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This may sound like a silly thing to some of you but to others it might be painfully true.  I was very glib when I was young.  I loved taking exams in a blue book because I could talk and talk about almost anything.  Even when I knew nothing about a subject, I could usually bluff my way if I only knew a few facts.  So, when I got this message from one of my followers, I took a bit of time to think about it and then to decide to write about it.

Here’s the letter:

“This must be why I’m so ashamed/guilt ridden that I cannot fully open up to my
therapist (who is an excellent therapist) but gets frustrated because I don’t
discuss things that actually bother me.  Instead I talk about stupid irrelevant
things.  I’ve even been considering stopping my mental healthcare altogether.”

I remember when I started writing about my own PTSD.  Remember I had no idea that PTSD was even a thing.  All I knew is that there was something different about me.  I had expected things, for me, to be normal once I returned home from Vietnam.  At first, I blamed it on being away for a year and my adjustment to being back home.  Then I even blamed others for changing or for them making comments about me.  I was not sleeping, drinking too much, and overreacting to things going on around my life.  Sometimes I was numb sometimes I was hypersensitive.  In short, I was messed up.

I decided to do something about it.  I never considered a therapist because, at first, I believed it was everyone else that was screwed up and not me.  I knew no one either in my family or even among my friends who was seeing a psychologist.  As a matter of fact, I always thought that a psychologist saw “crazy people” and I didn’t consider myself as being crazy.  I never even considered a therapist honestly.  I never considered the VA either.  I thought that once I was out of the service, it meant I was finished with that part of my life.  My family was tiptoeing around me, afraid to make me angry or upset by saying something that I would take offense at.  I had no friends either in or out of the military that I was close enough to, to open myself up to.  I was alone to deal with my feelings.  So, I decided to start writing myself notes about what I was feeling or experiencing so that maybe I could understand it better.   I thought this would be easy, but I discovered even though I was writing to myself I was still being critical.  Was this thing Important? Why should I waste my time on that?

Sometimes I would write a word or phrase and other times I’d write more.  I’d rewrite things because it was like once I would write things down, I’d realize that what I was writing, really wasn’t exactly right once I wrote it down.  I threw a lot of things away because they seemed irrelevant once I had written them.  I’d have slips of paper all over the place until I decided that none of, any of this, was important yet everything might be important, at some time in the future.  I reread things trying to figure out what I was trying to say and why I was saying them, and then adding things or detracting things.  The thing that I realized, finally, was that this was my exploration and I didn’t have to explain myself, or answer to anyone and the growth from that realization was a freeing experience.

So, let me assure you, it doesn’t matter what you write but that you write.  Do it as a routine which takes time to build up to.  If you see it as a chore then you are not seeing it correctly.  This is not for anyone else but you.  Your writing is a gift to yourself.  I tried to see this like this, I am walking around with my pockets full of sand.  The sand is your PTSD burden.  Every time I would stop to write I was taking a little of the sand out of the pockets and throwing it away.  I wouldn’t notice the loss at first but little by little I started to feel the pockets getting lighter and lighter. I knew that things were starting to change and when that happened,  I was encouraged to continue writing.  It was becoming easier to say what I was experiencing and I was being less critical of myself except when I noticed that I was saying the same thing over and over and I hadn’t realized that I was in a rut and didn’t know it.

The trap for me was when I felt so confident that I was in control that I let my guard down and didn’t write for days or weeks.  Little by little I felt things changing again but not for the good.  I quickly picked up the pen and paper and started getting back into my routine.  You are reading this because I am sitting down and writing.  It has been 50 years since I left Vietnam.  I’m writing now not only for me but for you too.  I discovered along the way #23.  Some of you may be familiar with this some not.  MY #23 on my bucket list was to try and help a stranger who has PTSD and needs a shoulder to lean on.  This is my call for you to come to our site www.beyondptsd.org and start your own journey.

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