suicide, by choice or by accident, seemed like the only way to go.  No one on the outside, my family or friends, could fathom the depth of my pain, or even notice I was in that much pain.  Again, it was that 'male thing' about not showing emotion and trying to keep it all in.  But I was in crisis on the inside, major life threatening crisis.  I chose to get help.  And gentlemen, it was the best decision I have ever made.

Let me put it in perspective.  Before I got help, I lived a life of quiet desperation, chronically sad and depressed all the time.  I felt a failure in life, plagued by the "unforgivable acts" I'd done in my past, haunted by them regularly, constantly wondering "what if" and "why" did I do this or that.  And when the crisis of my life hit, I experienced PTSD in its most severe form for months and months without end: I had re-experiencing symptoms of flashbacks (reliving the event over and over again when I walked into the apartment), nightmares, and frightening thoughts every day all throughout the day!  I had avoidance symptoms: I stayed in the tomb that was my apartment and avoided contact with others unless I absolutely had to go somewhere; I was emotionally numb; I had strong feelings of guilt, depression, and worry; I lost interest in most of my activities I found enjoyable in the past like acting, hiking, and spending time with friends.  I had hyper-arousal symptoms: I was easily startled at work; I felt very tense and on edge; I had difficulty falling asleep at night because of the thoughts infecting my mind; and I was on the verge of having angry outbursts in public because of the inordinate amount of rage I had on the inside.  And in my darkest moments, I wanted to commit suicide.

That was a year ago.  Now, my life is vibrating!  My internal story has changed from I suck, I'm a failure, I'm a loser, I'm unlovable, I'm a sinner deserving punishment, to I rock, I'm here, I have a purpose, I deserve to have love in my life, and I am forgiven.  And why am I forgiven?  Because the person who I found help with showed me pure unconditional love as I brought up the pain in my past, and reminded me that despite those events that occurred, I was still the beautiful person that came into this world innocent and free.  She allowed me to bring up all that poison infecting my soul, and wash it away, cleansed of the guilt and shame attached to it, brought me back to myself, with love, and helped me to heal the pain of the past - all of it.  Now, I am the man who I came here to be - strong, compassionate, loving, and wise.  I look forward to every day that I'm alive!  I see and experience the wonder of my own existence.  I see the world now with fresh eyes, I'm more engaged with people, I see them and listen to them with my whole being, and I'm desiring to have more experiences that give me that exquisite taste of joy in just being alive.  Two weeks ago, I spent a glorious time in Nosara, Costa Rica on a yoga retreat, in which the final residual layers of the past sloughed off me like a snake shedding his skin, and a whole, new world unveiled itself before me.  A year ago I wanted to die; now, I want to live, and live an extraordinary life!

How did I do that?  How did I go from one extreme to the other, from wanting it all to end, to now, loving every moment that I breathe?  By seeking help for the problem that I faced, and in my case, it was PTSD.  This is the area I am now an expert in.  I understand it inside and out, and offer to help any who come my way wanting to break free from the trauma that imprisons them.  What I did for myself is what I offer you.  It works!  I stand by this program with every cell of my being, I'm willing to die for it, because I know what it has given me.  I'm a few steps ahead, and I know I can help.  This is my business, and my business is to help people recover from PTSD, particularly:

  • PTSD resulting from emotionally abusive relationships
  • PTSD resulting from the military
  • PTSD resulting from intense family dramas
  • Secondary PTSD for those living with someone who has PTSD
  • I also help actors discover who they truly are so that they can bring this into their work
This is what I have to give, and it is mine to give at the deepest level.  If it resonates with you, contact me, if not, find someone who does.  As long as you get yourselves healthy, I don't care if it's with me, or with someone else, as long as you make the decision to do it.  I want you to have what I now have.  There is no greater gift you could give yourself than to free yourself from the chains that bind you to the painful memories of the past that keep you from being who you are capable of being.  Men, we are only as sick as the secrets we keep.  Give yourselves permission to be vulnerable, to let that piece of shrapnel come out, so that it doesn't infect the rest of your life.  We pass these things down into our future generations if we don't clear it up now.  If not for yourself, do it for them.  They will be forever grateful for it.