I drove to church this morning. I did not get much sleep last night; my head was filled with thoughts of self-doubt about PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013. I don’t think I can do this again, leave the safety of my room for that long again. I just can’t do it. It is just too scary. When I arrived at church someone hit the panic button (me), made a U turn and home I went. For the last 6 hours the trip was just not going to happen. I just can’t do it.
Just the stigma of being diagnosed with PTSD is too much for me to do anything about. I am just one person. I can’t fix this or change anything so why am I putting myself in this position of embarrassing myself by crying during a presentation? Why should I leave the comfort of my house? At times, going out in public feels horrible. Last night at 3:30 in the morning I convinced myself this is not for me. I quit.
Then I received an email when I arrived home from church (Thank you Lord! Read you loud and clear.) from someone who followed me on the web last year as Scrubs and I left the comfort zone of my house to head east on a bicycle. I read this email with tears. Feeling inspired, I read a poem I wrote on my trip last summer entitled “My Pilgrimage”. I may not have made it into the sanctuary today, though I feel God was cool with me feeling like crap, but not ok with me quitting. I would like to share, with their permission, three letters from individuals I had the pleasure of receiving on last year’s trip.
First Email: Thanks for this service as well as for your service to your country. This certainly seems to be on the forefront of something we are going to have to be dealing with for a long time and from now on. Thanks for being there and doing this. And helping me to be still for a while. Peace be with you as you travel out-of-doors. ~ From someone you do not know.
Second Email: What a wonderful journey to bring awareness to PTSD. My kids’ dad was a Vietnam vet, who spent 27 years suffering before receiving his VA benefits, and then died 5 years later from the fallout of PTSD. He would have loved to see your journey, and I believe he can from heaven now. He left behind 93 handwritten pages of his memories of war that we cherish now. I so wish you could come all the way to Maine….our coastline is incredible, in both southern, and down east Maine. I am a 26 yr postal employee, who is grateful for this job that has supported my family all these years. God Bless you in your efforts to share with the world, the effects of war. You are bringing light to the darkness by sharing your gift.
I have to tell you about one line in particular that stands out from the 93 pages left behind by our PTSD vet, deceased in 2002, chronicling war and its fallout. As his plane landed with new soldiers in Vietnam, he spotted a large barn surrounded by blood. Being a small town farm boy from Maine, he was certain this must be the butcher shop where they prepare the animals to be fed to the troops. As the plane got closer, he realized this is where they brought the wounded soldiers. Those memories along with survivor’s guilt haunt a person for life. His nights brought out the memories, as he relived those stories to me. For a young bride of 20, those stories then became like ‘bedtime stories’ to me. I became educated on the horrors of war, and remember those stories vividly now 40 yrs later.
Third Email: I have a husband that has PTSD not from combat but, he was a Forensic Service Officer in Australia. I was researching on the web for a simple definition of PTSD (not that there is anything simple about PTSD) and I found your web page. I just had to write to you and tell you what an inspiration I thought you are. We have lived with PTSD for eight years now and I will not lie and say it has been easy but I must say it is people like you that give us inspiration to keep going. Thank you for helping me with my research of a definition, and I wish you all the courage and strength in your journey. Keep safe.
You are most welcome to use my letter to you, and I have to thank you for putting me in touch with some new friends, we have shared a lot of information (mostly them sharing with me) and they have been very encouraging.
I too have started an education program out here in Australia and the NSW Police Dept are piloting us shortly (we have named our group HeadsUp NSW Inc.) . My husband is an ex-police Officer and with him telling his story about his PTSD and myself telling the story from a family point of view, it makes an impact on the audience. Keep talking Tom, keep educating, as one of my psychs told me, just one voice can make a difference. If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet, to have hope.
PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013 must continue! Last year our actions encouraged a family on the other side of the world to start an awareness program. With 18 PTSD suicides in the United States every day one of our veterans takes their life every 80 minutes. This has to STOP with your help and support. Just one voice can make a difference. If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet. If you are able to support us on PTSD Awareness Adventure 2013 please do so. I will not let you down. To all of my fellow veterans, I say THANK YOU for your service and remember it not a weakness to ask for help. I have PTSD and I just rode my bicycle 4,012 miles with my service dog. That’s not weak. Please keep up the encouraging words and support and don’t forget to thank a vet for their service.